It’s all about focus. I simply can’t have someone try and locate everything and trace the family as far back as possible in the first research encounter.
There’s several reasons for this:
- money–I don’t have unlimited funds.
- the need to establish a working relationship. This is crucial when the professional being hired is someone with whom you have not worked before. It may best to start out with a small project and a budget that you can easily afford. Research can them move forward from there.
- surprises. The research may not progress as hoped or there may be surprises along the way that prevent the initial researcher from completing the research. The researcher may not be able to locate information (there are no guarantees of finding anything and no researcher should promise you answers) or the family may turn out to have originally lived in an area a distance away with which the researcher is not familiar.
In my case, the researcher that I chose to go with was one I had not hired before, but one who I did know through Facebook and who came recommended from other researchers. Local historical/genealogical societies or libraries may be able to provide the name of a local researcher in the specific area of interest. It would still be advised to ask if they have any references or anyone for whom they have performed research before. Readers may also be able to find a professional through the Association of Professional Genealogists website.
Start with a small project, particularly if the researcher is someone you do not know.
Organizing what you have before contacting the researcher is advised in all cases–unless you are paying someone to organize your material. If that’s the case, then just send them the unorganized mess and wait. Generally though, organizing first is crucial, particularly if the researcher could be accessing materials you have already researched. This can be a waste of time and money. Also…if the professional has to organize your material before they can do the research, they will need to bill you for that time.
The researcher I hired will be working in German records that I have never used before–duplication of work is not a problem.
However I did have to do as much research in the United States on this immigrant family as possible and organize that information before contacting the researcher. That will help the researcher to help me.
Because this family appeared to have moved around quite a bit in the early 18th century before ever coming to the United States, I needed to also pick some focus. This is my overall problem:
Johann George Trautvetter was born 15 July 1798 Bad Salzungen, Thuringen, Germany. He died in 1871 in Bad Sulzungen. He was the son of Erasmus and Mary (Gross) Trautvetter of Wildprechtrode. The records of Bad Salzungen are partially microfilmed and I’ve already done some work on Johann George’s family of origin.
Sophia Elisabetha (Derle) Trautvetter was born 29 September 1808 in Helmerhausen (sometimes written as Helmsahausen). She died 11 February 1877 in Hancock County, Illinois, and is buried in the Bethany United Church of Christ Cemetery in Tioga, Hancock County. Nothing is known about Sophia’s parents.
- Anna Elizabeth –born around 1834–married John Herbert in Germany–precise location unknown. Died in 1860 in Rocky Run Township, Hancock County, Illinois
- Elizabeth Sophia–born 4 May 1835 (calculated from tombstone). Died in 1870 and buried near Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois.
- John Michael–born Wohlmuthausen, Thuringen, 22 June 1839 (my great-great-grandfather). Died 13 December 1917 in Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois.
- George Adolph–born Wohlmuthausen, Thuringen, 16 August 1842. Died 29 November 1930 in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois.
- Theodore Frederick–born 16 Oct 1844, Wohlmuthausen, Thuringen. Died 22 April 1927 in Rocky Run Township, Hancock County, Illinois.
Given the geography–Helmershausen and Wohlmuthausen are close to each other–it was decided to focus on records in those villages, concentrating on the following events:
- Birth of Sophia Elizabeth Derle in 1808
- Marriage of Sophia and Johann George Trautvetter in approximately 1826-1834–search conducted in Helmershausen
- Births of Sophia and Johann George’s children in locations as shown above
- Births of possible other children for Sophia and George
- Marriage record of Anna Elisabeth Trautvetter to John Herbert, probably in Wohlmuthausen before 1853 (this information inferred from the family’s residence in Wohlmuthausen and Anna’s immigration as Anna Herbert in 1853).
It was important in this case to have locations.