|by Myra Vanderpool Gormley|
Some hobbyists successfully research their family trees without any professional assistance. However, most of us do not have the time, money or expertise to pursue personally all of the sources that might be available or needed to find our entangled roots and sprawling branches. As a result, the time may come when you will seek the assistance of a professional genealogist.
How do you know when? Since each research project is unique, it is impossible to say exactly when. However, you might need to hire a pro, if you:
Consider the fact that we all have 16 great-grandparents, and they all have families whose branches go every which way. These ancestors probably came from diverse geographical areas, time periods, and possibly belonged to a variety of ethnic groups. It is the rare genealogist who is able to do all this research without help.
Keep in mind that no one can tell you in advance how many hours of research will be required on any of your lines, or that they can find your ancestors quickly. Each family is unique. No ethical professional genealogist will guarantee to find your ancestors either. When you hire a professional genealogist you are paying for her or his time and expertise, not for positive results of a search. It takes just as much time to discover your ancestor is not mentioned in a particular record as it does to learn he is recorded there.
Once you have obtained names of professional who work in the area or category in which you need assistance, you may wish to contact several to find the one who best meets your needs and who has the time to accept the commission. Let the researcher know what you want and agree upon time limit, costs and when reports will be provided. In this country, anyone can call themselves a professional genealogist, but there are some organizations who test applicants and whose members agree to abide by a code of ethics. Moreover, some professional groups offer arbitration services to resolve any differences that might arise between the client and the professional.
To find a professional genealogist, contact the following organizations:
Board for Certification of Genealogists
Family History Library
Association of Professional Genealogists
Australian Association of Genealogists and Record Agents
Genealogical Institue of the Maritimes
Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives
Chambre Syndicale des Genealogistes Heraldistes de France
Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland
Genealogical Research Institute of New Zealand
Association of Scottish Genealogists and Record Agents
About the Author
Myra Vanderpool Gormley is a syndicated columnist and feature writer for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. Additionally, she writes articles on the subject of genealogy for Colonial Homes magazine. She is the co-editor of Missing Links and RootsWeb Review, two weekly e-zine genealogy newsletters. A certified genealogist, she has written three books, Prima's Official Companion to Family Tree Maker, Family Diseases: Are You at Risk? and Cherokee Connections. In her spare time she searches for her own elusive ancestors.