Engage a Professional to Propel Your Genealogy Research

19 Mar 2013

Sometimes in our research, the best path is to get some professional help. Now by this I don’t necessarily mean psychological counseling, I am referring to assistance from a professional genealogist. As part of my trip to Salt Lake City this week (which will culminate in the RootsTech conference on Thursday and Friday) I attended board meetings of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). This is my second term on the board, having initially served a decade ago.



APG is one of the best resources around to help you find professionals who can provide much needed assistance. Everyone from beginners to researchers with decades of experience can benefit from such help. There are many routes that this can take.

First, and foremost, you can hire a professional to do work for you. One of the most popular reasons for hiring a professional is to do onsite research in a location that is not easily accessible to you. As many records as there are available online and on microfilm, there are many times more records that exist only in the original in government and private repositories. It can often be less expensive to hire a professional to go to the repository and research for you.

But professionals can be of more assistance than that. Many professionals speak at conferences and teach at workshops and institutes around the country. Attending a presentation or taking a class from one of them can give you the tools you need to do better research. And you will often (but not always) have the opportunity to ask them some questions that pertain to your personal research.

If you can’t attend a lecture or presentation, another option is often available to you. You can hire a professional for a private consultation. This will give you an opportunity to spend some targeted time in a one-on-one situation with the professional. This will give you time to go back and forth and ask lots of questions and advice. The consultation can be about a specific research problem that you have. Or perhaps you needs some general advice. Consultations can be done in person, over the phone, or even via online video chat.

Another reason to hire a professional is to have them help you to write a book about your family. This collaboration can range from reviewing your text to co-authoring the work with you to taking your research and writing the book themselves.

Professional genealogists can also be found that provide highly specialized services. Some can trace the history of your house. Perhaps you need someone to organize and/or guide you on a research or heritage tour of your ancestral home area. Perhaps you need someone to prepare the paperwork for you to join a lineage society, such as the Sons of the American Revolution or the Society of Mayflower Descendants.

When engaging the services of a professional genealogist, it is best to hire one who is involved in a professional organization. Members of the Association of Professional Genealogists (the largest organization for family history professionals) sign an ethics code that covers their services when working for you. Members of the Board for Certification of Genealogists and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists have had their research skills tested. Take advantage of the services of a professional to help boost your research.