Tips on Hiring a Family Heritage Genealogist 

No matter which family heritage genealogist you choose to hire, here are some factors to keep in mind about hiring and working with a professional genealogist or genealogical record searcher.
Costs Involved
The client has a right to know how his or her money is spent. Still, clients should understand that actual record searching is a small part of genealogy.

Here are some of the steps a professional genealogist takes to work a case:
 • analyzing client information
 • establishing client goals
 • determining available records
 • finding the location and availability of records
 • developing an initial research plan
 • searching available records and repositories
 • evaluating searched records
 • Reworking search plans based on new evidence
 • preparing the reports, charts, and documentation copies

To hire a professional genealogist, your budget is going to have to take all of these factors into consideration. Research hours are only a small part of the process. 
Other Factors that Affect Time Spent
• Starting material takes time for your genealogist to sift through. The material that you send should be as clear and concise as possible, without leaving anything out.
• The more surnames there are for your genealogist to research, the longer a project is going to take.
• Projects take more effort and time for your genealogist if the surname being researched is a common one.
• If a person had a low social standing, records and evidence will be more difficult for your genealogist to find.
• If a surname can be spelled a number of different ways, your genealogist will have to be thorough and pay attention to all of the different spellings.
• Pedigrees, family group sheets, and other charts take time to prepare.
• Locating the date or place of a specific event can be time-consuming; multiple sources may have to be consulted for your genealogist to be thorough. If you have precise places for events and residency locations, all the better.
• Travel time and copying, along with archival and institution retrievals, can slow down a genealogist’s research efforts.*
* GEN-FIND does not charge travel time between our office and standard work bases.

Starting a Project with a Genealogist
First, your genealogist will have to review your submitted documentation and assess whether the research request is feasible or not. With GEN-FIND, you’ll receive an evaluation and research plan after we have finished our assessment.

If you choose to continue with the research after your genealogist’s evaluation, you may have to supply a retainer. You will get a quote for how much that will be. If you change your mind at a later date, your retainer will be refunded to you minus any consulting and research fees and out-of-pocket expenses. 
Finishing a Project with a Genealogist
If you follow through with your genealogist, you will get your results in a report. GEN-FIND supplies a report outlining which records and sources were searched, the order they were processed, and the priority your genealogist gave to those records, given his or her available budget. You also have the option of either a detail report or a summary report.

GEN-FIND will also supply a family group chart for each appropriate family documented, as well as an ascendancy or descendancy chart for the key person searched, depending on your investigation type.

Lastly, you’ll get a covering letter that outlines:
• a summary of the latest investigation’s findings
• comments explaining the sources we examined and the repositories we searched
• suggestions for future investigations
• and fee, expense, and budget details

Cancelling a Project with a Genealogist
Provided that your request is in writing, you may discontinue research at any time and receive a refund on your retainer for any prorated monies unspent. You will also receive a final report on results found to that date.

Your request will be effective when it is received by our office. Any monies owing in excess of the retainer, up until we receive a written cancellation request, will be the client’s responsibility. 
What to Give a Genealogist
No more than two pages which must include:
• the ancestral/descendancy problem at-hand
• any specifics known on each individual involved. These are details such as parentage; occupations; and the dates and places for birth, baptism, marriage, divorce, death, burial, and immigration/emigration dates and places
• known places and periods of residence, plus any other associations belonged to
• detailed notations of all previously searched sources (if any) and those results

A family group sheet for the "problem" generation, and an indication of the direct ancestor/descendants in that family would be particularly helpful.

Copies of any evidentiary documentation on the known search individuals may also prove helpful. Please do not send originals. They will not be returned.

Important Note: Time spent analyzing previous research is proportionate to the amount of material the client sends; but again, a hired researcher must be aware of all previous research efforts, ending with both positive and negative results.
How to Reduce Your Fees
The longer your researcher has to analyze and outline the facts and information, the more time, and the more budget, your genealogist will need. Concise, clear, and comprehensive are the keys to information submission. 
GEN-FIND does not normally request a formal contract, except in the case of split-fee and contingency arrangements. A letter from the client and our letter of reply accepting the case is all that is needed in most cases.

If the client prefers to engage our services pursuant to a formal legal contract, then their attorney is responsible for preparing the contract and the client is responsible for those fees. 
Other Important Considerations
Any responsible genealogist must pass along these important 'bewares' to potential clients.
  • There are no guarantees of finding relevant ancestors or extending the searched pedigree. Not every family or family member left good historical trails of their existence and movements.
  • Records that have not survived, indexes that have not been made, and vital statistics that were not registered can only be reported as negative search efforts.
  • Individuals and record holders that do not respond to search requests can only be reported as negative results.
  • Stories told by your family may distort what the actual lineage. We’ve found that all families do it, to some degree. So, if no documented evidence is found to support some family claims, these have to be reported as negative results.
  • Incomplete or erroneous information provided by the client may cause research duplication or searches in the wrong locality.
  • 20th/21st century events are difficult to research. Many states and countries have strict privacy laws regarding non-disclosure.
  • Population increases and frequent family movements in the 20th and 21st century usually mean a great deal of searching for, sometimes, little reward. Research on these events is often more time-consuming, more expensive for the client, and sometimes has negative results.