Family History Daily has partnered with Trace to bring you this helpful article. Trace offers unique and affordable professional genealogy services to family historians who need extra help. Family History Daily may receive a referral fee if you choose to hire a genealogist. You’ll find more information about Trace at the end of this page.
Genealogy is a matter of history, but also a matter of heart. When we learn about our ancestors we learn about ourselves. We go back because it’s familiar, and then again because it’s wildly unfamiliar. Genealogy can give us a peek over the edge of a lovely, restful town where our ancestors watered flowers and baked bread and sipped limoncello in rows of pastel colored beach chairs. But genealogy can also be a thermometer, revealing a fever.
Take Scott, for example; a gentleman from Cleveland who felt disconnected and privately harbored a broad yearning to identify descendants of an illegitimate ancestor. It felt insurmountable. For years, he banged his head against expensive and confusing walls because his ability to navigate obscure records and genetic genealogy was limited.
One day, Scott realized he needed expertise and decided to hire a professional genealogist. A few months later, after Angie had analyzed both traditional genealogical records and DNA results, Scott smiled as he thumbed through the research report that answered questions his family had had for generations.
But how do you know when it’s time to take the leap and bring an expert into your research, like Scott did? Here are 6 signs to watch out for.
6 Signs It’s Time to Hire a Professional Genealogist
1. You’re Frustrated and Have Been for Some Time
It makes sense to hire a genealogist if your excitement and commitment to building your family tree are overshadowed by frustration and discouragement. Let’s face it, researching your family can be demanding, especially when dealing with records that are not indexed, or historic documents that are written in a foreign language or old script. Professional genealogists, who specialize in a specific subject or geographic location, are well acquainted with a wide variety of sources that a less experienced genealogist may overlook.
Scott’s perfect match was Angie from Trace, a researcher who specialized in United States and Italian research. Angie subscribed to uncommon databases that are not widely known in the genealogy community and knew exactly where to begin the search that would lead to potential candidates for the illegitimate child’s father. She was able to find the information that had been frustrating Scott for years.
Worried that professional genealogy help is out of your reach? Trace offers a unique approach that can help nearly anyone, and getting started is free. Try it here.
2. You’re Tired of Spending Money and Getting Little Reward
We know this seems counter-intuitive but, surprisingly, hiring a genealogist can save you money in the long run. If you’ve been at it for a while you’ve probably spent countless dollars on database subscription fees, courses, books, software, supplies and maybe even travel. While all of these things provide a great deal of value, they can add up and, if you’re not finding the answers you need, it may make sense to spend the money where it really counts – on someone who knows just where to look.
Hiring a professional for even a few hours could provide the break you need to move forward with your research, save you cash on unnecessary expenditures, and offer guidance on where to use your genealogy dollars in the future.
3. You’ve Hit a Major Brick Wall
“I’ve hit a brick wall and I need help!” We’ve all said it at one point or another while trying to create accurate timelines and confirm family relationships. And, while every brick wall is not a sign that you need to hire a genealogist, it takes a trained eye to get a family tree back on track sometimes.
A professional has the knowledge and experience necessary to solve confusing puzzles. And allowing fresh eyes to methodically examine your brick wall allows new information to surface.
Professional genealogists are an excellent resource to validate research passed down by other family members or to verify work you have completed yourself. Not only can they make new discoveries, but they have also been trained, utilizing the Genealogical Proof Standard, to analyze and interpret existing evidence, which may lead to new conclusions. They are experienced in working with specific information on a variety of record types over various time periods.
In Scott’s case, Angie was able to identify the most likely candidate for the father of the illegitimate child, as well as that child’s likely grandparents through collecting, analyzing and interpreting evidence. Not only did Angie discern what information may have been documented and how it was recorded, she was able to analyze the weight and accuracy of the information written within the document. Utilizing traditional genealogical practices, Angie was able to break through Scott’s brick wall and find living relatives on his illegitimate family line. This can happen for you too.
4. You Need Someone With Specialized Knowledge
Understanding the culture and social customs during a specific time period is key when completing any genealogical research project. Scott’s objective demanded early twentieth century knowledge and expertise of record types in both the United States and Italy.
Angie had both and, because of her understanding of the historical context, she was well equipped to analyze the information that was uncovered. In fact, she was able to determine where the likely father resided after his immigration to the United States and establish a timeline of his life because she knew the record types available in that time period.
In many cases, there is no one vital record to answer our genealogical questions and the experience of a professional in consulting multiple record types can be invaluable. Without an understanding of the history and context of the records created during a given time period, one could draw false conclusions or miss information altogether. A professional resource to guide you through historical changes in boundaries, governments, languages and laws for your specific project is crucial.
5. You Don’t Have the Time or Money to Travel in Search of Obscure Documents
With advances in technology and online genealogical databases over the past 20 years, census and other vital records are now widely available to the public, leading some to wrongly assume that if it can’t be found online, it does not exist. This is a mistake. Digital resources can only get you so far.
Only a small percentage of records are available online compared to the number that are still held in local or state repositories. In many cases the only way to find information is to access original records on-site and it could be those hidden gems that finally reveal the details you’ve been hoping for. Unfortunately, this requires time and travel and can become very expensive.
It is very often more cost effective to hire a local professional researcher on the ground (as was the case for Scott). A local researcher is well versed in which records and which repository will likely hold the answers to the research question at hand. They understand the language, but can also navigate the local customs, laws and boundary changes. Trace works with a wide variety of tested genealogists who can help individuals access records in the UK, across greater Europe, South America, Australia, the United States and more.
6. You’re Not Taking Advantage of Everything DNA Has to Offer
Genetic genealogy is an ever-growing field, and most of us are baffled by what to do with our results beyond scrolling through our matches and trying to figure out why we show up as 3% Italian. Understanding how to combine scientific and historical documentation can be a stumbling block for those of us who are passionate about genealogy.
Genetic genealogists are trained in how to utilize your DNA data to aid you in solving your genealogical puzzles. Because genetic genealogy requires a distinct skill set from traditional genealogical research, it may be of value to seek the help of an expert to determine kinship.
Scott’s genealogical question required both traditional genealogy and genetic genealogy to prove the paternal identity of his illegitimate ancestor. Angie’s research efforts went beyond Scott’s expectations. She was able to identify the living descendants of not only the potential immigrant father, but also the descendants of the subject’s brothers (nieces and nephews of the potential father). He gained new living relatives and achieved his ultimate goal of learning more about his grandfather and his Italian ancestry.
How Trace Can Help
The Trace approach of offering customized projects at customized prices has proven to be less risky than “traditional” professional services. We’ve created an efficient and affordable way to guide you safely toward the most qualified researchers that can help identity relatives, locate documents and confirm relationships.
We’ve had a front row seat to many success stories like Scott’s – who credits his success to Angie and the Trace model of matching clients with the right genealogist for their specific project.