How Much Do Professional Genealogists Charge?

Originally posted February 20, 2012

I have been considering overhauling how I charge for my services with the goal in mind of streamlining and simplifying without sacrificing flexibility. I decided to surf the net Friday night to get a feel for #1) what other genealogists charge as well as how (in advance, expenses separate, retainers, etc.) and #2) what potential clients see when they research hiring a genealogist. I typed in the search field on Google how do professional genealogists charge. I came across a message board on Yahoo Answers (link will be inserted at the bottom of this blog) under a thread entitled How much does it cost to hire a genealogist. Two responses were posted and both provided some great guidance, but they also contained some guidance I find to be disturbing.

The first responder posted the following:

“Most charge by the hour, and you tell them how many hours you can afford for them to work. Professionals charge $25 – $100 per hour, usually with an 8, 12 or 20-hour minimum.

A poor but honest widow might do it for $10 – $15 per hour, cash under the table (Not completely honest; fiddle dee dee to the IRS).”

The second responder posted the following:

“A professional genealogists depending on experience and ability could charge $100 or more an hour with a minimum number of hours up front depending on the information you want and the amount of documentation needed. A non-professional, again depending on experience and ability would charge less.”

Comments like this, even though they are generalizations, are dangerous and irresponsible ones to make. They falsely plant the seed in people’s minds that professional genealogists who charge less than $100 are defrauding the U.S. Government and/or lack ability and experience. Comments like these hurt the image of many professional genealogists. So let’s itemize my problem with these posts shall we?

1: “A poor but honest widow” is an archaic and sexist comment to make. I do not think it is ever appropriate to use the term widow in a manner such as this. It degrades the hardships that real widows have gone through and continue to face.

2: From the quick research I did this weekend, I think the statement that most professionals charge between $25-$100 is a fair assessment. However, just because you charge less than $25 does not mean you take cash under the table or fail to report even part of your income to the IRS. That implication is unfounded and unfair, there are always a few bad apples in the bushel, but, there are probably a few who do make more than $25 an hour who do not report their income or all of it.

3: To use the term non-professional to refer to those making less than $100 is absurd. The APG has been debating what it means to be professional and if that should entail education, credentials, etc., but, in the true sense of the meaning of the word professional if you charge for your services you are one. Again, the generalization that if you charge less than this means you do not have a lot of experience or ability is a dangerous one to make.

I obviously know these comments were made out of ignorance and are over-reaching generalizations, but, I do still take it somewhat personally. I am in the opinion that just because you can charge a certain amount does not mean that you should. I could not look myself in the mirror if I charged someone $100 an hour; I would feel like I was taking advantage of them. Just because I do not charge that much does not mean that my time is not valuable. I have often found that the impact knowing your family history has a value attached to it that cannot be accurately assessed in monetary terms. I am not in this for money. I am in this because of the passion I have for it, part of that passion is the ability to give someone a part of their history they did not before, and seeing the meaning it has for them. When I see someone get a look of awe, tear up, or smile when I hand them their family history report- I know I have done my job well. I charge under $25 an hour, I realize that as the cost of living increases or if I move somewhere with a higher cost of living I may have to raise my rates; but you can bet I will agonize over the decision and put off doing so for as long as I can.

This question was posted over a year ago, unfortunately Yahoo does not let me see the exact date it was posted or when it was posted. I am neither overly thrilled nor impressed with the profiles of these responders and obviously have a problem with their responses. My concern is that others who stumble across this thread will not do the same, that those who do not know better will read these will take them seriously. I will be contacting the gentlemen who posted these comments and posting my own comment. It is something that I cannot simply ignore. I’ll let you know how it goes! Meanwhile, if you would like to check out their responses for yourself follow this link:

 

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101024195021AAFoCPr

 

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