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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 10/18/2001 


Working With Your Professional

Readers of the Daily News will remember that a few months ago I engaged the services of a professional genealogist to work on one of my "problems." The Daily News contained three-part series on choosing and hiring a genealogist.

My problem was the birthparents of my wife's grandmother Anna Apgar Verikios Lake, born in Chicago circa 1913. Anna's SS-5 Form (Application for a Social Security Number) and her death certificate list completely different fathers, William Apgar and Peter Verikios respectively. Virtually every record indicated Anna was born in Chicago, Illinois. While these records were secondary sources (a primary record would be Anna's birth certificate or a christening record), I decided to start the research in Chicago. Although only approximately three hours from Chicago, I was unable to obtain enough time away from work and other obligations to perform the research myself. I also knew that someone familiar with the area and local repositories would make better use of their time. 

I was not certain how many times Anna's mother Marie was married, but I knew she had been divorced once and possibly twice. Fortunately, I had the names of two of Anna's mother's husbands, William Apgar and Peter Verikios. This was included with the information I sent the researcher.

Before a contract was signed, I provided the researcher all the information I had on this family (both "paper" documentation and data from unwritten, oral sources) and a listing of the records I wanted searched. The researcher sent me a summary of the records that, based upon her experience, would most likely solve my problem. There were a few e-mails back and forth between us before we agreed on the items that would be included in the initial research contract. I preferred the use of emails over phone calls—it allowed us to answer at our convenience and made keeping a written record of what we had agreed to much easier.

The contract that was eventually signed listed all the records that would be researched and the retainer and fee amount. I was paying for records to be searched and for an interpretation of those records. I was not paying for guaranteed success. A few research items from the contract are shown here as examples. It should be noted that for every record to be searched, the following items are included:

Title of record 
Person being searched in the record 
Time period being searched 
Means by which records are to be provided to client (photocopies, abstracts, transcripts, etc.) 

Records that would be searched included (modified slightly): 

  • NATURALIZATION RECORDS Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization District #9--1840-1950 Naturalizations. Search for Peter Verikios, born about 1883. If he is identified, obtain photocopies of the documents in the naturalization file and report the results. 

  • DIVORCE RECORDS Search the Circuit Court and Superior Court, plaintiff and defendant indexes, 1914-20, for the divorce case of William Apgar and Marie (DeMar) Apgar. If found, order file from warehouse, photocopy file, abstract, and report the results. 


  • 1. Marie Louise Demar, born between 1894-6 in New York. Search the 1910 Illinois Miracode index, if Marie is identified, obtain photocopies of the census page(s), and report the results. 

    2. William Apgar and Marie Louise Apgar, born between 1894-6 in New York. Search the 1910 Illinois Miracode index, if William and/or Marie is identified, obtain photocopies of the census page(s), and report the results. 

    3. Anna (Ann/Amya/Yenna/Yanna) Verikios, born between 1913-5. Search the 1920 Illinois Soundex, if Anna is identified, obtain photocopies of the census page(s), and report the results. (Note: the additional spellings of Anna were included as family members indicated that Anna might have been given these nicknames as a child.)

    In this case Soundex cards for all individuals with the surnames of Demar/Desmarais and Apgar residing in Cook County, Illinois were copied. This was done in the hopes of finding other family members and was practical as the surnames were not extremely common. The surname Demar/Desmaris was included as that was the maiden name of Marie (mother of Anna).

    The Results!
    My researcher sent me intermediate status reports as the research was conducted. These reports did not take the place of the final report (which would include all the information obtained and an analysis of that information). The intermediate reports were helpful so that I could see how the research was progressing. However, not all researchers will have the time to send these occasional updates and the creation of the updates may add significant time to the billable hours. In my case, the updates that were sent were basically the researcher's transcriptions of some of the material that had been located. 

    The Apgar divorce was located and provided Marie and William Apgar's marriage date and the names and ages of their children. Listed was an Anna, with an age that matched that of Anna Lake's SS-5 form. It should be noted that Anna's SS-5 form had listed William Apgar as her father. 

    The Naturalization of Peter Verikios
    Peter was Marie's second husband. Information on his naturalization provided a date and place of marriage for he and Mary. It also indicated that he and Marie were the parents of no children and that he emigrated from Greece after Anna was born. This fact was crucial as it has been thought that Peter was Anna's father. Information from the Apgar divorce and the Verikios naturalization seemed to indicate that Peter Verikios was not Anna's father. 

    Off to Other Temptations
    It is important to not interfere with the researcher as they are doing the research. It is tempting however. I did ask a few questions and got a few answers while the research was being conducted, but I tried to avoid the temptation to expand the research until the first phase is complete. I tried to avoid posting queries to bulletin boards and listserves until the research had been finished. However, there were a few things that I did while the research was ongoing and hopefully they augmented the research instead of distracting from it. 

    I searched the Ellis Island Site ( for information on the Peter Verikios who immigrated in 1914. The search (which was very quick and very superficial) did not locate a Panagiotis Verikios (Peter's name as listed on his naturalization) arriving in 1914. Future goals are to more effectively search this site to locate his name on a manifest. The current goal though was to locate information on Anna's parents. Peter's entry on the Ellis Island site likely will not provide any information on Anna's parents William and Mary. It is important to stay focused.

    I also tried to locate some of the census entries the researcher had found in the Soundex for me. Her extractions included all the Demar/Desmarais, Verikios, and Apgar entries from the Cook County, Illinois, area. The researcher was only doing actual census transcriptions for those individuals who were directly involved in the research contract. 

    Marie Demar was born in Clinton County, New York ca. 1895. Her parents were known to be Louis and Marie Drollette Demar/Desmarais. Marie Drollette died in the late 1890s and is buried in upstate New York. Marie (the daughter) is thought to have had at least two sisters who came to the Chicagoland area. I had wondered if their father made his way also. According to her divorce, Marie was married to William Apgar on Christmas Eve of 1908 or 1909 in Chicago. Given Marie's likely age at the time it seemed plausible that her father came to Chicago too.

    There was an entry for a Louis Demar aged forty-nine, born in New York State in the 1910 Soundex for Chicago. This entry was most interesting. In 1910, William and Mary Apgar (Louis' daughter) had been married for at most two years and should have a daughter, Lillian Apgar, aged a few months. Divorce records indicate William was a painter.

    The 1910 census entry for Louis Demar is most interesting. It lists living with Louis Demar a William, Mary and Lillian Frame as roomers. William is a painter, Mary is aged seventeen and born in New York, Lillian is two months old. It seems an extremely unusual coincidence as the details match the Apgar family except for the surname of Frame. Follow-up will have to be done on this Frame family as well. It may be a coincidence, but it is worth following up. This potential clue would have been very easy to miss.

    In future follow-ups we'll discuss the final research report. The summaries of records are good, but the researcher included a great deal more information than is listed here. Among the items included were a study of the residences and addresses of the family members involved. Chicago is a big place and determining that extended members of this family were all living in the same neighborhood was helpful in increasing the chance we "had the right people." And there's always the work to be done to find Anna's actual birth record (assuming that one actually exists). 

    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: or visit his Web site at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research. 

    Copyright 2001,

    Used with Permission

    The Hiring a Professional Series:

    Books that may also be of help:

    Professional Genealogy--edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. This book is geared towards those who are professionals or wish to become professionals. Those considering spending a significant sum on a professional may wish to invest in this book and read relevant portions of it before commissioning any research.

    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