When to Hire a Professional Genealogist

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We’ve all been there. The brick wall. That elusive ancestor that just can’t be found in any records. So when do you throw in the towel and hire a professional to do the research for you? And is it really worth the money? How can you trust the person you’re hiring?

I recently read a study in the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (a genealogy magazine for professionals). There was a survey conducted about how many people are willing to hire professionals, and why they choose not to. (“The Perceived Value of Professional Genealogy, Part Two,” APGQ33, no. 2 (June 2018): 40-43). Only 1% of people surveyed said they would hire a professional, but ONLY as a last resort! The number one reason people are not willing to hire someone is cost. Another popular answer was that they didn’t trust the pros. So what are your options?

Let me tell you, you have options!

First of all, it’s important to understand that not all professional genealogists are created equal. Some have degrees, some don’t. Some are credentialed, some are not. In my experience, it’s much easier to trust a professional genealogist who is credentialed. There are two credentialing organizations in the United States. The Board of Certified Genealogists, and ICAPGen. Both require a rigorous process to obtain a credential. Genealogy reports are submitted, analyzed, and evaluated. For ICAPGen, there are tests that are required for your specialized area. It is not easy to obtain a credential. But when someone earns a credential, the organization protects them, backs them up, and represents them as someone who can be trusted. To me, that is huge!

Second, it’s interesting to note that in the study mentioned earlier, the people who are most willing to hire a professional, are other professionals! Sometimes the records that are needed are only on location. I myself have hired genealogists in Germany. The records for my ancestors were extremely difficult to find. One line of ancestors is only located in a book, in Germany. There was no way for me to access this book on my own. For another line, I didn’t know the exact location in Germany, or how to access the records. The professional I hired located the records for me and translated them. To me that was priceless! So yes, I recommend hiring a professional when you absolutely need to. And you can trust the credentialed ones! (Just go to the BCG or ICAPGen websites and search for a genealogist on there to contact directly).

Third, if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars for a professional to research your family for you (yes, it’s extremely expensive), you can hire a genealogy coach. Yes, that’s a real thing! And I am a genealogy coach! I understand the desire to research your own ancestors. (And if it helps, I have a degree and a credential!) Hiring someone can feel like defeat, and it doesn’t help you build your own skills. That is why I love to teach people how to break down their own brick walls, and find that elusive ancestor! And this service comes at a fraction of the cost! I teach people how to research like a professional. It’s the best of both worlds. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, and you don’t have to worry if you can trust a pro doing it, because YOU get to be the pro! It’s a win/win situation!

So the bottom line is, don’t be afraid to hire a professional if you really need to. Just know where to go to find the most trusted ones. And if you need help, and want to do it on your own, let me know! I’m here to help you get past frustration and dead ends!