Russell Earnest served in the U.S. Navy after which he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Oregon State University. His professional career was with the U.S. Department of the Interior. He authored and co-authored numerous scientific and technical papers, presented testimony before Congress, and helped develop environmental policy for Republican and Democratic administrations.
In addition to co-authoring books about fraktur, the Earnests served as guest curators for a fraktur exhibit at the Heritage Center of Lancaster County in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (1997). In 1999, the Earnests were awarded for their work on fraktur by the Pennsylvania German Society.
The Earnests have developed the largest fraktur reference library in existence, plus the most comprehensive surname indexes to genealogical data found on fraktur. In the course of their research, the Earnests have recorded over 30,000 fraktur and Pennsylvania-German Bible records in public and private collection.