Posted by Erika Manternach on December 21, 2017 in ProGenealogists

Maybe you have thought about hiring a professional genealogist to help tackle a nagging research question or build out your family tree, but the cost has kept you from moving forward. You’re not alone. Just like hiring an expert in any field, accessing the experience and knowledge of a trained genealogist can be expensive.

If you know you can’t swing the cost yourself, consider enlisting other family members in the project and sharing costs with them. It seems anything can be crowdfunded these days (just check your favorite social media platform!), and genealogy is no different. The advantage with genealogy, however, is that rather than asking for a straight-up donation, the other financial contributors get to share in the family discoveries that come from the research, too.

Here are a few ideas about how to proceed:

  • Identify possible interested parties. If you are looking for help building out your own family tree, your siblings are obviously a good place to start when looking for people to share the cost. But don’t rule out asking cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, or even grandchildren who may also be curious about earlier generations of the family. If the expected results may not affect them as directly, they could contribute a smaller amount of money. Nothing says costs have to be divided evenly, as long as contributors can agree on a fair breakdown.


  • Determine the scope of the project. Professional genealogists will always ask you to identify specific goals before beginning a research project. You may have a brick wall that has been difficult to break through for many years, or you may want the researchers to build out a particular line as far as they can. Be aware that the scope of your project may change based on who contributes to its funding. If you bring cousins into the mix, for instance, researchers may venture outside your direct family line to see what they can turn up about extended relatives. This could involve some negotiating, too. Be careful not to let the goal(s) grow too large to address in a single research session, which at AncestryProGenealogists is about 20 hours of a professional’s time. Representatives can guide you through the goal-setting process if you’re not sure what to expect.


  • Don’t be timid about asking. Write a letter or email to everyone in the family to detail the idea of a “crowdfunded” research project, family history book, or oral history interview. Explain the time and hassle that could be saved by having professionals do the work, and describe the anticipated return—a more detailed family tree or the preservation of a grandparent’s life story in his or her own words. Let them know that a joint project can produce priceless gifts for everyone in the family. (One generous AncestryProGenealogists client made it possible for his in-laws to give a transcription and audio recording of a family interview to more than 100 family members this Christmas by personally funding one oral history interview. His extended family members paid for any individual transcripts and audio files they wanted to give to their own children and grandchildren, but he funded the work required to create those products.)


  • Accept non-financial contributions. Some family members may not be as interested in genealogy or may not have the financial means or inclination to donate to the project. However, they may have a stash of family photos they could scan and send for inclusion on a family tree or in a family history book. Perhaps they want to write down their own memories of a particular event, or chime in about topics to include in an oral history interview with an elderly relative. They could even be in charge of collecting accurate information on all living descendants who likely will not be researched or interviewed but who should be included in the project. These are also valuable ingredients of a family history compilation, and they can allow family members to feel that they have contributed to the effort even if they do not give money.


  • Let children help, too. While young children will likely need to leave the financial aspects of genealogy work to their parents and grandparents, they can help in other ways. Have them help organize and label photos, or take them along on a trip to a local cemetery where families are buried to take photographs of gravestones. Have them help design a family newsletter as the research progresses, keeping everyone updated on the research team’s latest findings.


  • Don’t forget about DNA testing. Many family members have covered the costs of a DNA test kit for each family member, and considering the holiday deals on AncestryDNA kits available at this time of the year, they are at a perfect price point for many gift-givers. While family members often believe they will have similar DNA results, even siblings will be intrigued about percentage differences in their ethnicity results, so it makes sense for all in the family to take the test. Let DNA technology fill in the missing pieces of the story as a starting point and help spark interest in genealogy.


  • Discuss what you’ll get for your money. Many families who share the costs of an oral history interview of a particular family member primarily want to capture that relative’s memories, stories, jokes, and wisdom, not to mention his or her voice. However, there are many ways to share that with all the parties who contributed (and even those who didn’t, if you’re feeling generous). They can receive a flash drive with the audio recording of the interview, a simple indexed transcript, or a beautifully designed softcover booklet containing the transcript and any family photos you’d like included. Inquire about these at the outset of the project so all interested parties know what is available, and what printing costs might apply. See AncestryProGenealogists’ products page for photos and detailed descriptions.

Families who share the costs of these genealogical journeys can achieve a long-held dream of knowing who they are and where they came from, but the added benefit of sharing the costs and returns of a project is that living family members grow closer in the process—without anyone having to foot the bill alone.


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. Charles

    Your test DNA info is almost a ripoff. It told me nothing in some general about my ancestors, especially that my grandparents had already told me. I could look at my features and hair and skin colorings and give the same magic results from a circus carnival tent. No specifics and even not info on some blood lines that I know are present. I even wonder if you actually do the test you claim you do. Certainly not worth money you charge for such generalities!

    • Sue

      You are very lucky that your grandparents told you of their history. Some of us were not so lucky and Ancestry’s DNA testing was a very big help. Rudeness does not become anyone!
      Just saying!!!!!

