When Is It Time to Hire a Professional Genealogist?

Posted by Erika Manternach on July 28, 2017 in ProGenealogists
Working mood. Senior couple sitting at the kitchen table looking at something on a laptop and smiling

Ever stared at a car’s underbelly and had belated second thoughts about your decision to change the oil yourself? Or have you found yourself buried in complex financial documents on April 14, desperate to meet the impending tax deadline? Maybe you asked, “Why didn’t I just hire a professional to do this?”

It can be the same for genealogy. Granted, most people building their own family trees see it as much more than a job to be done, and rightfully so. They find the pursuit of family information fascinating and the discoveries that follow that pursuit even more thrilling. However, there often comes a time when the best decision is to hire someone with expertise in the field. Here’s why bringing in the pros makes sense:

#1 A professional understands the records

Professional genealogists spend all day, every day, accessing a wide variety of record collections. They have a broad understanding of what records are available and what information each record offers. For instance, it may not have occurred to a family to search for a World War II draft registration card for an ancestor who did not actually serve in the war, but records like these exist for millions of people and often shed light on individuals who lived in wartime.

#2 A professional knows how to approach a problem

Kory Meyerink, a senior research manager at AncestryProGenealogists, which he co-founded in 2003, says many genealogical questions do not have quick or easy answers. A genealogist usually has to notice patterns in records and in the chronology of events. He or she has to consult a variety of sources and sequence family milestones to arrive at the elusive answer.

“Too often people are looking for what I sometimes call the ‘magic bullet’ record—the record that’s going to tell them the answer they need,” Meyerink said. “And that might not exist. But that doesn’t mean the answer can’t be derived from enough other records and circumstances.”

A professional has been trained to discern dates and locations and compile a base of information that can lead to a conclusion that won’t ever be found on a single line of a “magic bullet” record. Knowledge of migration patterns, for instance, can often reveal an ancestor’s motive for moving from place to place, either alone or in a group of family members, friends, and neighbors. An understanding of common naming patterns can also lead an alert researcher to an answer.

#3 A professional employs a healthy dose of skepticism when necessary

When you’ve been searching for an answer for a long time, you may feel a rush of enthusiasm when you finally uncover a record that appears to hold the key. However, it’s not always that simple, and what looks obvious on paper can sometimes be a mistake, a duplicate, or a mistranslation. Professional genealogists have had plenty of experience disproving a detail that was found earlier and seemed cut and dried. That also gives them a skeptic’s perspective, and the motivation to find more evidence to confirm the information before proceeding.

Also, let’s be honest: sometimes it’s fun to search for records that substantiate a long-held family legend. Stories passed down from generation to generation come to be seen as the truth over time, but professionals adamantly require evidence to prove that a legend is true, and will pursue it relentlessly.

#4 A professional can often access additional resources more quickly and cheaply

One obvious advantage for researchers at AncestryProGenealogists in Salt Lake City is the short walk from their office to the world-renowned Family History Library, which holds hundreds of thousands of records—many of which are not available online. This proximity can save clients significant time and travel expense. But Meyerink points out that another significant advantage of hiring a pro is the Rolodex of sorts that they carry in their heads regarding which library, collection, website, or database will hold the answer being sought. Beginners could spend years tracing one clue to the next, but a professional can often access the most helpful repository in minutes.

“It can also mean we have subscriptions to websites they’ve never even heard about, let alone subscribed to,” Meyerink said. He and his colleagues subscribe to a number of more obscure and arcane online collections, and can use that access to benefit their clients.

#5 A professional has numerous genealogy contacts with specialties and lengthy experience

Perhaps the biggest reason to consider seeking the help of a professional is that you never really hire just one; clients can actually hire numerous experts with various specialties who work together to crack the case. AncestryProGenealogists, for instance, employs more than 100 researchers who each have expertise in a certain time period and/or part of the country or world.

“We have that expertise in-house, in many cases, and we have the connections outward in foreign countries and across the country to get the records we want,” Meyerink said. Therefore, when you hire a researcher, you get his or her friends, too. “You’re going through one person for a certain agency like Ancestry, but you’re unlocking the door to a wide range of access points and access vehicles to get to records, information, and understanding.”

