Many times, those who wish
to research their own family history don't want to do it themselves. This
might be because they don't have time, are not interested or just think it
is too complicated. (It's not, really.)
Whatever the reason, there is professional help out there to do the work
for you - or to get you past a genealogical brick wall.
Professional genealogists offer a variety of service. Most of them conduct
research on individual families and may specialize in geographic areas or
ethnic groups. They may specialize in particular time period or even in
particular records. These people have experience analyzing lineages,
planning research strategies and evaluating the evidence they find.
Many professional genealogists also lecture and teach and publish. Some
even translate foreign language records. A few will develop genealogical
software or provide consulting services. Some may even do on-site
consulting in libraries or archives for those who prefer doing their own
research, but need some advice on the best way to go about it.
There are professional genealogists who offer research on family health
histories or legal cases.
Some professionals document historic sites or conduct biographical and
local history research for popular and academic writers.
Some of the professional genealogists work independently and others are
employed by genealogical business firms, libraries or other organizations.
How do you find a professional genealogist?
Usually, professional genealogists are not licensed by governments or by
professional agencies, so private screening programs have come to be.
Names of genealogists who have been tested and who are untested, can be
obtained from genealogical periodicals and from historical societies in
the area of your interest. Many screening organizations and professional
associations maintain on-line rosters available on the World Wide Web.
It doesn't matter where professional genealogists live. They have access
to research sources and have colleagues elsewhere. Even if the person you
first contact does not accept assignments such as you need, they may be
able to refer you to others or even to subcontract the work while they
maintain overall supervision of your project.
When you write a professional genealogist - or send any genealogical mail
- be sure and enclose a SASE (Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope). If you are
writing to someone in another country, include International Reply
Coupons, available at the USPS. You should be sure your coupons will cover
How do you know the professional is qualified?
Contact several professionals who work in the appropriate areas of your
genealogical need. Be sure and ask for credentials and about their
education. You'll want to know their professional affiliations. Have they
been published? What foreign languages do they read and write and speak
(if applicable in your own research)? To what records do they have access?
If you have special projects, ask if the genealogist has had experience in
a completed family history in book format. Have they conducted oral
interviews with distant family members? Can they provide on-site
If your research involves adoption or special ethnic origins, or uncommon
problems, ask what experience the genealogist has in those special areas.
We'll learn about the costs involved and how to define the researcher's
work next week.
Remember, we have The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library right here in
Moultrie with our own resident expert genealogists - Irene Godwin, Ann
Glass, Katherine Bryant and Monique Green. Come see them Monday through
Saturday 8:30 til 5:30. The Odom Library is located in the south wing of
The Moultrie-Colquitt County Library.