Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Business Titles - for cash or prestige?

Over the years my business title has evolved. I think I started out as a "professional genealogist" then moved on to simply "researcher" and lately I've been calling myself  "house historian" to reflect my move into my niche market. But I don't know if I will ever be satisfied with one title.

Recently, I was visiting a library and got into a conversation with the genealogy librarian. We were talking about authors and their books. The librarian was telling me which authors came in to do the research on their own books, which ones might have sent others to do research for them and those that never set foot in the library at all. These were all books that required sources contained only in this special library.

I picked up a particular book and the librarian said "Now, she comes in to do all her own research." I flipped to the back to check out her bio and said outloud "Historical Consultant." The librarian noted that this author is one of the few independent (not connected with a university or organization) researchers/historians who makes a good living at what she does. "Intriguing,"  I thought.

It struck me that this author called herself an "historical consultant." I mused over this for a day or two. You have to admit that the word "consultant" says MONEY more than any other title out there. A consultant without doubt is someone who gets paid to provide advice or expertise.

There is a lot of debate about the title "professional genealogist." I mean, why do we have to say professional in front of genealogist? We don't say professional professor or professional historian or professional author.  Perhaps we should be saying "Genealogy Consultant." Now that would let people know that we are professional and there would be no question about being paid for the service.  In fact, many genealogists do a lot of consulting as one of their services.

On the other hand, if you were looking for prestige rather than cash, you might choose a different title.  Not everyone takes clients so prestige might be better in that case.  Perhaps "Genealogical Researcher" or simply "Genealogist" would be good choices.

Which titles do you prefer and why?  Have you given any thought to the subtle connotations of what your title says about you and your work?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


  1. Great article! You put some thoughts out there I had never considered and great valid points.

  2. Nice post. I have thought about this over the years and don't like having to specify "professional" genealogist, but our field is odd in that there are lots of practicing amateurs sharing information, etc. This is a good thing, but I want something to reflect my years of study and the fact that I take clients. I like your consultant idea. Funny, because last week that was my title! Good food for thought!

  3. I agree this is an interesting concept - but I also know that consultant can be a detriment in several ways. Folks see the word "consultant" and they see EXPENSIVE - and remember the old saying about consultants not solving problems but in a way perpetuating them so they can keep getting paid. Plus, there are times when I hear "consultant" and I think of Tupperware consultants.

    Picking the right title is trickier than folks think. Use of the term "expert" opens up a whole other Pandora's box . . .