[a guest post from one of our sponsors, Legacy Tree Genealogists]
With so many technological advances and increased record availability these days, one question we get fairly often is, “Why should I hire a professional genealogist? What can you do for me that I can’t do myself on [insert the name of any online genealogy site here]?”
There’s really no quick answer to these questions, but there are a lot of reasons people hire a professional. We asked the professionals at to share their insight into some of the most common reasons clients seek help from a pro:
Time. Learning more about your family tree can be extremely time-intensive. It’s not as easy as just clicking the little hint leaves on Ancestry.com. While those can be very helpful as a foundation, it’s important to have a primary source document that proves each piece of information (birth, marriage and death dates and places, parents, children, etc.) in your tree. These records are not all available online, nor are they always easy to find. A professional genealogist knows the most efficient and cost-effective ways of compiling all the sources you need to have an accurate family tree. Plus, if you have a special event coming up, like a birthday or anniversary of someone you love, a family reunion, or a trip overseas to the home of your ancestors…you might not have the time to do all the research on top of your already busy regular life!
Brick Walls. Most people who have spent time working on their genealogy have at least one line that seems to be at a complete dead end – known as a “brick wall” – that they need help breaking down. Professional genealogists have experience solving difficult genealogical problems, and have the knowledge and skills necessary to get past them. Many brick walls require in-depth research in land, tax and/or probate records, and most of those records are still not available online. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah houses the largest collection of genealogical records in the world, so a genealogist who has ready access to that facility, in addition to a network of researchers for record access worldwide, will be able to search many additional records that you may not have access to.
Language Barriers/Foreign Research. For those who live in the United States or Australia, and many who live in other parts of the world as well, it’s a fact that at some point your ancestors came from another location and spoke a language you may not know. You’ll also find that within one country you might have records written in a variety of languages. For example, one project we’ve worked on in Lithuania has involved records written in Polish, Russian, Lithuanian and Latin, all depending on who created the record and where the political boundaries were drawn at the time. Professional genealogy companies have team members who speak and read many different languages that can trace your ancestry beyond their immigration and into their country of origin. Legacy Tree Genealogists also has onsite agents that they work with worldwide who can visit archives and libraries in other locations when needed, rather than you having to plan an expensive trip overseas to find that one record about your great-great-grandmother.
Lineage Societies. Many people are interested in joining lineage societies such as the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution (SAR/DAR), Mayflower Society, etc. Each of these societies has different requirements for membership, but they all have fairly strict policies on documentation. A professional genealogist can help you collect the documentation you need to submit a successful application to whichever lineage society you might be interested in.
Team Approach. Sometimes when you’ve been working on your genealogy for a long time, all you need is a fresh set of eyes. Maybe there’s a clue in that death record you found 20 years ago, but you’ve looked at it so many times you just don’t see it. When you hire a professional genealogy company like Legacy Tree, not only will they review what you’ve done and assess what other options are out there, but they also peer-review each other’s work, so your family tree is seen by at least 2-3 different professionals.
DNA Analysis. With DNA playing a bigger role in genealogy in recent years, many people approach us with questions about DNA testing. Some have taken the test but aren’t sure what the results mean. Others have heard that DNA testing might help them break down a brick wall, but they’re not sure which test would be best for their particular problem. Consider hiring a genealogy research firm with DNA specialists who can give advice on which test(s) would be most beneficial to you, and can analyze the results of your test(s) to determine what the next steps in your research should be.
Validation. Finally, you might want to hire a professional genealogist just to see if the research you’ve done on your own is right. Maybe you’ve inherited the work done by other family members, or maybe you’ve found quite a bit of information online that appears to be correct…but you’re just not sure. A professional genealogist can review your information, determine the quality of your sources, and help you fill in holes where things might be lacking. If we find an error in your tree, we can help you correct it before you spend the next 5 years researching the wrong line!
Your reason for hiring a professional genealogist might be one (or more) of the above, or it might be an entirely different reason not listed here. Whatever the reason, learning more about your family history can be a very rewarding experience.
When you are choosing a professional to work with, it’s important that you feel confident and comfortable with their knowledge and skills, and make sure they’re the right fit for you. You’ll want to find out things like how long they’ve been in business, what kinds of certifications or accreditations they have, and what kind of reviews they have received from other clients.
We recommend the team at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Here’s a few facts about them:
- Legacy Tree Genealogists was founded in 2004 and is the highest rated genealogy research company in the world.
- They’re based in Salt Lake City, Utah and have ready access to the Family History Library and its vast collections of microfilm, fiche, and books.
- With contacts all over the globe, Legacy Tree regularly accesses records worldwide through onsite agents.
- Each member of their core team has a degree in Family History/Genealogy or Genetics, 10+ years of genealogy experience, and/or is professionally accredited in genealogy. They also hold their team to a high standard of research, writing and analysis skills.
If you’d like to learn more about how hiring a professional genealogist can help you in your family history efforts, contact today!