Did you know genealogical enthusiasts are spending up to $18000 a year to discover their roots?
Genealogy is growing by the day, with over 84 million genealogists spending in the market to find out who they are.
Curiosity has even got to me and I just spent just over $100 in the last month on a DNA home test and a health report. Which yielded surprising results, the effects of this surprise has caught on through my family, with parents, siblings and their partners all diving in to find out their ethnicity estimates too.
What’s your price to find out who you are and where your bloodline has come from?
In this post, we will look at why you’d hire a genealogist, the cost and where to find professional genealogists to assist in your family tree research.
Why should I hire a genealogist?
You’ll be glad to know it won’t cost you $18,000. But to some people, using a professional is essential to discovering their ancestry path.
You can find specialised genealogists for tracing ancestry, researching descendants, searching records (especially in other countries), DNA analysis, translating foreign records, deciphering old handwriting and much more. But you may also be thinking, I can do these things, why would I need a professional?
1. Professional genealogists have a better understanding of records
With the advancements in technology we are able to access many records and documents online, but it is not always easy to understand at first glance. A professional not only looks at this information day-in and day-out, but they are also trained in reading and deciphering them. Therefore, developing extensive knowledge around how to use and where to find records and related documents.
2. Professional genealogists know how to approach roadblocks or problems
An experienced professional has such in-depth knowledge on records that they know when to make links and jumps that can help piece together information on a person. By knowing the ages or date of births of a person, some professionals have the experience to know which records will be relevant to look through.
3. Professional genealogists can access many more resources more cheaply and quickly
At the end of the day, hiring a professional in any market should get you better and faster results than doing it yourself- they are professionals.
One responder on a genealogist forum expressed this by saying,
“The one I hired cost $100 an hour. He turned more information in 30 minutes than I did in 10 years. He specializes in a small portion of Virginia.”
This is not only due to their experience, but also the fact they will have access to more obscure websites and subscriptions that most of us have not heard of and are not likely to discover on our own.
4. Professional genealogists have many specialist genealogy contacts
When hiring a professional genealogist, it is their duty to discover more information about your ancestry. That’s why many enlist the help of their contacts in the industry who are specialised in certain niches.
It’s clear that working with a professional genealogist can save you a great deal of time, and help you overcome bumps and blocks in the road. So, while we can certainly see the positives, there is one major issue with most people- the cost!
How much are professional genealogists?
Genealogists charges are based on three things, competence, nature of the task and the market environment.
Genealogists with high prices don’t always relate to competency. The high charge can come from the nature of the job. For instance, some may charge more so that they can afford the training required to offer better services.
A genealogist’s time needs to be compensated for also. Some genealogists specialising in specialised fields may not get the fast results of a record searcher. This is because they may need to travel to location, visit churches and scroll through documentation in person.
Where a genealogist operates from will have a major effect on price too. A genealogist specialising in a specific location can charge higher rates than genealogists from a very common area.
Pay per Project:
Ancestry.com has a list of pro genealogists who can create for you a full genealogy project.
But take a seat, the pricing plan starts from $2,500 USD! Yikes! Now we can see why there are holes burning in pockets…
On the subject of fixed-price packages, professional genealogists also normally require a deposit and in return, you’ll typically get a quotation of a fixed price for the project ahead. At least with this method, you know what you’re getting and what you’ll be paying for.
Pay per hour:
You’ll find that most genealogists charge per the hour.
This is largely based on their skill levels, credentials, experience and even the market to remain competitively priced.
The price of professional genealogists can vary from as low as $20 per hour to a staggering $120 an hour! Recordclick found that the average rate of charge is around $55- $75.00 per hour. While you can hire a genealogist on an hourly basis, there is also the option of opting for a fixed-price package project.
There can also be extra hidden costs such as expenditures along the way. These can be from travelling and accommodation fees, cost of copying documentation, charges by other genealogists if they needed their expertise, postal, secretarial and supplies costs.
How can I reduce the costs of hiring a professional genealogist?
Regardless, whether you hire a genealogist at a comparatively low price there are still ways you can have some control over your expenditure.
- Get a clear plan of what you need to find out. If it’s a large task, Recordclick recommends breaking it down into smaller tasks and paying for them periodically.
- Use as many free sources as you can prior to hiring a professional, and gather as much research information as you can first. We have written about where you can find a bunch of free sources here.
