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Make Your Genealogy Skills Go Pro

How do professional genealogists accomplish so much more? Is it simply knowledge? Do they know more than you? Is it just experience? Have they been clued-in to some secret or magic formula?

The magic theory seems to be pretty popular. In fact, it seems to be the belief held by many people that hire a professional genealogist. Because that's the reason some people will give for not wanting to pay their bill, they say "I could have done this!"

Yes, you could.

If you have the knowledge, which comes from experience.

What's the secret formula to professional genealogists' success? Can you uncover it? | The Occasional Genealogist

There's no secret professional genealogists have discovered. There is no magic formula.

There is one other super, massively important factor.


Organization is probably the thread that runs through every professional genealogy skill and separates the really successful (in terms of performance, not money) from the mediocre.

The most under-utilized offline source you should try today

The original version of this post appeared on All relevant posts are being migrated here in preparation for that blog to be closed.

This post contains affiliate links.

Where was he born?

Why isn't he in the 1860 census?

Is this record for the same man or a different man of the same name?

These are the questions every genealogist is constantly trying to answer. Would you spend an hour identifying a record that could answer these questions? Of course you would.
This offline source can answer many genealogy questions, only if you get a copy!

Read-on and make sure to get the free checklist to help make getting this record even easier (for every ancestor it applies to).

How to Do Genetic Genealogy on the Cheap

This post contain affiliate links. See my disclosure page for more information.
I know I just wrote about DNA (I'm trying to save you some money while kits are on sale!) but I just found an even cheaper way to get into genetic genealogy and it doesn't involve products that fell off the back of a van or selling vital organs. It's totally legit.
DNA tests get expensive when you want to test every cousin. Save on the kits so you can test more relatives!

Interested in DNA for genealogy?

I love using DNA for genealogy. That means I talk to a lot of people about DNA, whether they are "genealogists" or not. One thing I constantly tell people is DNA tests go on sale regularly. And right now (see update below for when is "now") is one of those sales. And this is a pretty big sale because all three types of tests are on sale at FamilyTreeDNA. (and yes, you are going to find affiliate links in this post!)

[UPDATE: This post is now updated for holiday 2017 sales. Tests do go on sale regularly so I'm leaving the bulk of the post here, as-is, for your reference.]

I personally recommend FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) as my top recommendation because they do offer all three types of DNA tests. This includes the current most popular type, autosomal DNA, called the "FamilyFinder" at FTDNA (this is the only type of test sold by AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, and is the genealogical component of the tests from 23 and Me).

FTDNA also offers YDNA and mtDNA tests. It gets expensive to do all three or even two BUT...

How to Do Genealogy on the Cheap, the Right Way

Ten years.

Over ten years.

I was stuck at a 4th great grandfather for that long. Most of that time I was pretty sure who his father was. But why wasn't there any proof?

I was so afraid it was because he was NOT the father. Surely there should have been enough clues to put together (if no direct evidence). I kept chipping away at the problem. I'd squeeze in some research here and there.

It was hard. I was a student most of that time, broke and often even short on time.

Does this sound like a problem you're having? Are you stuck on one or more ancestors, chipping away, but short on money and time?

This post won't help you find more time but let's talk money.

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