Meyerink likes to point out that we all hire professionals when we need them, based on the value they can provide to us. “The professional in any endeavor is there to save the client time, money, hassle, and error,” he said. “That pertains for every profession out there. It won’t always save you all four of those; it might cost you a little more money than doing it yourself, but take a lot less time, for instance.”

Therefore, if you are stuck in your own pursuit of genealogical information, consider going to the pros to get your tree back on track.



Past Articles

The Hochstetler Massacre

Posted by Kelly Kautz on July 27, 2017 in Guest Bloggers

When talking about family history, my mom would sometimes tell me the story of an Indian massacre. A distant ancestor of ours had been murdered by a neighboring Indian tribe. She couldn’t remember many details, and I’d always assumed her story was a myth. But while tracing a branch of my family tree back to Read More

Want to Star in an Ancestry Commercial?

Posted by Jessica Latinović on July 26, 2017 in AncestryDNA, News

Have your AncestryDNA results inspired you to travel somewhere new or achieve something great? Tell us about it! Nothing speaks to the power of Ancestry better than our very own customers. We’re currently in search of the most compelling and unique customer stories to feature in a future Ancestry commercial. Visit our entry pages to submit a Read More

Is AncestryDNA helpful for Jewish Genealogy?

Posted by Jasmine Rockow on July 21, 2017 in ProGenealogists

Experts discuss common pitfalls and share their strategies for success Autosomal DNA testing has become a standard tool used by many genealogists, and it has helped people discover unknown Jewish ancestry. But using autosomal DNA in Jewish research is filled with challenges, due in large part to the Jewish Diaspora and a long history of Read More

Go Fishing with Cousin Bait

Posted by Denise May Levenick on July 20, 2017 in Guest Bloggers

Are you making it easy for cousins and fellow genealogists to find your family photos in an Ancestry online photo gallery? Genealogy bloggers often use “cousin bait” to catch relatives searching the internet for family names, but did you know that Ancestry Public Member Trees can help catch cousins too? What is “cousin bait” and Read More

Enhancing Collaboration and Roles on DNA Results

Posted by Anna Swayne on July 13, 2017 in AncestryDNA

  As the AncestryDNA service has grown, we are increasingly hearing about families taking DNA tests together. Family members want easier and more powerful ways to collaborate with each other to make discoveries in their family story, all while still maintaining control and privacy of their own information. We recently made some changes that allow Read More

How Did Your Ancestors Shape Our Nation’s History?

Posted by Laura Renda on July 6, 2017 in Guest Bloggers

As we celebrate the founding of this great nation, many will wonder, “What role did my ancestors play in establishing the freedoms we enjoy today?” You may be surprised by what you discover. As a nation, we honor the founding fathers, who risked their lives and liberty to declare our independence, but many others contributed Read More

RootsMagic brings Ancestry Features to their Desktop Software

Posted by Ancestry Team on June 28, 2017 in Website

Last year, we announced we were working with RootsMagic™, a leading desktop genealogy application, to allow Ancestry® subscribers to connect their Ancestry accounts to the RootsMagic software. Since that time, Ancestry has developed a new technology to integrate Ancestry Hints® and Ancestry’s records and online trees with RootsMagic products. Today, RootsMagic launches a free update Read More

Make Misspellings Work For You

Posted by Linda Barnickel on June 27, 2017 in Guest Bloggers

Often, beginning genealogists miss their ancestors by sticking too firmly to the idea that “that’s not how my family spelled their name, so it can’t be my ancestor.” This statement ignores these basic truths: 1) Ancestors who were illiterate would have no idea how to spell their own name, let alone how someone else should Read More

Three Ways to Take Aim at Southern Brick Walls

Posted by Erika Manternach on June 21, 2017 in Guest Bloggers

Tracing ancestors in the American South in the 19th century produces some of the most frustrating genealogical challenges. The troublesome trademarks of these searches are all too common: ancestors who married before 1850, and therefore do not appear by name with their parents in earlier censuses; a female family member who married and changed her Read More