Query: Why does Professional Genealogy Research Services cost so much?

HEIRLINES Professional Genealogy Tip:

Recently a consumer contacted us about the expensive nature of professional genealogy research services. They proposed sending us a monthly payment over several years and having us work piecemeal for a reduced price for the over all services and asked if this kind of arrangement would work.

The consumer wrote:

“I know you want a big sum of money up front to do research, and I also know that you want to have steady work and steady income. I need to get my genealogy done and it will probably take several years to finish it off.

How about doing a long term arrangement (over 3-5 years) where we send you funds every month and pay for like 2 hours of research every month? Can we get a discount for having a long term arrangement with your company and be charged $50 to $55.00/hour every month because we bought just two hours from your company on a regular basis? Some months we may throw in more money for research hours too but we contract to for research for a period of 2-4 years at least $100 to $110 dollars. You would work on several of my lines and do what you can once a month. In a period of several years I should have a good percentage of my genealogy done and my wife’s also. What do you think? This is a win win situation for both of us? My genealogy gets done; I would benefit and your company would benefit. What do you think? This is a win win situation for both of us.”

James W. Petty, AG, CG, HEIRLINES President and professional genealogist since 1969, responds:

I appreciate your proposal for extensive professional genealogy in-depth research on your family tree. We accept project payment in advance in US dollars via credit cards, checks, money orders, and electronic checks .Research on the family tree in professional genealogy is done in a three phase process including set up, research, and assemblage. ¾ of all project hours are devoted to research which includes professional genealogy research, analysis, and reporting. ¼ of the time on each project is spent on organizing the project in the beginning in preparation for the research phase and the assemblage or completion phase where the finished project findings are prepared and mailed to the client.

We used to set up projects like you have proposed, where clients paid us on a monthly basis. This created an accounting and scheduling nightmare for us and did not give the client the best use of our research time as we were always stopping and going. With a monthly payment plan we would do a little work or wait until we had enough paid hours to do a block of time of in-depth research (usually ten or more hours). We found that every time we received funds, we spent time encouraging the client to pay, time to record the payment, time to acknowledge payment, time for the accountant to submit the payment and record the transaction to the account, and time for the secretary to add the additional time to the project, organizing it for the next period of research. Each transaction occupied all or a portion of one hour. This extra time spent on set up and assemblage left the client with fewer actual research hours. Consequently, to do a twenty or thirty hours project at the $50-$55 rate, it took two or more years to accumulate enough research time for the type of extensive research that is required. We’ve learned this is not a good system.

That is why we recommend payment in advance for specific projects or blocks of time purchased (10 hrs – $650, 20 hrs – $1200, 40 hrs – $2200, and 120 hrs – $6600 this is the premium rate project). The larger the purchase of time, the less the cost per hour for the client. Plus, the greater the opportunity for discovery because we have more time to look at and study more records about their family tree. We accept payment in advance because it guarantees us payment and it guarantees you the price and the time commitment. If the client pays by credit card, he can pay the credit company as fast or as slow as he wants; they can manage a payment program that is their business (not ours). This is a win win all around for you the client, and for us.

We will be glad to assist you in all of your research, but using the system we have established and now operate as standard procedure.

James W. Petty, AG, CG, B.A. (History), B.S. (Genealogy)
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