Janice Sellers – Forensic Genealogist

Have faith in your dream

I have loved family history for years and have researched my
own family since I was 13. I always wanted to spend more time on it,
but I never thought I would be able to make a living doing it.

I have now established myself as an expert in forensic genealogy, newspaper, and Jewish family history research.

What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?

I spent a year working on building a research business that focuses primarily on family history research, for individuals and for heir searchers. I increased my volunteer activity and began to give genealogy talks in my area. When I travel, I look for opportunities to give talks wherever I am going.

I began working for a large corporation seeking someone to do family history research for some if its high-end clients. With that work, and clients in heir and family history research, I now earn enough to pay all my bills and even put a little aside.

I absolutely love what I’m doing.

What were the specific obstacles that you faced?

It is very difficult to start a new career, even when coming out of college. You increase that problem when you do it later in life because they figure by now, you should have experience.

I am an independent contractor. Do I want to step off that precipice and support myself?

What were some of your challenges?

When I started, money was tight. I did lots of penny pinching and had to restructure my debt. I scrimped a lot on food. I figured out how cheaply can I live? I needed to save every penny.

What helped you get through them?

What was interesting is a lot of the work I did gave me the background to do the research. I know several languages. I speak French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, German, Greek and Portuguese. I went to college to get an education and not a job.
I became an editor. When you learn about a foreign language, it increases your knowledge about your own language. I’m a really good editor.

Working as a liberal arts editor and indexer has helped me. I know how indices are created and can move around faster than the average person. My background gave me the experience to go into this kind of research.

I lucked out. The biggest obstacle was taking the steps to start supporting myself from a regular paycheck and benefits. In mid-life, that’s a scary thing to do. What am I going to do for a health plan? Lots of people who have regular jobs have a full time job with no benefits.

Finances was a huge factor. I went to an independent contractor type of industry. I spent an entire year going to genealogy groups, giving talks, making sure people knew who I was.

Were there people who tried to discourage you?

The only discouragement I received was from a few family members who wondered if I could make it work. They were worried and concerned. I didn’t tell a lot of people about the transition. I was single and had no one living with me. It was just me trying to figure it out. I didn’t tell the world about it. I quietly built up the recognition, and after I got to the point where people knew me, I then told people. I wasn’t hedging in terms of a backup plan. I waited to tell everybody until it worked.

How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?

I was so excited. Then I was bouncing off the walls. I am a professional genealogist and I‘m able to support myself! I am gleeful about it. I am doing something that I absolutely love.

It was sheer joy. I don’t have to go back and do work that was destroying my soul. I can do something that makes me happy, and make a living and support myself. It’s absolute joy. I have a life I l0ve.

What advice would you give to others that are contemplating finally living their dream?

Don’t sell yourself short. You need to believe you can do it. Research it and plan for it. Have faith in your dream. Believe in your dream. Don’t just jump out there. Look at your finances and see how you are going to make it work.

Never give up on your dream.

Learn more about Janice by visiting her site.


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