Friday, February 11, 2011

Need A Genealogist? Hire Locally

Hello All -

With all the hub-bub surrounding the termination of Ancestry's Expert Connect service early this month (known to be happening in last week of Jan.) it got me to thinking about the things to look for when hiring a professional genealogist.

Anyone interested in becoming a provider could have signed up to be on Expert Connect, whether an amateur or professional doing research for a living. There is nothing wrong with a amateur researcher doing work for someone, but it is important that they know what they are doing and have had some experience themselves at doing genealogical research. This post really isn't about delving into the topic of professional vs. amateur genealogist, but rather the importance of hiring a local genealogist for perform work for people.

Natalie Cottrill in 2004 wrote a very good article about hiring a professional genealogist and in one of the paragraphs says, "when selecting a professional genealogist, make sure that he or she has the special research skills needed to accomplish your goals. For instance, if your research is in France, then it is important to hire a professional genealogist with experience researching within the French culture, language, and records. You don't necessarily need to hire someone who lives in France."

I would definitely agree with most all of this, but where I differ in the statement is "you don't necessarily need to hire someone who lives in France." In my opinion I think it is important to hire someone who lives locally in the country or state that you need research done. It may not be completely necessary, but it definitely helps. I know that it may not be always feasible for one reason or another, but having a localized research performed by a local genealogist should be one of the things to look for when deciding to hire someone to do a project.

Don't get me wrong I know that there is a lot of information that can be accessed via online, FHL in Salt Lake City, etc. However, you can't replace having a person in the actual location that information is needed from. I know that there are folks living in places that know and understand cultures and histories of other countries that they don't reside in. However, that doesn't mean that they are readily able to access all the records for that place. Not everything is online or at the FHL. When things are online, how accurate are they if they are not the original document image? Many types of information found online can be incomplete abstractions or inaccurate transcriptions.

When the case does arise that a person is hired to work on a family history project for a specific area and from the research it is discovered that the person or family is from another place (state, country, etc.) most likely the hired genealogist will get help from another genealogist located in the place needing to obtain information from. For example, a genealogist is working on a family in California and through the research investigation comes to find that the family ancestors were originally from New York. The genealogist in California will need to ask a genealogist in New York to obtain original documents for them if they are not able to obtain them themselves. There isn't really any way around this. You need to go where the records are. In the end, a local researcher will always be needed one way or another.

There is a load of competition out there for genealogy research for hire. There are professional genealogists all over the world, almost every state in the US, most every province in Canada, etc. When making the big decision to hire a genealogist there are many things to think about -competency, professionalism, adhereing to codes of conduct, knowledge and skills of specialist area, analysis, experience, etc. One of them should also be the location of the genealogist to where the research is needed.

Until Next Time

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