Submitting An Excellent Proposal

At AncestorCloud, we love our helpers and our seekers! We want both helpers and seekers to have the best possible experience with AncestorCloud, and one way this happens is through excellent proposals. Proposals establish expectations and form the basis of an agreement between seeker and helper.

We’ve put together some tips to help you write a great proposal. (And if you are a seeker, these tips can help you evaluate and clarify a helper’s proposal. Sometimes great researchers submit proposals that leave you with a few questions, so we want to help you know which questions to ask.)

As you consider submitting a proposal, think about answers to some of the following questions. Also, consider asking the seeker for clarification if you do not know the answers to any of these questions.

  • What is the research skill level of the seeker?
  • What records might they have already found or looked for?
  • What is the likelihood that you will find what they are looking for?

When you write your proposal, you can also consider the following questions. The answers to these questions are important to include in the actual proposal.

How will you contribute to the research?

  • In other words, will you be doing research for the seeker? Or will you be helping them learn how to solve the problem? How does your past experience qualify you to help with the research? Do you have access to certain groups of records that will be helpful?

In what kinds of records will you be searching? The answer to this question would take two forms.

  • First, as you know, an image of a historical document contains information that is more trustworthy than an index or transcription of the document and much more trustworthy than information from a family tree that you found online. Of course, you don’t always know what you will actually find, but you want to be clear about the types of sources you will use in your search.
  • Second, you may also want to describe the record groups in which you will be searching. For example, you may want to write something like, “I will search all relevant tax records for New York.”

How much time will you dedicate to this project?

  • Let the seeker know the approximate number of hours you are willing to spend on the project.  Sometimes genealogy is difficult to “finish,” so a time allotment allows you to be specific about what you can provide. For example, you may write, “I anticipate that this research will take four hours.” You may also write something like, “For the amount proposed, I will spend five hours searching in the records at the state library.”

When will you provide the seeker with the information?

  • Sometimes you may not know the answer to this question. You may write, “I don’t know when exactly this will be finished, but I will keep you updated on my progress every couple weeks.” You may be able to tell the seeker, “I will be done working on your request two weeks from the day you accept my proposal.”

What exactly can you guarantee?

  • As you know, unless you have already found a record that you know is relevant, you can’t always guarantee that you will find a certain record. However, you can guarantee some other things, such as a thorough search and a written report of the research that you perform.

Here are a few final tips. First, always encourage open communication with the seeker. This can help to make sure you are both on the same page. Second, make sure you can fully complete what you agree to do in your proposal.

The bottom line is this – be straightforward and specific in your proposals so that seekers have a good idea of what you can contribute to their request.

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Wesley is the founder of

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