06 April 2012

Webinar Review: The Pursuit From Genealogy Hobbyist to Professional

Originally presented on 4 April 2012 by John Kitzmiller and Claire V. Brison-Banks, this webinar certainly caught my eye when it was listed on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website. I was immediately interested and registered right away. Among the excitement and energy surrounding the release of the 1940 US Census, there was this underlying anticipation for me. I could not wait for this webinar.

My first observation, and unfortunately, the thought that continued throughout the presentation, was this: these two folks do not know how to present a webinar. In their bio's, it stated that they speak regularly at conferences and other events. Although I have not seen them in person, I am sure that they are dynamic speakers (or they wouldn't be continually brought back into conferences). There is a difference, however, in my mind, between speaking live and speaking through a webinar format. There needs to be more to a webinar than just reading off the slides. I can see those, I can read them for myself. Your presentation needs to offer me more than just what is on the slides. So, I was initially disappointed. I let the presentation go and left the room to rotate my laundry. Not a good start.

Throughout the presentation, there were several long pauses with whispering in the background. Odd.

The topics covered were a brief review of what Mr. Kitzmiller and Mrs. Brison-Banks thought were the most important skills needed to be a professional genealogist; the "phases" from doing genealogy as a hobby to going pro; certification opportunities in the United States; business practice models, etc.

They described the following as important skills to have to become a professional genealogist:
  1. Ability to analyze research details. 
  2. Synthesize the analysis.
  3. A specialty area(s) - generally a geographic area.
  4. Experience
  5. Credentials, either have or in the process of obtaining.
  6. Education beyond High School
  7. Be a life long learner.
As someone just beginning this process, I agree with all of this except #6. Certainly higher education in the form of college courses, internships, apprenticeships, etc. would be helpful, however I do not think that it is necessarily a requirement to be a good professional. I know several people that are extremely successful in their chosen fields that barely finished high school or obtained a GED later in life. That being said, #7, that of being a life long learner, is very important. Not everybody is successful in a traditional classroom setting, so for me, #6 should simply be eliminated and more emphasis should be placed on continued learning, in whatever form works best for the individual.

I was disappointed that so much time was spent on items like looking at the ICAPGen and BCG websites. It would seem to me that if someone is watching this webinar, they have probably already visited those sites; I know have, several times over. Are they worth mentioning? Absolutely. Do we need to spend several minutes of the presentation time highlighting what you can find on the main page?  No, not really.

One of the items I found helpful was the visual charts on the Business Work Flow and the Research Project. All though I have seen all of this written out, to see it in a diagram was useful.

Ultimately, I think I was hoping for something a bit more specific to the process of running a genealogy related business, versus just running a business in general. I was looking for topics such as industry specific marketing and advertising, gaining a professional reputation in the field, and obtaining an audience. Perhaps the presenters felt that generic was better for a broad audience, which generally I would agree with. The title of the webinar, however, makes it clear this is about being a professional genealogist, and there just was not that much information specific to that title. I can take a business class just about anywhere, anytime. 

Speaking skills were lacking to the end; and this is a direct quote from one of the presenters: "... has to do a lineage, um... thing..." (referring to the BCG Certification process). To be fair, perhaps the question caught them off guard, but it was formed around material they covered during the hour, so it should have been something they were able to address.

Overall, the webinar was disappointing. It even seemed that when the two individuals switched back and forth, that it was unorganized. They did not seem ready to pick up where the other left off. Although I have not given a webinar in some time (probably two years or more), that is certainly something I would have planned in advance, and been ready to pick up from a co-presenter.

Unfortunately, I have to give this webinar a rather low rating. I did not learn very much, and felt that the time could have been spent in a much more productive way.

Anybody else view this presentation and have thoughts to share? Please do so. 


  1. Thanks for the review. I did not attend. I also know John Kitzmiller, but I've never heard him speak.

    I will disagree with you and them on one point. While you disagreed about #6, having a higher education, I disagree on #5. It is not necessary to be certified or accredited to be a professional genealogist. Just as you say some people are not good in a traditional classroom setting, the same goes for the testing for credentials. Also, I have looked at both organizations and decided against them for several reasons, including that they don't do testing for the kind of research that I specialize in.

    1. A good point. I guess I don't necessarily agree that certification is a requirement either, but my attention was drawn to #6 more. I am pursuing the BCG, but mostly for my own confidence level: just to prove I can, that I have "the stuff", as my experience is mostly on personal research. Just out of curiosity, what is your specialty area?
      Thanks for the comments, much appreciated.

  2. Like you I was disappointed. Pace was slow and useful material glossed over. By useful I mean the research process and marketing sections. For me in Uk, the company set up structure was too US specific and detailed.

    1. Yes, I can certainly see how someone outside the US would find the business model section long and essentially useless. Another good point, thank you for contributing.


Please comment! I would love to hear your thoughts!