Genealogy Blog

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When Might You Need a Professional Genealogist?

Some hobbyists successfully research their family trees without any professional assistance. However, many of us don't have the time, money or expertise to pursue personally all of the sources that might be available or required in order that we can discover our entangled roots and sprawling branches. As a result, the time may come when you will wish to seek the assistance of a professional genealogist.

How do you know when? Since each research project is unique, it is impossible to say exactly when. However, you might need to hire a professional, if you:

  • Do not have time to do the research yourself
  • Do not have the necessary genealogical research skills
  • Do not have access to the records in a particular locality
  • Do not know what records exist that might offer a solution to your research problem
  • Cannot read the language in which the records are recorded
  • Have reached a dead-end or the ubiquitous brick wall
  • Need specific on-site research
  • Desire consultation on how to solve a research problem or extend a line
  • Need help writing, editing or publishing your genealogy
  • Want on-site photographs, videos and/or oral interviews with distant family members
  • Need help with adoption/birth parent research projects
  • Wish to locate living family members
  • Are not familiar with records pertaining to a particular ethnic group

Consider the fact that we all have 16 great-grandparents, and they all have families whose branches go every which way. These ancestors probably came from diverse geographical areas, time periods, and possibly belonged to a variety of ethnic groups. It is the rare genealogist who is able to do all this research without help.

Keep in mind that no one can tell you in advance how many hours of research will be required on any of your lines, or that they can find your ancestors quickly. Each family is unique. No ethical professional genealogist will guarantee to find your ancestors either. When you hire a professional genealogist you are paying for his or her time and expertise, not for positive results of a search. It takes just as much time to discover your ancestor if not mentioned in a particular record as it does to learn he is recorded there.

Once you have obtained names of professionals who work in the area or category in which you need assistance, you may wish to contact several to find the one who best meets your needs and who has the time to accept the commission. Let the researcher know what you want and agree upon time limit, costs and when reports will be provided. In this country, anyone can call themselves a professional genealogist, but there are some organizations who test applicants and whose members agree to abide by a code of ethics. Moreover, some professional groups offer arbitration services to resolve any differences that might arise between the client and the professional.