Ancestry, FamilySearch, Heritage Tree, and WikiGenes all exist to help make genealogical research easier for the do-it-yourselfer. There are also countless social media groups filled with “angels” who will do the work pro-bono. Some surnames are even lucky enough to come with genealogical website already created online – it’s like you’ve struck gold!
Why hire a professional genealogist? What can a professional genealogist do for you that you can’t do for yourself?
Let’s take a look:
- TIME. Genealogy is a very time intensive hobby. While filling out your family tree can seem easy, it’s more than just clicking on hints and copy and paste. In order to have an authentic family tree, with well documented research, primary sources are a must! Primary sources are the documents that prove the information in your tree (such as birth place and time, death and burial locations, marriage certificates, military history, etc.). While some of these documents are indexed online, many aren’t, and it can take hours combing through to find what is your ancestor’s breadcrumb trail. Professional genealogists know the most efficient methods to gather those documents in a timely manner.
- BRICK WALLS. When researching your family, there can be a series of brick walls that come up – areas where you just can’t get through to the other side to continue on. While many documents are online – some indexed and some not – there still exist many that are only kept in paper form. This is when paying a genealogist in the area where your brick wall is located may come in handy. Professional genealogists can do the “boots on the ground” work, digging through libraries, historical societies, and town offices.
- LOCAL KNOWLEDGE. If your family tree takes you to an area you’ve never heard of – and in many cases it will – it might make you wonder what life was like in that area. Finding genealogists from specific locations can be akin to finding a living historian. Many have spent copious hours researching their home towns and state. Professional genealogists can help give others a more well rounded understanding of what life was like in the area and help provide more depth to family history and culture.
- LINEAGE SOCIETY APPLICATIONS. There is no cookie-cutter application when it comes to lineage societies. Each has their own application and specific requirements. Professional genealogists can help track down the documentation needed for these applications in a timely manner.
- AN EXTRA SET OF EYES. Remember doing assignments in grade school? You’d pass them in, fully sure of yourself that you got everything right, that nothing was missing, only to get it returned with a lower grade than your expected. “If only I had another set of eyes to look at this.” Genealogy is the same way. We look over the same documents, census records, town reports, over and over — and sometimes we miss things. Hiring a professional genealogist to look over your own notes and records, to see if there’s something you missed, is akin to being an author and hiring an editor. You might not think it’s necessary, but you’d surprised at what you could be missing.