  2. Jay

    DNA testing is in fact an amazing tool. I have learned a great deal from it, and it is a bargain. It has confirmed the accuracy of many of my lines, and led me to relatives I had not known existed. I think the dissatisfaction some have is the result of totally unrealistic expectation, or perhaps simply not understanding what they are seeing.

  3. Ronald Hamann

    I have been working on family history for 20 Years. My DNA has opened a new and exciting world to me

  4. Edward Yeutson

    The great thing about DNA and Computers.
    I have had some hard brick walls it took 30 years to prove. I imagine your thinking, you spent all those years on 1 family member, No, I worked on all parts of the family at the same time I started in 1976 before computers existed and when they did come out I thought if I could put a name and everything on that person would pop up. But what really proved my research and others that helped was the DNA we’ve done 11 so far yes, it may seem a little cashy for some. But like any hobby it cost money. I can’t tell you exactly I spent $15,000 on going around to different court houses in different states before computers existed. I have spent some were around $5,000 on making new hard copies of old pictures. And I keep our house in an environment like an archive room. And I keep $65,000 worth of insurance on my home owners incase the pictures are destroyed in a fire or any other disaster. I have 32,000 plus pictures a lot of org. pictures diaries, letters, family history books, Christmas cards, ancestor’s letters asking about their family history. And evenly I hope to have it all on Ancestry some day I use Family tree maker to help so if I go on a trip I don’t have to transcribe it twice. DNA has found my mother-law is related to 3 presidents, I have found distant cousins and now I keep in touch with them.
    I don’t think you young ones realize how much of a value Ancestry is to you and how reasonable it really is.
    You know what if you are older and have early stage Dementia how much it will slow it down.

  5. Sylvia Rode

    Question – i ordered two kits, one for 86 year old father and 81 year old mother. They are not internet literate, so can i activate their kits under my account?

  6. Charlette (Bell) Childers

    I sent in a DNA kit using my marital name, as there was nothing asking about or informing me to use my maiden name. One week later, I received an email with information about my husband’s last name (that I now use). That has nothing to do with my ancestry. Why is it not advised as to whether or not use a woman’s maiden name?

  7. Charlette (Bell) Childers

    Also, my email and user name were wrong, when I looked up the info online, pertaining to my account number. The email listed above, is the correct email address. Please do not post my email address with my comment.

  8. Donna Fretwell

    I was going to get the dna kit until i read it won’t verify my indian heritage and of course may not even find it according to some reviews.

  9. Sheila O'Sullivan

    My sister just received her DNA results. We have a very large family in Ireland. Since she did the would the results from show up in her results?
    It seems as if only the American’s are showing up. Thanks, Sheila.

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Sheila: Hi there, your sister’s DNA matches will be made up of our members who have taken the test from all over the world and not just confined to the version of our site she is using. We hope this helps to clarify your query.

  10. Sofia Kogkalidou

    There are some days i am trying to order the kit but it cancels my order. I don’t know the reason, all informations are correct. Whats the wrong? Can anyone please fix it.

  11. Carole Silva

    I sent in 2 DNA Kits and can’t get the one under Joseph who is my husband in my email. Could you please sent it to me.

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Carole: Hi there, just to clarify, are you looking to access your husband’s DNA results from your account? If so, he will be able to share them with you by following the steps in this article:

  12. Kathy Crownover

    I recently had my DNA done through Ancestry and my sister and brother did their’s through 23 and Me. They received their Maternal and Paternal Haplogroup number and Neanderthal Ancestry which I have not found on mine anywhere. Am I missing something? All I’m finding is the percentages of where my ancestors came from which isn’t helping me with my genealogy at all. Is there more results that I just haven’t found yet?

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Kathy: We do not test for haplogroups or Neanderthal DNA. We create your genetic ethnicity estimate by comparing your DNA to the DNA of people in our reference panel. The AncestryDNA reference panel contains 3,000 DNA samples from people in 26 global regions which go back up to 10 generations and goes back approximately 1000 years, Please see an article here that explains more about how our autosomal test works compared to other tests, We also have a number of helpful articles available from the DNA results page. These can be accessed by clicking on the question mark icon located in the top right of either of your results pages. We hope this helps.

  13. Debra Briggs

    When will you do hair DNA analysis? I am an only child of only children parents who are both dead. I do have hair from one of them.

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Debra: We’re sorry to hear that. Unfortunately we don’t currently have any information about this. But we will of course pass on your feedback in relation to this.

  14. Wayne Pagot

    My brother is currently a member. I have my genome files from another source. Can I upload them? Do I need to join before I upload them or can my brother do it?

  15. Ann Hurst

    I have a question regarding contacting the cousins on the match list. My 1st cousin doesn’t appear to have signed in anytime in a year. If I write her a note can she get it without signing in? Otherwise how do I get in touch?

    • Ann Hurst

      I need to know . If I leave a note for my 1st cousin, who has not signed in since 2017 will it be forwarded to her e-mail or will it sit until some time she signs in?

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