Finding the right genealogist, genealogy researcher or family history researcher is paramount to the success of your research.
As the new age of technology advances, researchers, family historians and genealogists are appearing overnight offering a paid service and most of them have never ever been inside an archive before.
Why use a Professional Genealogist or Researcher
Finding the right Genealogist is the same reason we go to the doctor, because he is an expert – we can all google our symptoms and find out what’s wrong with us, but is that really wise? You want a Professional Genealogist or Researcher.
Professional genealogists have had years of experience and know where and how to find records that you would never have dreamt of. They have the knack of tapping into repositories that you would not have access to. These experts are collectors and hoarders of family records and books and can hold the key to unlock your family mystery at lightning speed. Researchers have also handled many similar problems that you have had with your family tree. They can also help you not waste any time and do it faster than you can.
Choosing the right person for your research
Find a Professional Genealogist that specializes in the field of research you are needing. Finding a researcher who lives near the location to where your ancestors lived also helps and one that does come recommended by someone. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.
Also check their website and look at their references and see who they have worked with or for. Employing a researcher does not mean you will lose out on the thrill of finding that nugget of information you are looking for. You will still have the satisfaction of disseminating the information, adding another branch to your family tree and telling your family or posting it on social media.
Your researcher will need to be extremely diverse and be able to read English, Afrikaans, Dutch and German and also read old handwriting that an average person would transcribe completely incorrectly.
Punctuality and turn-around time
This is a key question as we all want our answers yesterday or we urgently need to apply for a Passport or Visa or its a present for someone. Be prepared as research does not happen overnight. A good researcher will give you 5 -10 working days turn-around time and some will even do it within 24 hours and not charge an extra cent. You can spend years tracing your family tree and find nothing – a good professional genealogist will tell you upfront that if it’s a waste of time or if it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.
What are they going to charge me?
In South Africa there is no board or affiliation for Professional Genealogists so there is no set rule of what you should be paying. You do however need to ensure that they belong to a local Family History Society or they have been in practice for a least 10 years. Charges from a genealogist can vary immensely as it’s a very difficult industry to put a price on “find my grandmother” You can either be charged at an hourly rate and sometimes that does not include the documents as it might need to be ordered from a distance, or you could be charged per item reference if you have the reference from the National Archives website. In some cases a professional genealogist will quote one amount and research your family and include all the documents found – sometimes this is the best way to go if you just want to find out when your family arrived in South Africa and if you are related to Paul Kruger or not.
Hourly rates for professional genealogists vary anything between R175.00 per hour to R350.00 per hour – but again it depends on if you the client are paying from abroad as the researcher needs to include an an amount to cover the hight transaction fees incurred when receiving international payments or from cash deposits (most researchers do not accept cash deposits). In the United Kingdom genealogists charge anything between £20 and £50 pounds per hour.
Researchers are not God and can only supply you with what is available – if your ancestors did not leave a paper trail then sometimes there is nothing to be found unless you provide a specific reference. Remember you are paying the researcher for their time not the documents as most documents are all in the public domain.
What not to ask a genealogist
Don’t ask your researcher how to find the documents or your family tree – that’s like asking your doctor “how did you know I have cancer ?” well its simple – he or she has studied for years and is an expert in their field and they will not tell you how to self-diagnose otherwise they would not be in business and you would probably be dead. Much like doctor, genealogists are also experts in their field – if you don’t want to pay them to help you then don’t ask – just like the doctor does – he does not give you a free consultation.
Don’t tell your researcher that you are pensioner and you cannot afford it – do tell your doctor that? Most professional researchers are over the age of 50, so they are doing a job like anyone else and almost pensioners themselves.
Its your choice
At the end of the day – it’s your decision how you choose which researcher you are going to use, but make sure it’s the best choice as there is nothing worse than in 5 years’ time you find out your family tree is all wrong. If you think I am the right person, please contact me now.