How can you ensure you get the most out of hiring a professional genealogist to work on your family history? The first thing to do before you engage your genealogy researcher is prepare! A “prepared” genealogy client will make the research experience far more productive, than one who is not as well prepared.
The very first thing your genealogist wants to understand is your goal. So, have a clear sense of what it is you would most like to accomplish with professional genealogical research. Remember this motto for genealogy- specific goals are gold! A broad goal such as “get as much as possible on my family tree” is not as helpful to a genealogist as a goal stated the following way; “I would like to research my family tree, starting with my ancestor in 1875 and working back for four generations.”
This second goal provides a clearly defined goal, which a professional genealogist can then more easily quantify to an approximate time block of research. Different goals will require different time blocks. A genealogist cannot possibly know all the circumstances surrounding your ancestor’s lives before researching. So, clearly some approximations based on years of genealogical research experience are used to guide the correct package.
If your ancestor moved several times, lived in multiple states, had several marriages, or was adopted these events may require additional time to sort out and unravel the relationships. If you know this information beforehand, provide as much information as you can on the family in question.
The next step is organize your research. If you are not using a software program such as Family Tree Maker or a tree at Ancestry.com then ask your genealogist for a Family Group Sheet and a Pedigree form to complete before researching. This is important and will save you countless hours of research time. It is far easier for your family history researcher to develop a research strategy from easy to understand and well organized notes and charts, than lots of loose unsourced documents.
Ensure whenever you can that you provide source citations for your claims. If you give a professional researcher a pedigree with a long list of names but no evidence, then we are duty bound to work the line and prove the claims before proceeding with new information. You can save yourself much of this review time by making sure you document each generation, and support each relationship with evidence. It is important to ensure that each claim meets the standard of proof required in professional genealogy.
If you are struggling with a research obstacle or a brick wall, identify clearly what your research problem is. Let your genealogist know the time period you are stuck in, as well as all the strategies, and resources you have used to date to solve your problem. Sometimes a Strategy Session or a Research Plan may be all you need to move past the wall.
We will be covering more topics to help you get ready to hire your professional genealogist. However, just incorporating these three points above will go a long way toward creating an easy and fruitful working relationship. Remember, Goal, Organize, Identify, and Prove!
To hire one of our professional genealogists to help you build your family tree, or find family, contact us.