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One Year Full-Time Genealogy

On October 1st, I posted on Twitter: “Today marks my 1 year anniversary as a full time professional genealogist. I have done incredible things this year: attended #RootsTech SLC, spoke at #THEGenShow2019 and at @OntGenSociety, graduated from @GeneaStudies, and met many fellow genealogists.” I used an extra hashtag: #grateful. I wanted to add that there are more exiting things to come, but as often on Twitter, there were not enough characters left to explain all my plans for the near future. That is why I decided to write everything down in this blog post. A good way to look back on the first year and to look forward to what I have planned (at the moment) for the next months.

How did this all start? It began in January 2015 when I opened my own company for genealogical research in the Netherlands. In the beginning I combined my regular job with my new career as a professional genealogist. It was not always easy to concentrate on two things at the same time (plus family and social life). After almost four years I took stock and came to the conclusion that I had worked sixty hours a week for a long time. Things had to change.
In June 2018, I took a month of unpaid leave from my regular job at the mayor’s office. When the end of June came closer, my husband asked me if I had learned something from this trial month. It was a tough question, because I had always thought I would go back to the office after this month. That same day I spoke with my husband and two close friends about the pros and cons of quiting my job and becoming a full-time professional. The more we spoke about it, the more enthusiastic I became. I made up my mind: I was going to hand in my notice the next day. Not because I did not like the job. On the contrary, I always loved it and I was rather good at it too. The mayor did not like me to go, but I had one very good reason why I chose for a new career: I wanted to spend more time on genealogy.
Of course I could not stop right away. The next three months I terminated my tasks step by step. At the same time I was already thinking about my new career path: what to do, where to go, whom to contact. Here are a few remarkable moments:

  • In February 2019 I attended RootsTech in Salt Lake City. I overcame my fear of an 11 hour flight and when I walked in the capital of Utah I knew it had been worth it. I enjoyed every moment of those days. There were many moments when it became clear to me that genealogy was purpose. The way fellow attendees – some I had met before, others I had talked to on Facebook only – helped me, supported me and accepted me was heart-warming. It was an incredible experience.
  • Already in March 2018 I was asked to join the board of THE Genealogy Show, a new event that would take place in Birmingham (UK) in June 2019. As a visitor of the last Who Do You Think You Are Live in 2017, I knew that it would be a wonderful experience to help organize a similar show. After months of preparations, it turned out that this event filled the void in European genealogy events. So many satisfied visitors and exhibitors. Most of all I was impressed by the way the board and other volunteers worked together to make this new event a big success. I met people from all over the world – some for the very first time – but again it was like being part of a family. Even my husband, who is not into genealogy himself, enjoyed being a volunteer for three days. THE Genealogy Show also offered me the opportunity to speak about genealogy in the Netherlands in front of an international audience for the first time. A new experience!
  • Only two weeks after THE Genealogy Show I was in the plane to Toronto, Canada. There were two very good reasons why I wanted to attend the Ontario Ancestors Conference: I was one of the graduates of the class of 2019 of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies and I was able to deliver my presentation for the second time. Now I could explain to Canadian genealogists how to research their Dutch ancestors. My husband and I made this conference part of our summer holidays. It was our first time in Canada and although we could not visit downtown Toronto because of the immense influx of people who came to see the victory parade of the Toronto Raptors, my graduation, the conference and a trip to the famous Niagara Falls made these holidays very memorable.
  • As I said, I was in London, Ontario to receive my Professional Development Certificate from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. It took me four years to complete all forty courses. Instead of finding the certificate on my door mat, I preferred to get it in person. The opportunity to address the students (those who came in person and those who watched the live stream) and tell them about my experiences, was a big bonus.
  • Not only June was a busy month, September was too. I attended MyHeritage Live, the second edition of this genealogy event. Last year the MyHeritage hordes invaded Oslo, this year they came to Amsterdam. Of course I could not stay away from an event like this, now that it took place in my own country! Again, it was wonderful to meet (old and new) genie friends. For me, conferences are valuable to learn about genealogy and to develop my skills but also to share experiences with other genealogists.
  • Another event that took place in September was a seminar about mitochondrial DNA, organized by the Dutch Genealogical Society. Although I appreciated the fact that finally someone organized a seminar on this scale and about this topic, the seminar learned me that Dutch genealogists still have to learn a lot and that genealogy in the Netherlands could use an extra boost to become more professional.

Add to all these wonderful experiences the work I did for clients, and I can say I did a lot in my first year as a full-time professional genealogist. The thing is, the year is not over yet. There is more to come! In less than ten days I will be in London (UK) to attend the first European edition of RootsTech. I am really looking forward to this event. I now have the experience of RootsTech SLC and I really wonder how much different the London edition will be. It will be my first time to attend an event like this in my capacity as ambassador and speaker. I was fortunate enough to be selected to speak (about genealogy in the Netherlands, of course) and to promote the event (as an ambassador). For those of you who have no idea about RootsTech London: take a look at one of my previous blog posts or check for the RT London website. Three days of genealogy fun, 150 talks by renowned speakers and social events will make this an amazing experience. If for some reason you cannot make it to RootsTech London in person, there is always the option to watch the live streams or to buy a virtual pass to see the recorded classes.
As if this was not enough, I learned recently that I am selected as a speaker/ambassador for RootsTech 2020. Yes, the one in Salt Lake City. The big one. I doubted a lot again: shall I go, or not. It is a major investment in time and money to travel to the US and stay there for a week. In the end, the longing to go for a second time was so strong that I booked my flight and hotel accommodations. Not only because it gives me the opportunity to speak on US soil for the first time, but mainly because my 2019 experience was so impressive that I definitely do not want to miss out on the 10th edition in 2020.

Is there more to come? Oh yes. At the moment I am working on an article about genealogical websites in the Netherlands. It is due to be published in an American magazine in spring 2020. Later that year I will be part of THE Genealogy Show in Birmingham (UK) again. And I am still not sure whether to attend the FGS Conference in Kansas City in September 2020 or the APG PMC in Portland in October 2020. Time will tell. What more? I want to get involved more in the work of two international societies. Last but not least I am talking with some like-minded spirits about setting up serious genealogical education in the Netherlands.

This post has become longer than I planned. I will write more about my plans for 2020 when they become real. So for now, all I want to say is: stay tuned!