Category Archives: Pro Genealogist – When to Hire

When Do You Hire a Professional Genealogist?

Have you ever used the services of a professional genealogist? I’m not selling anything here, I am inquiring about how you came to that decision.

I have used the services of professionals multiple times, although I consider myself more than capable of doing my own research. Why then did I hire someone to do what I already knew how to do?

It came down to one simple factor – the information I sought was not available online or in a repository I could easily visit.

What were the records for which I was willing to pay a tidy amount? In Czechoslovakia!

In 1980, the only way I could obtain Slovak baptismal, marriage and burial records was to send a request to the (then) Embassy of Czechoslovakia in Washington, DC. 18 months later, I received a letter back requesting that I mail a check for $220.00 “for the information which I requested.” A cousin of mine and I split the cost and received an envelope full of documents that took the family lines back to the 1820s when records began in that village.

In the 1990s, before the internet, I hired a researcher in Arkansas to trace clues about my husband’s Williams family, who migrated from eastern Tennessee to Hempstead and Lafayette Counties by 1840. I don’t remember how much the final bill was, but her hourly rate was very reasonable – she did several searches for me – and I learned a lot about their life in Arkansas. She checked land records, tax records and local items, none of which I would have been able to access on my own at that time.

I hired a researcher in Copenhagen, Denmark about five years ago to try to crack open the Johannes Jensen brick wall. He did excellent work, but he was very expensive – over $200 for a few hours. It was worth every penny, though, because part of his research was to obtain unwed mother’s records from the Danish National Archives while I was in Salt Lake City. Those records have not been filmed by the Family History Library and must be requested at the archives. Between the records he obtained and my research, done with lots of help from the Scandinavian staff at the FHL, the brick wall came tumbling down.

I also hired a researcher at the Family History Library to continue Danish research that I started at the library. Why didn’t I continue the work myself? It required jumping to many microfilms and reading hard-to-decipher handwriting in old Danish. She was also very reasonable and extended my knowledge about my family.

Other than those few instances, I have paid small fees for records in local historical and genealogical societies, but that isn’t really the same as hiring a professional. I knew what I needed and where it was and volunteers usually retrieved and copied the record for me.

Most professionals do wonderful work, but I prefer the challenge of the hunt myself.

Have you ever used professional genealogical services?