By KATIE FORREST
Family history research is not only a hobby for many individuals, but a career. For those who need assistance in tracing their genealogical roots, there are hundreds of professional experts to help.
William C. Kleese, Ph.D., is one of those experts. As a certified professional genealogist, his job is to work each day with people who are trying to trace their genealogical roots. He and his wife are the owners of Family History Land in Tucson, Ariz.
“At any given time, we are helping about 100-150 people. We’ve seen people really getting into family history in the last decade or so,” Kleese said.
In addition to working with individual clients, Kleese and his wife hold weekly seminars to teach research methods.
He said family history libraries across the United States, as well as searches on the Internet, are the best ways to trace family names. He also suggests looking at Web sites such as the National Genealogical Society and the Federation of Genealogical Societies, which can help individuals find local professionals to help them.
According to Kleese, professional genealogists around the country make anywhere from $8 an hour all the way up to $75 an hour, depending on their experience. In addition to these costs, clients are required to pay for travel, long-distance telephone and postage costs.
Most working professional genealogists are board certified. Individuals become certified either through a degree at a college or university, by a national certification board or through genealogical research accreditation by the LDS Church.
The Board for Certification of Genealogists is a national board which requires individuals to pass a series of qualifying examinations in order to obtain certification. Additionally, certified genealogists must take exams every five years to continue their accreditation. The accreditation exams offered by the LDS church are similar to other certification exams, but focus more on international research techniques.
According to the BYU Family History Department, there are currently 63 family history majors. Many of these students are preparing for careers as professional genealogists helping people trace their own family lines.
David Pratt, a professor in the BYU Family History Department, said beginning genealogy work can be challenging, but with the right mindset, anyone can get into it.
“Sometimes members of the church like to think that all their genealogy work has already been done. But individuals soon find that there is always more,” Pratt said.
Pratt recommends the program FamilySearch for anyone starting out in genealogy work. He said that by using Ancestral File, and then the International Genealogical Index File, individuals prepare themselves to work at any of the family history libraries across the United States.