How to Hire a Genealogist to Trace Your Roots

GenealogyMany people are tracing their roots these days. The practice has, in fact, become big business. According to market research/industry statistics firm IBISWorld, ancestry research services reached the $1 billion mark in 2013, with 10.1 percent growth rate.

But when you embark on a search for your family tree, there are several things to keep in mind if you decide to hire a genealogist. You could, of course, do it yourself, but such a search does entail a lot of time and could take you years on your own.

The first step would be to go to a professional organization, such as the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, Board for Certification of Genealogists, or Association of Professional Genealogists, to find a researcher in your location or speciality need. There will also be a professional guarantee you can count on. “All APG members, for example, must commit to following a code of ethics,” explains Janice M. Sellers of Ancestral Discoveries and member of Board of Directors for the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California. “If something goes wrong in the working relationship, there’s a grievance procedure.”

“Another option is to just Google. You can come across the website for a genealogist who specializes in your location, subject matter, and/or has a price you can afford,” adds Allison DePrey Singleton of Hoosier Genie, which focuses on research of genealogy, biography, and history.

When settling on a genealogist, ask a variety of questions, says Singleton. Among them: What are your credentials? How long have you been researching? How much does it cost? How will I get the information? What other fees might accrue? How long will it take? How will we communicate and how often? What information do you need from me to get the job done right?

There is a wide price range for genealogists, from $10 to $150 an hour and up. But the average is around $60 per hour.

After agreeing on a price, draft a letter of agreement between you and the researcher before any money is exchanged or work is performed. According to Sellers, you should insist that the letter describe the following points:

–Scope of work to be performed
–Hours to be worked for you with some provision for time extensions under specified circumstances
–Fees to be charged for various activities
–Explanation of what the retainer covers and how it will be applied toward final payment
–Provision for research to extend past terms of initial agreement and how additional authorizations are to be put in writing

Also, make sure the agreement identifies who holds the copyright to the written research reports; you want to own your own family history.

So what should you expect after hiring a genealogist? “You should expect detailed work. He or she should give you the sources of all the materials found on your family so you can go back to them later,” notes Singleton. “You also need to realize that it takes time to do the research.”