Anytime you hire someone, it helps to know a little bit about their field of occupation. Here are some of the key things to keep in mind about professional genealogists when working with one.
- We use the same records as you do and then some. Professional genealogists also make use of Ancestry, FamilySearch, My Heritage, FindaGrave, and other online resources. Despite when some believe, professional genealogists do not have access to special archives designed only for professionals. What we do have is extensive knowledge of how to use the catalogs these systems have, where to find obtuse information, and the love for digging through virtual tomes that aren’t indexed digitally.
- Quality work is time consuming. In order to make sure that the right documents are cited, the correct family tree climbed, and the questions answered as fully as possible, copious amounts of time is spent doing genealogical research. Some days the document that is being hunted might be on page three of a digital book, other times it may be page 400, written by hand, and in French, not to mention poorly photocopied. In order to make sure a genealogical question is answered in a manner that fits the genealogical standard, a professional genealogist must be thorough — which takes time.
- Specific objectives help us do our work. Simply asking a professional genealogist to build your family tree is a very vague task; asking them to find evidence of the marriage between your sixth-great-grand parents on your maternal side with the last name or Arsenault is fantastically specific. Ever individual researched takes up time. If you want a professional genealogist who can help you in a timely manner, you objective should be specific. If it needs to be broader, that’s something to be decided on when talking over the scope of the project.
- Your past research helps us do our job. Any research you have done is important to share with whoever you hire to do professional genealogical work. This is not a time to “test” the professional genealogist by seeing if they find the same documents — for one, that’s just rude, and for two, you’re wasting your money and the genealogist’s time. Being forthcoming and honest about the research you have done, providing copies of any documents and notes you may have, and being receptive to feedback about what you have collected is a wonderful way to ensure a firm working relationship with the professional genealogist you hire.
- We love to hear stories, but we won’t use them in our research. Documentation and facts that can be presented trump family stories every time. Yes, you were told that your fifth-great-grandmother Winnie was a Cherokee Princess, but if the documentation isn’t there…..it’s just a story. Be prepared for professional genealogists to hold a firm line on that.
- We are real people! While it would be fantastic if professional genealogists had a magic wand that could make documents suddenly fly off the shelves and into our hands, the reality is that such a thing can’t happen. Professional genealogists may spend hours looking for a document online, calling archives, visiting libraries, only to have to form the conclusion that the document doesn’t exist. Other times, answering even the most specific objective may take far longer than one block of time. Professional genealogists will always do their best to gather the most information possible during the time requested.