Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thinking Beyond Careers in Genealogy - The "Salem Psychic" Model

I guess I missed this Salem, Massachusetts story about the licensing of psychics in the 26 May 2011 New York Times since that’s the day I was driving north from Virginia.  

Anyhow, I found it interesting on a number of counts. (all of the statements below could easily be prefaced with “I did not know that…”)

Number 1:  Salem, Massachusetts now licenses psychics and currently has 75 licensed practitioners of this arcane but popular art.  To qualify for a license, psychics must have been resident in Salem for a year or more. No word on whether or not any other qualifications are needed.

Number 2:  The City Authorities in Salem are now worrying about “psychic overload.”  Too many psychics, too little work.  

That, of course, got me thinking about genealogy.  Salem has 40,500 souls more or less (counting the living souls only, of course).  Granted it’s a touristy town, but could it support, say, 75 professional genealogists?  I doubt it. Professional genealogists need much better marketing, obviously.  Psychics are milking the cash cow and eating our lunch.

Number 3:  In the NYT article above, a former accountant, now a practicing psychic, laments that most of the new psychics are “untrained.” Another psychic – formerly an exotic dancer known as “Toppsey Curvey” – suggests that many of the new psychics in Salem lack “experience.”  Hint: you may find a Google search on the phrase “Toppsey Curvey” amusing and instructive, but probably NSFW.  It also may give new meaning to your understanding of the word “experienced.”

Apparently, there is no “Association of Professional Psychics” or “Board for Certification of Psychics.”  Genealogists – with our very own APG & BCG – are way ahead in this area and psychics have a lot to learn.  Of course, you’d think they’d already know that, what with their being psychic and all…

Also, I don’t know about you, but I find the blend of “accountant/ psychic” somewhat troubling. I'll bet the IRS does, too.

Number 4: Psychics charge $35 for a 15 minute reading. That $140.00 an hour.   By current professional genealogist standards - that a WHOLE LOT of money.  And you don’t even have to cite your sources, such as they are.  This is definitely food for thought for under-worked genealogists looking for a sideline.  As I said above, it’s all about marketing.

Years ago, after a particularly unprofitable national genealogy conference, I suggested to my wife and a few close exhibitor friends that I was going to reinvent myself.  No more lugging thousands of pounds of rare books across the country to conferences.  From now on and henceforth, I said, I was going to sign up for a single booth at NGS and FGS and hang out a new shingle entirely.

The new, improved products?  

I was going to offer (a.) one-on-one “past lives regression” consultations.  The hook?  Learn who you were before you were you.  Discover if you were actually your own ancestor in a previous life.”  Then, to further corner the market, I intended to parlay that with (b.) my insightful ancestral astrological readings.  The hook?  Horoscopes cast for your departed ancestors.  Open new windows onto their lives for a fraction of what professional genealogists charge.”

Part B is not as far-fetched as it may sound on first bounce.  Apparently, I can get certified rather quickly as an astrologer for three payments of 99 bucks, from The Astrology Career Institute.   Their website says that I can “earn an excellent living in a fascinating, fun, and in-demand profession.”  Plus, I get a whole bunch of nifty manuals and study guides.

I wonder what post-nominals I’ll get to use?  

 Doesn’t matter; it’s hard to go wrong for $297 for a professional credential these days. Plus, there’s apparently no need to re-certify every five years.

I also gave some passing thought to becoming a spirit medium as well, acting as the link between the spirit world of long-departed ancestors and their genealogist-descendants, but I figured all that table-rapping in the exhibit hall would disturb the folks in the booths on either side.  

 Plus -  past lives regression consultant, astrologist, medium - that’s an awful lot of stuff to get on a sign or a business card.

Ah well, back to the drawing board… or maybe a move to Salem is in order, before they cap those psychic licenses!


  1. Let me know when you finish your "training". I have a few ancestors with whom I need to have a serious talk...

  2. Sure thing! I'll work up a special reduced rate for fellow blogger-genealogists!

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