- Discuss with your genealogist all the possible charges you can be expected to fork out for in advance so you can make an informed decision whether to consider their services. You don’t want to be stuck with an unexpected bill.
But be warned, while hiring a professional is a large cost, you need to consider that it’s not always possible for a researcher to guarantee successful results. You need to bear in mind that you’re paying for their expertise and time.
That’s why it’s crucial you choose the right professional genealogist.
How to find the right genealogist?
From searching web forums, we’ve seen examples of people sharing fantastic experiences from hiring a professional. But for some, it can be a gigantic waste of money.
“… I have been ripped off twice by supposed “pros” just be careful.”
– This goes to show you must do your research when you hire a genealogist.
There is no law that requires genealogists to hold a licence or to be certified. This means finding a reputable genealogist can be difficult if you aren’t sure where to look.
But fear not, as there are a few ways to find a trustworthy professional.
1. Checking credentials
The most obvious way to check the competency of a professional is to review their credentials. There is no one governing credential that can be gained, but rather multiple from many different sources and organisations.
There are many credentials that can be gained for genealogists Let’s look at each:
Accredited Genealogist® (AG)
An Accredited Genealogist gains their credentials through a series of tests from the ICAPGen (The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists). To pass the testing the genealogist has to be tested on a specific region in the world. So if you see someone with an AG next to their name, you need to ask which location did they specialise their testing in to see if it meets the areas you need.
The testing covers an in-depth four-generation report, a written and oral exam and a code of ethics test.
Certified Genealogist® (CG)
A Certified Genealogist test involves their ability to interpret documents and resolve evidence that is contradictory. Often this is the kind of work genealogists are hired for- the problem- solving.
In the State of Utah at BYU university, they provide an undergraduate bachelor’s degree programme in Family History. The degree covers palaeography (reading old handwriting), writing classes, record sources and case studies.
Boston University and BYU- Idaho also offer these courses online.
Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) by the Board for Certification of Genealogists
The Board for Certification of Genealogists came up with the GPS in 2002 to ensure all genealogists meet a minimum standard when seeking to prove ancestry. This testing ensures that the genealogist has to perform an exhaustive search of pertinent record sources before declaring ancestry. What this means is, it’s not limited to online search, the genealogist has to use indexed sources, microfilm, unindexed records and even church/ funeral home records.
They must also correctly cite all material and documentation used to be referenced upon by family members for future use.
They must also prove an evaluation of conflicting evidence and communicating these resolved solutions effectively.
Association of Genealogists & Researchers in Archives (AGRA)
To qualify as an AGRA member, genealogists must prove with evidence recognised qualifications, examples of work from paid clients, undertake a research assignment and have an interview by a board of assessors of the AGRA before qualifying for membership. All AGRA members must abide by a professional Code of Practice which puts clients’ interests first.
2. Use ancestry websites
Ancestry.com has their own credentials of professional genealogists on their website here.
You can also find lists of professional genealogists from the website Cyndslist
3. Use review sites
Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to hire a professional. In other peoples experiences, we can make informed decisions on whether we want to employ someone’s expertise.
4. Review their work samples
When hiring a genealogist, you should ask them to view their past work samples.
Many excellent genealogists out there don’t seek credentials and are completely self-taught. Often having much more experience than a new genealogist with all the ‘qualifications’.
This is a good way to know what to expect from them. This will also allow you to determine how efficiently the genealogist will use their time. The best way to tell this is by reviewing their reports on past clients. You need to look out for:
- If they use readily available records either through the internet or indexed sourced.
- Then if they use less accessible records such as microfilm etc.
- They should then use resources in their reach that you won’t have access to yourself.
By following those three core steps of research you should find a great genealogist. If you come across a genealogist’s records of proof and they only use step one, then it’s an indication that they aren’t as thorough and won’t make the most efficient use of their time for you.
So back to the main question.
Should I hire a genealogist?
If you’ve either got little free time for researching yourself, or have hit a huge block in the road, hiring a professional genealogist may be the right answer for you.
To keep costs low, do your homework and search for the right genealogist that can help with your specific needs. It can save you a lot of cash and time in the long run.
A professional genealogist can help get you closer to gaining all the details on your family history, where generations after you can treasure and continue your work.
Help us with our mission!
Our mission is to get the younger generation interested in family history, so they can carry on the work for their future families. If you would like to interest your children or friends in family history then please check out our post here.
Don’t forget to download our family tree builder app, where we also have in-built family interview feature to capture all our loved one’s life stories.
You can download our app here.