Choosing a Genealogist or Family History Research Firm

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Trusting a genealogist or family history research firm to find your ancestors is a big decision.  Several factors are required to ensure success.  This article briefly examines 7 essential considerations when choosing a researcher or firm.

The firm or researcher(s):

1. Knows which sites to search.  Not all the records that are needed are in FamilySearch or Ancestry.  In fact, over 85% of the records that are needed, are not yet online anywhere.  Knowing how to find what is online and know where else to search is absolutely essential.

2.  Knows how to search those sites.  It is not enough to simply be in the "correct" site, you must be able to know how to search that site correctly.  Knowledge of advanced search techniques, such as Boolean expressions, is paramount to finding the record even when you are searching in the right locations.

3.  Knows which records to search for.  Being in the right location and searching in the best ways possible is only productive if you know what to search for.  Do you need a marriage record, birth record, census, probate, or ...?

4.  Knows how to glean all the data possible from the records found.  Once you find the desired record, it is important  to know how to analyze it completely so you can learn as much information as can possibly be gleaned from it.  This is a skill that takes time and experience to develop.  You need to recognize the clues and then apply what you learn.

5.  Knows where else to look and can access those locations.  As much as we would love to have all the records that we need in one location, that fact remains that most records are in multiple locations.  Very few people have every significant event in their lives happen in the same city or even county.  Our ancestors moved around, attending school, serving in the military, getting married, having children, dying, etc.  For most people, we need to search multiple locations to find the records we need.  Therefore, identifying the various locations and having researchers who reside in each of those locations, and who can be trusted to find the desired records is also essential.

6.  Knows how to find other researchers with whom to collaborate.  No single researcher can be an expert in all specialties and for all time periods.  Depending on your ancestors and their specific situations, you usually will need multiple specialists in a variety of disciplines and timeframes.  Therefore, identifying the various specialty areas that you need and then having experts for each area is another essential requirement for a successful research firm.

7.  Knows how to create quality deliverables, including sourced research reports.  Even after you find various researchers who appear, at least on paper, to be the ones who are needed, how do you determine which ones to hire?  How can you be confident that they really do have the expertise you require?  Additionally, many researchers often require payment ahead of time.  Are you confident they will perform the best research possible?  Are you convinced that if the desired records do exist anywhere in the world,  the researchers or firm will find them and then analyze them correctly?  And if and when they do find the records and anlayze them fully, will the present the results in a research report and research log/calendar that fully documents and explains what they found?  As we build our extensive network of researchers, we are amazed at the number of researchers who are not able to write a great research report, even ones who are certified or have been in business for many years.

As you can see, doing research can be a daunting task even if you hire others to do the bulk of the research.  You can perform these steps on your own or you can find a network of researchers who have already been identified and vetted to ensure they will do the very best research possible.  Why trust your research to the work of any one researcher, regardless of how skilled that researcher may be?  Make sure that you trust your research to a firm that  meets all 8 of these requirements.

At, we have over 350 professional researchers located throughout the world.  Our Lead Genealogists are recolonized experts in their field and specialty.  Our Project Managers make certain that we leverage each researcher's strengths to find and analyze the records wherever they may be located.  When you hire, you are not just hiring a researcher, you are hiring a team of researchers who work not just in the FHL or in any one location, but collaboratively around the world to ensure that you receive the very best results possible from over 700 of the world's archives.  Next time you need help with a research project, go to

by Jim Heddell
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November 13, 2013
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