Hiring a professional genealogist is a large investment of both your time and money; therefore, you need someone you can entrust with your search.
Professional genealogists possess the necessary expertise to locate and interpret records from different time periods and countries, document your family tree to meet lineage societies’ requirements, or assist with other research needs.
1. Ask for References
Professional genealogists know how to navigate through vast archives of records to connect the dots, while their years of experience allow them to discover what you may have missed while searching on your own. When research becomes daunting or fruitless on its own, professional genealogists are an invaluable asset and should be hired when hitting roadblocks; their assistance in continuing your family history research can save both time and money by giving more value than hours spent alone researching your family tree.
Be mindful that when hiring a genealogist, you’re not purchasing a guarantee of results. Due to record loss and privacy laws, answers may sometimes not exist even with professional assistance from genealogists. Instead, when hiring one you are purchasing the pledge that they will use their time wisely while searching for information efficiently and quickly.
As you search for a genealogist, be sure to ask for work samples, public reviews and credentials as a means of gauging quality of work and level of expertise. In particular, consider hiring one who is part of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), since these individuals have undergone rigorous vetting processes and subscribe to its Code of Ethics.
After gathering references and work samples, another step you should take is securing all agreements in writing. Reputable researchers should always provide written research reports citing sources for their findings; any unwillingness by researchers or genealogists to put their work down on paper should be seen as a red flag and cause for caution before hiring them. Genealogists often dedicate considerable time and resources towards organizing resources on behalf of clients so it’s crucial that you’re clear as to exactly what you are paying for when hiring one of these services.
2. Ask for Sample Work
As with any service professional, setting clear goals for the research is vitally important. When hiring a genealogist it’s essential that they fully understand your expectations – be prepared to share family trees, notes and documents that will assist the researcher with creating an actionable research question.
Once you have identified prospective professionals, request samples of their work. This will give you an idea of their style and results you can expect them to produce; reliable genealogists typically deliver their findings via written report with full source citations; while others may even publish their work in books or on websites.
Most genealogists charge an hourly rate and may also pass along any out-of-pocket expenses they incurred to you. You should be able to find information on professional genealogist fees and research services via the Association of Professional Genealogists’s directory which allows users to search by research specialty.
Some genealogists specialize only in forensic genealogy while others offer other forms of genealogy research such as record groups, countries or languages. While it might be tempting to choose someone with extensive expertise, remember that they have spent considerable time and resources to become knowledgeable in their area of research. An ethical genealogist will advise if their research has reached a dead-end and should notify you accordingly; additionally they should be able to advise what resources are available as well as provide you with directions on how best to access them.
3. Ask for a Written Agreement
In genealogy, there may be times when professional assistance is necessary due to time or language barriers or simply needing someone with experience to connect the dots for you. Unfortunately, such expertise comes at a price – you are paying for their knowledge and expertise in sorting through numerous records, documents, files and files in search of answers and value.
One of the best things you can do when hiring a professional genealogist is securing a written contract prior to beginning work with them. This ensures you will receive exactly what is promised and paid for; most reputable researchers will offer contracts that contain research goals, fees, deadlines and any necessary details.
Always ask whether the professional genealogist will present their findings in writing – usually in a report or book with full source citations – this ensures complete transparency during their research process and allows you to replicate or verify findings later on. Many reputable genealogists also offer digital products.
Finally, when choosing your genealogist it is essential that you review their areas of specialty before hiring them. While genealogists typically have several areas of expertise which might seem diverse at first glance, you should be able to quickly ascertain which areas they excel at by reviewing work samples, reviews online, credentials or public testimonials.
Additionally, it is crucial that both parties discuss what will happen should any roadblocks arise while working on your family tree; such as cost overruns. Any such plans should be clearly detailed within the contract.
4. Ask About Fees
When hiring a genealogist, be sure to get their fee structure in writing. This could take the form of email correspondence, letter agreements or formal contracts – it will ensure both parties involved have a mutual understanding of goals, scope and expectations for your project.
Professionals typically charge an hourly rate and may request a retainer. Hourly rates depend upon experience, credentials and specialization; other professionals sell blocks of hours. No matter their fee structure is used, reputable professionals always provide an itemized bill detailing time spent meeting research requests as well as any out-of-pocket expenses incurred during their research efforts.
Genealogists typically spend the initial hours of a project setting research goals and reviewing available records. If you already know a family, be sure to provide all information collected prior to meeting with the researcher, including all sources used and any previously used sources that might prevent duplicate research efforts. This will help avoid duplicated efforts.
Once the research is finished, a reliable professional will present their findings in a written report, book, or family tree format with full source citations. They also offer regular updates via phone and email and notify you as soon as they anticipate needing extra research time.
As with any research endeavor, genealogy cannot be guaranteed and some types require more time than others – for instance tracing your ancestry back before 1850 can take longer due to limited records available at that time. Be wary of researchers claiming they can provide guarantees or swift solutions.
5. Ask for Availability
As with any business venture, setting clear expectations with your genealogist is essential to its success. They should provide you with a written contract detailing goals and timeline for your project – take time to read over this document so you’re comfortable with all statements contained within.
If you can’t find an experienced researcher to fulfill your research needs, consider working with a firm or large organization which employs genealogists on staff. Although these researchers must still meet all qualifications that independent professionals do, such as setting hourly rates that are affordable to them or getting health insurance policies; working this way often results in more stable work schedules as these employees tend to stay employed longer periods.
As it’s essential that professional genealogists do not guarantee the results of their research, sometimes due to record loss, privacy laws or other restrictions, answers simply aren’t available. But an excellent genealogist will guarantee conducting “reasonably exhaustive research,” as defined by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.
Request a written deliverable that details what has been accomplished and includes source citations. Reputable genealogists won’t send finished work via email or over the phone without providing sources, which ensures transparency and allows professional research to be verified or replicated by others. Furthermore, they’ll offer regular updates on their progress while informing you if they cannot meet certain goals within an agreed-upon time.