2024 May 23 Thu

Is Genealogy Really Free?

Is Genealogy Really Free?
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I’ve dealt with people in the past, even recently, that have this absurd notion that “genealogy = free”. For the life of me, I can’t seem to understand where, how, or why they could reach such a conclusion. I’ve even had people contact me directly, ask me to go to another State, and do a research project for them. When I send them a bill for a retainer of services, it’s either ignored or I’m called names.

Lately, I can’t but wonder if I just inspire people to cuss at me. I blame it on the current political tension that’s hanging thick across our country. Anyways…

Let’s consider some of the costs associated with doing genealogy. Professionals understand this. A business-minded person would understand this. Why some people don’t believe this, I can’t understand.

There are offices supplies (pens, paper, letterheads, pencils, stamps, postage, ruler, scissors, organizers, folders, cabinet, laptop, mouse, printer, scanner, stands, desk, CD’s, DVD’s, jewel cases, special printing papers, custom cut papers, storage devices, cameras, lenses, memory chips, external hard drives), then you have travel (fuel, lodging, materials, copy costs), presentations (materials, software), then self-employed expenses (auto, life, and health insurance, cell phone, bags, brief case, brochures, business cards, post office box), then you have some of the special expenses (exclusive memberships dues to genealogy societies, web site memberships and/or subscriptions, professional membership dues, renewal fees, classes, conferences [again, the traveling], web site domain name, hosting, and books), then you have cemetery preservation projects (tools, boots, gloves, lift equipment, tools, kits, etc), then you have outsourced expenses such as large printing jobs, and this is before you get into the usual cost of living expenses that comes with housing and children.

About 3 months ago I actually had someone cuss at me, among other things they said, and it was pretty much a ‘how dare you ask for money to do this’.

Well, how dare you take a car to a mechanic’s shop and try to leave with the car without paying for the service after they’re done. How dare you go to a doctor of any kind and then act like he owes it to you after your appointment is finished. The last time I checked your personal physician isn’t free. Neither are mechanics or dentists or photographers or lawyers.

Genealogy isn’t really free. To a professional, it’s a business in the same capacity as your dentist or doctor. You have no problem paying them for a service, why would you have a problem paying a professional researcher that has several years experience and costly credentials?

To people that want to volunteer their services, like the good people at Generous Genealogists (a replacement to the former Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness) I have no problem with. In fact, I write articles for them. I did a lot of work with RAOGK for the first 3 years myself within the two counties on whose border I happen to live on. (I learned a lot of local history too by doing that.) I have volunteered for other projects and still currently oversee a non-profit website administrative task. To the people that want to volunteer and can do it, God bless them. I know what it takes to do that and if they’re able to then I have no problem with that.

What I’m more focused on here are the people that email me and give me details about what they want and then refuse to pay for anything. “What do you mean you don’t volunteer your services?” I seriously get asked this question about once a month. It blows the mind, well mine anyways. I wonder what would happen if people started demanding genealogy societies to have free memberships. “What do you mean you don’t give out free memberships?”

Genealogy isn’t really free. Not to the volunteers and not to the professionals. Someone will always bear the costs, be it time or otherwise, for the research, materials, and expenses of any case. That’s just the fact of life.

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Editor-in-Chief for The Daily Journal

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