HIRING A PROFESSIONAL GENEALOGIST: TIPS TO HELP THEM BE MORE
EFFECTIVE

There are several questions that are frequently asked when hiring a
professional genealogist to do research.  The most common is "What 
will the cost be, and how many generations will you find?"  Every 
research situation is unique.  There is no guarantee on what will be
found on your family. What you are paying for is the genealogist's time.
They will use their knowledge and expertise of the records to search
for ones regarding your family.  

There are several factors that will determine how quickly results may 
come.  Progress on a common surname will likely proceed slower than on 
an uncommon name.  Other factors that come into play are did the family 
live in one location for several generations, or move every few years?  
Have any records for those locations been lost, or do a high percentage 
survive?  Research in a highly populated or metropolitan area will likely 
proceed slower than research of a small county.  Many original records 
contain no index, or at best a partial index, and require a page by page 
reading of the time period involved.

An initial search usually needs to be about five to ten hours to allow the
genealogist time to consult a variety of records.  In some cases very
little may be found, and in others several new generations may be 
learned.  An initial general search by your genealogist will likely 
include many published sources.  Published records provide for an easy 
index to original records, and allow for determining the chances and
direction for future success from original records. 

What you will receive for your money, is an accounting of all records
searched.  The report will include either abstracts or copies of the
original documents found.  The report will include conclusions from 
the records found, and suggestions for continued research.

There are many things to consider to help a genealogist you hire to be
more effective, and make better use of the time for which you hire 
them.

1.Define your research situation as succinctly as possible and state 
to your genealogist what is the goal of your research.  This should 
include one primary goal, and may include one or more secondary goals. 
Be realistic in your goals.  If you have searched 20 years for an 
elusive link, don't expect your genealogist to solve the problem in 
one day.

2. State what you want the genealogist to do, and what you already know.
Do you want them to search only one type of record (as the probate
records) or to use their knowledge to search any available records they
think appropriate to achieve your stated goals.

3. Include pedigree charts and family group sheets on all pertinent 
individuals.  If you do not send these, your genealogist will have to
spend part of your research time preparing these from your letter.  
These allow your genealogist to have quick reference to names, dates, 
and locations regarding the family being researched.

4. Include photocopies (not originals) of any documents along with
the source of the record.

5. For records of which you have an abstract, but not a copy of the
original record, be sure to include a source, so that your researcher
may examine the original for any possible errors or omissions in the 
abstract.

6. Tell you genealogist EVERYTHING you know about the family.  It 
sometimes comes out after a report that a client already knew some of 
the information, but didn't think it important.  Other clients
intentionally withhold information, trying to seek an independent
confirmation of theories they have already formed.  If that is your
intent, if would be more cost effective to tell your genealogist of
your theories, and ask for an evaluation of them.  More time could then
be spent seeking records to prove or disprove these theories.

7. Remember your genealogist is also doing research for other clients.
Every time research is started for you, a certain amount of time
must be spent reviewing research already done.  Once you are confident
of your researcherís abilities, they will be more effective if you
hire them for one larger block of time, rather than the same research
spread over several smaller blocks of time.

8. Don't forget to send a list of records you have searched, and not 
found anything of your family.  This will save time in not repeating
research you have already done.

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Fredric Z. Saunders
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Midvale, UT 84047-4293
Last revised: 12 June 2000