Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dear Genea-man - how do I find someone to do research for me?

Genea-man heard the questions at the CVGS seminar, and offers this response to one of them:

Dear Genea-man,

How do I find someone to do genealogy research for me? And what will it cost?

Signed -- Louise

Dear Louise,

Finding a genealogist to perform research to find the names, dates, places and stories of your ancestors can be expensive, and it can take a long time. It depends on what you want done - for instance, do you want:

* names, dates, places of your ancestors back so many generations?
* proofs to fill in a lineage application?
* find heirs or distant relatives?
* to do a family history book on all of your ancestors?

It depends on how many branches can be found on your family tree and how much "proof" you want to have. A researcher will start with the records you already have, and the research that you have already performed, and will verify it and then go further according to your wishes. There are researchers that will try to satisfy your requirements.

There are certified genealogists (with credentials from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen)) who will do the job for you. You can find a list of professionals, many of whom are certified, at the Association of Professional Genealogists - the list, by geographical area, of genealogists is here. APG also has an excellent article about "Hiring a Professional."

Most of the people on the lists at these sites can be contacted by email, and many have a web site with information about them. Few, if any, publish their fee schedules - you have to contact them and request the fee schedules.

There are several "full service" companies, most of whom are based in Salt Lake City, that you can work with on a contract basis. Two of them that I have heard about are ProGenealogists and Heirlines - there are many others. Companies located in Salt Lake City usually do extensive research at the LDS Family History Library and can jobs faster than a local researcher who has to order microfilms at the local FHC or travel to Salt Lake City to do research. These companies do publish their fee schedules.

There are non-certified, but competent, genealogists who will do genealogy research for a fee, and you may be able to find them by asking at a public library, a historical society, or a genealogical society. Many will do a good job, but a little "caveat emptor" is recommended!

Whoever you find, it's recommended that you ask for references, a curriculum vitae, and see work product samples for the person before you work out a contract. Most professionals will provide an agreement or contract for the work to be done, and a written estimate of the cost. These contracts are usually for a fixed number of hours of work plus expenses (travel, parking, hotel if overnight, film rental, copy costs, etc.). At the end of the contracted time, you should get a report and recommendations for further research.

The cost for genealogy research can vary significantly - it may be as low as $15 per hour for a non-certified person in some places, and over $100 an hour for well-known and highly experienced professionals. The adage "you get what you pay for" certainly applies!

One alternative to hiring a professional, at least at the beginning of your search, is to do it yourself with the aid of other researchers. That is one reason the local genealogy societies exist - to help people with their research, to educate them in research techniques, and to mentor them as they conduct their search. Our local society has a monthly research group where we listen to the research problems of the attendees and recommend further search strategies and techniques.

Good luck! -- Genea-man.

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