Most people don’t have a lot of experience working with professional genealogists. These seven tips will help you make the most out of your genealogy research experience.
One of our most popular blog posts to date has been 7 Reasons to Hire a Professional Genealogist. As a refresher, here are those seven very good reasons to let us at Legacy Tree investigate your family history:
- You don’t have the time or the skills to do it yourself.
- You need a fresh perspective on your “brick wall.”
- You need help with obtaining and/or reading foreign records.
- You want to gather documents for membership in a lineage society.
- You want to take advantage of our professional team approach and peer review.
- You need help making sense of your DNA test results.
- You want to double-check the accuracy of your own research.
We are the highest-rated firm for a reason, and take great pride in the skill of our researchers. That being said, professional genealogists often meet with unrealistic expectations about what we can and cannot accomplish. There is no doubt that, in our 11+ years in business, Legacy Tree has uncovered amazing stories and astounding amounts of information about our clients’ families. Still, there are natural limits to our abilities, and much often depends not only on the allotted time with which we have to work, but on the historic period and place in which your own ancestors lived.
When you are ready to start a project with us, we hope you understand the following seven things about professional research, especially if you are an experienced researcher yourself:
Professional Genealogists Use Many of the Same Records You Do
MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, and cemetery databases like FindaGrave.com are some of our most-used resources, especially when starting a project. More and more records are being digitized and transcribed every day, and these websites (plus many others) are the fastest way to access them, thus giving you more “bang for your buck.” Contrary to the assumptions of some who call us, we do not have exclusive access to some secret database for professional researchers. What we do have that you may not is local access to the world-famous Family History Library here in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A (free to the public), as well as onsite contacts at archives around the world. But keep in mind that even at those amazing facilities, we must still take the time to search through many records for your ancestor—and there’s always the chance that the needed records simply do not exist.
Quality Research Takes Time
While our skills and experience help us to know what to look for and where to find it, we still need to go through the traditional research steps, and this process takes time! Initially, we must familiarize ourselves with your case, review the records you have already found to determine what clues they might provide, and create a plan for the most relevant records to search. We must often scroll through unindexed records page-by-page, or try several record sets before we find the one that contains your ancestor. We often need to stop and evaluate what we are looking at, go over it again in search of clues, and take the time to come to the right conclusions. Copying records, citing them properly, and most importantly, writing about them in our reports, takes a significant amount of time. Our value to you is not just to find records, but to make sense of them and explain what they tell us about your ancestors. All of this is part of our standard 20-hour project, which means that actively searching for records constitutes only part of each session.
Professional Genealogists Rely On Your Past Research
If you have already done any amount of research yourself, it is critical that you share everything you already know about the ancestor(s) we will be investigating. Legacy Tree Professional Genealogists will review your information and documents carefully, looking for clues you may have missed and noting the sources you have already checked so that we do not duplicate your work. Nothing is more disappointing for the client or the researcher than realizing that precious time was spent on unnecessary research! On the other hand, try not to overwhelm us with a pile of disorganized notes, some of which may not be relevant to the case at hand! The time we spend reading through them counts toward your total project time, and we want to be as efficient as possible. It is also very important for us to note that, often, if your own research submitted to us contains no sourcing for its claims, this may require us to go back and verify it with original research of our own. This is done to ensure accuracy and make sure that professional genealogists are not building on the wrong lines. For this reason, it is best to attach as many citations or even images as possible when you provide your background information. This is especially true when we are asked to begin research with an ancestor who lived in the 19th century or earlier.
Specific Objectives Are Best
We follow your instructions word-for-word. It is very important that you define exactly how you want us to spend your project time – whether it is to build a balanced pedigree or to focus on finding the parents of one particular ancestor. Do you want us to gather whole families (including siblings), or trace only a direct father-son line back as far as possible? Keep in mind that every individual ancestor we must find records for takes up that much more time. Building a balanced pedigree, or even tracing a single line for several generations, may involve hundreds of people and necessitate that we divide up our time accordingly. If you want in-depth research, it is best to focus on one person and their immediate family.
Documents Trump Family Stories
Quality genealogy research relies heavily on documentary proof. Even among documents, some are more accurate than others depending on the personal knowledge of those who created them. Be aware that when hiring us to prove your family stories, or connect you to a famous person, the actual documents that professional genealogists find may not fulfill your expectations. There is usually an element of truth to most family stories, which has then been embellished over the years and “improved” with the story-telling. You can count on us to figure out which part is true and backed up by solid documentation, but be prepared to learn which parts are not!
Genealogists Have a Lot of Clients
Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the world, and our industry is booming. Legacy Tree Professional Genealogists have many clients from around the globe who keep our researchers very busy. Besides our full-time staff researchers, we employ many part-time contractors with geo-specific expertise. Depending on the location of your ancestors, we assign your project to the researcher with the most relevant skillset. Chances are, they have several other projects to finish before they begin yours. They generally only work on 1-2 projects at any given time in order to maintain focus on that specific family and not confuse family details or information. Once a researcher turns in their files, our project managers and editor must then review and finish them in the same order. Our standard turn-around time for a project is 10-12 weeks, mostly to accommodate these queues. Consequently, we may be actively working your case for only a fraction of that three-month period. Keep that in mind when you are checking in mid-project, and don’t get discouraged if not much progress has been made yet!
Professional Genealogists Are Real People!
Professional Genealogists love what we do, and our greatest wish is to please each of our clients. The fact is that we sometimes spend more time on your project than we are paid for, just to make sure that we have considered every angle and left no stone unturned. We live for the thrill of solving age-old mysteries, discovering missing links, and acquainting you with your precious ancestors. While we can never guarantee that a needed record exists, you can be sure that we will give our best efforts to find it in the most efficient way possible. Sometimes solving your research goal will take more than one research session, and other times professional genealogists may research every possible avenue only to find that the answers just aren’t there. In those rare cases, we are just as disappointed as you are! Please know that we always do our best to find the most information possible for you during the time you have ordered. We thrive on your positive feedback, and hope to gain your trust as repeat customers. Here at Legacy Tree, we are, after all, the world’s highest-rated professional genealogical research firm.
Legacy Tree Genealogists have experts trained to know where and how to look for your elusive ancestors. Contact us for a free quote to learn more about your family heritage.