From The Ancestry Daily News
Seeking Professional Help, Part II: Making Contact With A Professional
What do you expect from your professional genealogist? It should not be the answer to your question. You may get it, you may hope for it, you may wear your lucky T-shirt every day until the report comes in the mail (or until no one in your family talks to you), but you may not expect guaranteed results. Death and taxes are certain: answers to genealogical questions are not.
The research may very well answer your question explicitly. It may "suggest" an answer. Or it may provide no answer at all. Genealogy is like life: not all problems can be solved. What you should expect from your researcher is a listing of the sources that were utilized, what items (names, time period, etc) were searched for in those sources, what those sources contained, and what follow-up research may be warranted.
Note that these statements refer to a search, not to specific results. In a similar fashion, statements that so many ancestors can be obtained in so many hours should be regarded with more than gentle skepticism. When you pay someone to research, you pay for specific records to be searched, not for specific results to be obtained. Every family is different and any researcher who has done enough research to be offering services on a fee basis should know that genealogical guarantees cannot be made.
In some cases, submitting a GEDCOM file to the researcher may be helpful. In my case, I chose not to do this. I tried to order all copies of documents in a logical fashion, numbering each page. Then, in a cover letter, I provided citation information for each document and summarized the information contained in each document and what I thought the information meant.
After that, I included a list of documents that I thought would be helpful in solving my problem (visiting genealogy Web sites for the area under study was particularly helpful). The researcher suggested a couple of other record types that she thought would be helpful in this case. These were records I had not used successfully in searching other branches of my family. However in this case, given the fact that the time period was fifty years later, these records were particularly useful. This is part of the reason for hiring someone to do research—they are aware of sources that are appropriate for the time period and geographic area where the problem is located.
It is important the researcher completely understand the information you have sent. Having them summarize what you have sent serves this purpose very well. Then you are as close to being on "the same page" as possible. It is even possible that the researcher will notice something you have overlooked.
I also found it helpful to create graphic images of some documents, particularly census records. I then uploaded these images to my Web site and gave the researcher the URL where these records could be viewed. This was an immediate way to send the documents to the researcher (although she did have a fax number, uploading the files did not require a long distance call).
Hashing Out The Details
Letter Of Agreement
The letter of agreement indicated approximately when the research report would be sent to me. The researcher also indicated that brief intermediate summaries would be sent to me via e-mail (after all, I was just dying to find out what she had learned!).
Next in this series: Locating a Professional Genealogist.
Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: email@example.com or visit his Web site at: www.rootdig.com/
Copyright 2001, MyFamily.com.
The Hiring a Professional Series:
Books that may also be of help:
BCG Standards Manual--edited by Helen Leary. The BCG (the Board for Certification of Genealogists) Standards Manual discusses what constitutes genealogical "proof" and what does not and also discusses how that proof should be organized. An excellent guide and introduction to genealogical report writing.
Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historians--by Elizabeth Shown Mills. This short work provides a framework for citing genealogical sources. An excellent reference for anyone doing genealogical research.
Back to Michael's other "Hiring a Professional" articles