I am in the initial process of hiring a researcher to work on one of my ancestral families.

I’ve hired researchers before, usually to access records that were only available onsite or required specialized knowledge to locate and research efficiently. In most cases, these research requests were for specific items from a specific repository. Sometimes I knew the record was there and other times I did not. I did not need the information translated, analyzed, interpreted, etc. I simply needed a copy.

What I want now is different.
The research I am contemplating is not just a “simple lookup. It will require accessing actual onsite records, being familiar with searching those records, and being able to understand, interpret, and analyze those records.

But I just can’t send a jumbled mess of information to someone and say “here’s what I’ve got, find me more.” There are a variety of reasons for that, but it boils down to:

  • Any professional worth their salt is going to have to spend time organizing an unorganized mess. They are going to have to charge for that time, just like the plumber who has to move all that junk out of the way to get to the water heater. It’s time spent working on your job.
  • No professional can guarantee success, just that they will search available records. I won’t work with anyone who guarantees  they can solve my problem. That said, a conscientious professional will want to maximize the chance they can help you. They need you to know what you are trying to locate, discover, etc. in order to design the best research approach possible. It is difficult for them to do that if you send them an unorganized mess.
  • No one wants to pay for work they have already done themselves. If you don’t tell the researcher all that you have done it makes it difficult for them to know this. Professional researchers cannot read minds. If they could, they’d be in an entirely different business and making a lot more money.

I’ve decided on the family I want to work on. For reasons we’ll see in an upcoming installment, asking for “everything as far back as you can get it,” is probably not a good way to approach the problem. I’m not even exactly certain what I want the researcher to do yet, although I have a few general ideas.

My first priority is to locate and organize the information I have already located on the family in question. That will prevent duplication of research, save time for the person eventually hired, and may even cause me to realize I have more work to do on my own before I spend money on hiring someone else.





2 Responses

  1. Very timely subject matter. I’m in the process of doing exactly this – putting together what information I have to present to a researcher. It’s an important step especially in my case because I want to check employment records from the U.S. Postal Service for my great-grandfather; I hope to add to my understanding of where he and his second wife were living during his years of employment with them. They’re not your “typical” genealogical records (and fortunately indexed), so I want to be sure the researcher understands what I’m interested in, and can advise me on the likelihood of him/her finding anything of use to me. Since I’m looking for a researcher with experience with the record set and not necessarily genealogy, this could be an important step for me.

  2. I am thinking about doing this as well. I am interested in how you choose a researcher, vetting the person, communications, fees and, of course, what are reasonable expectations. I know that my travelling to the area and attempting to find sources is possible, but not terribly efficient or cost effective in the long run.

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