In a prior post I had written about my own use of paid professional genealogy research. I found this researcher from participating in a geography specific forum. I knew from other posts that he had extensive experience in the specific region of Germany that I knew my ancestors were from and I had also read several reviews of his work from others that had used his services. This knowledge made my selection rather straightforward and I strongly advise you to obtain references before sending anyone your money.
So how can you find a qualified individual without this type of insight? One avenue that can provide helpful is to contact the Association of Professional Genealogistswho can help point you to a researcher. APG charges fees for membership and requires members to adhere to a code of ethics which can help to weed out those that do not take their work seriously.
The APG provides it’s members with resources to assist them in advancing their craft, honing their writing skills and keeping current with the latest in resources for the professional researcher. You may also want to ask whether the researcher you are about to hire has any professional certifications or affiliations.
A few things you should consider in working with a professional:
- Always insist on a written agreement for the services that will be performed, the fixed costs, the variable costs and any limits you want placed on those expenses. Be clear about these limits, if you can only spend $500 then make sure that is clear up front.
- Be clear about the deliverables that the researcher will prepare and how they will be prepared. Ask for a sample of what has been delivered to previous clients.
- Ask about how failure to find any meaningful data will be handled. This can be of particular importance to everyone being satisfied with the work. It is quite possible that the researcher will reach a dead-end and not be able to provide you with any data that you might consider particularly valuable. You should understand that in most cases researchers are compensated based on the time that they spent doing their research and not the quantity or quality of information that they return.
- Lastly, you should understand who will own the copyright to the work that is produced. In most cases the researcher will retain this copyright and for individuals that are paying for research for a personal basis this may be perfectly acceptable. Others may be paying for research that they intend to publish and if so copyright ownership is a much more important topic.