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.



Erika Manternach

Erika Manternach writes family history narratives for AncestryProGenealogists and appreciates all opportunities to share compelling stories. Before joining the Ancestry team, she worked for ten years as a TV anchor/reporter in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Indiana, and Utah. She then taught high school journalism and writing for 6 years. Erika and her husband live in Draper, Utah.


  1. Joe

    If you are going to blog a sales pitch, then you really should include the rates you charge. Sending people to your website or making them call someone to find out what your services cost is a non sequitur.

  2. Joyce

    Wish we had “likes” on this board Joe…There are many more Pros out thee not nearly as expensive as the ones listed on Unfortunately they can be difficult to find sometimes. I about had a heart attack when I clicked on their Pro link years ago…suggest folks go to rootsweb mailing lists first where there are many knowledgeable people and sometimes even “pros”.

    Lots of folks out there who are good and wok for a lot less than ancestry folks. I have even gotten help for free with difficult Swedish records. Many folks on wikitree will also pitch in and help.

  3. Karel

    I would love to do this but I am retired and on a fixed income so there is no way that I can afford the rates that the Pros charge.

  4. Raedeane M. Nelson

    No range of charges. Differing for different parts of country, or general vs. one specific question?
    Would think pros might specialize in differing parts of times or country/countries.

    • Bill

      You are paying for their time whether they find anything or not – are you suggesting they should work for nothing?

  5. Jude

    Professional genealogists are for rich people. I offer my services for free because I have no interest in making money. When you’re a good researcher, you don’t need a professional genealogist.

    • Frank Hatfield

      Hey Jude (sorry, had to say that), I’ve been looking for some relatives from the 1800’s in KY/WV with no luck. If you’re bored I could certainly use some help. I don’t want to impose on you. Thanks…Frank

  6. Julia McIntyre

    I used a professional after researching one set of great grandparents for 25 years with no success. He found them living in Europe in less than a month, along with their parents, grandparents, and siblings. It wasn’t cheap but it was worth every penny. If I had to do it over, I would do it much sooner!

  7. Kathy Stohrer

    I agree that paying a professional researcher of any sort can be expensive, but they can be helpful. In particular, the pros will presumably not confuse persons of the same name. Today I was working on ancestral records in the 16th century, and was finding people of the same name, clearly with 19th century dates, included in the family group. Please folks, don’t repeat past errors! Ancestry, can any of your pros unlink the mistakes?!

  8. Scott

    Well let’s see, contact a professional. I have been doing genealogy 8-10 hours a day for 15 years. I have found documented evidence in 4 lines back to about 1300 AD in those 4 lines. I’m not paid a buffalo nickel for any of it, but I’d bet I’m better than 99% of your so called professionals.

  9. Jane

    Good points in the blog… I’m with the group that values the knowledge & expertise of professional researchers….but, alas, cannot afford the rates to hire one.

  10. Nancy Fowler

    Trying to prove Native American Ancestory. But not listed on the Dawes rolls. Birth record list white but told some did that. Family says grandmother was and found out she was born in OK Indian territory. Need helpas on SS.

    • Sam

      Have you gone back in history as far as you can with the ancestors you feel are of American Indian descent? Compare the dates of birth/death with the times that the Tribe (if you know it) were in that territory. Many times, the story that we are AI are not accurate. That’s what happened in my family. I hope you locate that one ancestor that was born into American Indian heritage.

  11. Brenda

    I am so thankful to a lady who has helped me free because she had done her own tree she has been a blessing in disguise for Me and I can not thank her enough as she continues to work on helping me find a father that at 59 yrs old I still don’t know who he is . Also can anyone tell me how to obtain a copy of my great grandmothers birth certificate born 1878 in Russia died in 1940 in Duluth Mn ? My mothers side .

    • Sam

      when you add their name on your family tree and their “hint” with the birth or death certs comes up or the link that shows where that information came from pops up, there is a link that states “request a copy” of document. I assume that goes to the registry/county to request and pay for the copy. Many times, you can go strait to the county where they were born or died and obtain a copy for about $40 but no clue in Russia. Maybe President Trump can ask Putin if he can help you…..sorry, I couldn’t resist. Good luck. I am searching for Grandfather and Great-grandparents in Austria, Germany and/or Czechoslovakia and it’s not easy.

      • Paula

        I wish you all the best. I certainly could use it. Dead ends seem to be the norm when searching in other countries for links.

  12. Deana Yankie

    I am having trouble finding my great, great grandmother on maternal side. Could use some help. Please anyone?
    Thank you

  13. Crystal lee birth middle name Andrea bickmore

    Looking for birth mother I was told her name was margarite Lyons I was born in boston In some hospital along with my biological sister Andrea bickmore

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