After I introduce my students to the idea of hiring a professional, I’m usually faced with three questions: how much will it cost me, how can I tell if they are legitimate, and what can they do to help me? I’ll try touch on my typical responses to each question quickly.
1) How much will it cost me?
It depends. Genealogists charge everything from $15 an hour to $120 an hour. Most qualified genealogists are now in the $50-60 range or higher. If you feel like a fee is too high, consider asking a genealogist to explain their fee. Many professionals have been working for decades and have some form of advanced training. Asking them to work for $15 an hour is somewhat like asking a CPA or an attorney to work for a similar fee. Expect to pay for knowledge.
2) How can I tell they are legitimate?
It is extraordinarily easy for someone to declare themselves a professional genealogist, as in most states it simply requires registration as a business. Most professionals I know can share stories of someone whose sole qualification as a professional was that they knew how to enter data into Ancestry.com. Want a guarantee of work product? Look for an American genealogist to belong to the Association of Professional Genealogists. APG, as it is known, requires members to agree to a code of ethics. Any issues can be brought to mediation. It’s a guarantee of protection for a client.
3) What can they do to help me?
Again, it depends. Different genealogists work on different things. Among professionals, it’s referred to as their “specialization.” Personally, I find myself doing a bit of everything. I really enjoy working with clients of all origins to build a full family tree. There’s something special about watching someone learn about their family for the first time. Yet, I also love the challenge of answering specific questions or working on local family. Right now, I’m working to answer questions in Connecticut and Luxembourg. In addition, I’m learning about Canadian records to better serve clients who may have come into New England from Canada. Since I’m trained as a French teacher, I also do translation. I know genealogists who work on German-American families, DNA, and more.
How do you know that they’ll do what you want? Talk to us! I love it when my clients are involved. Being able to discuss questions or issues with you throughout the process makes my work much easier.
Next up… what can I expect to get from a professional genealogist?