The Truth About Hiring a Professional Genealogist
WHO CAN CALL THEMSELVES A PROFESSIONAL GENEALOGIST?
A professional genealogist is some one who is paid to do genealogical research. In the United States there are no licenses or special schooling required to provide professional genealogy research services. Anyone may call or self appoint himself or herself a “Professional Genealogist.” But consumers need to know that professional genealogy college degrees are available for the serious commercial career-minded practitioner and most states do require business licenses. However, there are two organizations, The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen (www.icapgen.org) and The Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG (www.bcgcertification.org) that grant credentials to those individuals who demonstrate they are qualified to do professional genealogical research -AG (®) and CG (SM) and a membership organization for professional genealogists does exist, The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).
With this in mind, the consumer should choose a practitioner who has earned a college degree in Genealogy as well as these credentials. For the best expert, your professional genealogist should be someone who works full-time in professional genealogy research services and has made their commercial career as a professional genealogist. The practitioner should be a member in good standing with both his local chapter and national APG organizations.
WHAT DO AG (®) and CG (SM) STAND FOR?
There are two credentialing bodies that require their applicants to prove they are qualified to do professional research. ICAPGen (www.icapgen.org) is the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, the organization that supplies the Accredited Genealogist – AG credential through testing. The Board for Certification of Genealogists (www.bcgcertification.org) or BCG, provides the Certified Genealogist – CG credential through peer-reviewed portfolio. Both credentialing bodies have a code of ethics and production standards. It is important to look for one of these credentials to assure you are getting an experienced and qualified researcher who has agreed to uphold standards and observe ethical practices.
WHAT IS APG ?
The Association of Professional Genealogists (www.apgen.org) or APG, is the only professional membership body in the US. Although, it is not a professional practitioners-only organization, it does require its members to observe a code of ethics. Additionally, all these organizations (ICAPGen, BCG, and APG) offer arbitration services should a disagreement arise between a client and a professional researcher.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSIDER HIRING A PROFESSIONAL GENEALOGIST?
Certainly, doing your own family history research is an exciting and rewarding pursuit. Although some information is available on the Internet, there is much more information in original records and other resources. You may want to consider hiring a Professional Genealogist if:
1. You don’t have the time or research skills necessary to do it yourself.
2. You need research done in an unfamiliar locality, foreign language, or ethnic group.
3. You need help with a difficult research problem or a “brick wall.”
4. You don’t know what record sources might be available.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD YOU ASK BEFORE HIRING A PROFESSIONAL GENEALOGIST?
1. Do you have at least a 4 year degree in Professional Genealogy Research?
2. Do you have either an AG or CG credential or both?
3. Are you a member in good standing of APG nationally and in your local chapter?
4. How long have you been doing professional genealogy research?
5. What is your area of research expertise?
6. Do you perform all of the research yourself, or do you have research assistants who work with you?
7. How do you qualify your sub-contractors to work for you?
8. What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
9. Do you provide copies of all relevant documents found during your research, with complete source citations?
10. Do you provide pedigree charts and family group sheets containing the new information found during your research?
11. Do you provide data inputting of any new family information into a GEDcom format?
12. What resources and repositories do you use to perform your research?
How long should a research project take?
Remember that no one can predict how long it will take to find the answer to your family history problem nor what that answer will be in advance of doing the actual research. Professional Genealogy research is an extremely time-consuming process. You are paying for the researcher’s time, experience and expertise, and a negative search takes the same amount of time as a successful search. The research results must then be analyzed, compiled, and a report written. That being said, you have paid for a certain amount of time, and an ethical researcher will honor that agreement and keep you informed of any delays that might occur, such as on-site research that must be done, or documents that must be ordered.
CAN YOU EXPECT A GUARANTEE OF RESEARCH RESULTS?
No ethical Professional Genealogist would ever guarantee the results of a research project in advance to doing the work. There is no guarantee that your ancestor created the record being sought, or that the record is still in existence. Although many family traditions and legends have a basis in fact, often the truth discovered through careful research may be very different than the accepted family history.
The only guarantee you can – and should – expect is that the research will be done by a qualified, experienced researcher who will accurately document the research done during the allotted research time and what is, or is not, found. Negative results of any search are still useful results that indicate a family or individual were not where they were assumed to be at a given point in time. Both negative and positive findings are the clues that will focus additional research efforts.
ISN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET?
The Internet has definitely affected the way family history research is done. Every day. more information becomes available – both good information and bad information. Good information includes scanned or digitized copies of original documents, accurately extracted vital records and indexes, properly researched and documented family trees, and resources that provide access to records that were previously unavailable to researchers due to distance. Bad information includes undocumented research and family trees and other publications that perpetuate misleading or incorrect lineages.
A qualified professional genealogist is able to evaluate the validity of information obtained on the Internet, and consult original record sources when necessary to confirm, clarify, or disprove that information. While the Internet is a valuable tool in tracing family history, it is only one of several sources that a professional genealogist uses to provide accurate, solid, and thorough research. And it often requires high-level skills and methodology to accurately utilize.
What about DNA testing and research – is it real, or just a gimmick? WHAT ABOUT DNA TESTING AND RESEARCH – IS IT REAL, OR JUST A GIMMICK?
The ability to analyze DNA is one of the most important advances in molecular science. Used in conjunction with traditional genealogy research, DNA studies can uncover previously unknown family relationships, verify or disprove an ancestry, and provide answers to research roadblocks that have existed for years. The successful genealogical use of any DNA test and analysis is dependent upon matching the results with another contributor. Therefore, the more individuals who submit DNA samples to any of the several companies who receive them, the greater the chances that a specific match will be made. For more information on DNA testing and its value to genealogy research, visit www.relativegenetics.com.
WHAT MAKES HEIRLINES FAMILY HISTORY & GENEALOGY DIFFERNET FROM OTHER RESEARCH COMPANIES?
Our philosophy – we believe that our clients are entitled to professional, thorough research conducted by qualified professionals. We support and encourage the professional genealogy career path for practitioners including a 4 year professional genealogy college degree, membership in National APG and the local chaper, professional genealogy research services training and experience, AG and CG credentials earned from ICAPGen and BCG, business licensing, ethical codes of conduct and behavior and standards of performance.