31 July 2014

Paid ($) Genealogy and Family History Research Assistance -- where can you find it?

We all sometimes need “help” with our research, whether it’s acquiring documents held by an archive which we cannot get to, doing research into a completely offline collection (e.g. not digitized, not microfilmed), having photos taken of a place we cannot get to, etc.

I was reminded of this most recently when I was contacted by Genlighten to help with a NC research request.  This is one of many ways that family history researchers, whether hobbyists or professionals, can engage someone to help them with their research.

Though it’s nice to try and find FREE assistance, from volunteers or staff, that is not always feasible.  Not all communities or archives/libraries/repositories have a cadre of volunteers (or staff) available to help non-local researchers. Not all facilities offer paid document retrieval options.  Not all content is digitized or available via microfilm nor published volume and so cannot be “loaned.” Additionally, sometimes you want something sooner than later.  Basically, there are many reasons and situations for which you might have to “hire” the services of another to do the research you need.

Even as a professional genealogist, I hire other professionals or pay fees to repositories to do the research I cannot do via any other means all the time.

Here is a list of some of my tactics for identifying how I might identify someone to provide non-local research assistance to me. This list isn’t comprehensive and it’s based on the premise that I have exhausted any no cost, swap of services, or volunteer options in my quest for the needed research. 

“Are you looking for an expert to break through your research brick wall? Do you need someone to write your family history? Do you need a speaker for your next genealogy club meeting? APG members can meet all of your genealogical needs.” I typically will search for a researcher who I know is “on-the-ground” for the locale of my interest.  Do your homework.  Figure out where the state archive is located, what the county seat is, etc., and use that information to best identify the researchers you might approach to assist with your project.  Additionally, there are many local APG Chapters, such as the NC chapter, which provide a directory of local researchers.
+ Local Genealogy Society and/or Local History Library
Some libraries and genealogy societies offer affordable lookup and limited research services – often document acquisition, a willingness to search for a specific person in select records, or the provision of other finite research assistance for modest fees.  Sometimes the turn around is incredibly fast and other times, such requests are handled as feasible and you will need to be patient. An example is the Kentucky Historical Society and its research services.
+ Library/Archive Researcher Lists
Many larger libraries and state archives provide researcher lists.  Some of these lists are online, such as for the Library of Virginia
+ Library/Archive in-house services
Many larger libraries and state archives also provide paid research assistance for specific types of research needs.  North Carolina (requesting records by mail) and New Jersey (reference and reproduction services) are two such examples. Do know that if your request is beyond the scope of what they offer via these services, they will provide you with a researcher list (previous item).
+ Matching Clients with Researcher Services
As mentioned before, there are services like Genlighten which help match your research needs with a professional who might carry out your research. Another service like this is Genealogists.com
+ Large Providers of Genealogy Research Services
Many of the options mentioned so far get you to research services provided by individual (self-employed) providers.  There are also larger entities which provide you with one-stop research services.  These may be valuable if your project covers many locales and you don’t want to manage or pursue the many disparate researchers such a project may need. One such provider is ProGenealogists.
+ Directory-Type Services
Besides APG, there are other directory-type services which exist to help family history researchers identify and contact someone who might provide research assistance. ExpertGenealogy is one such service.
+ Ask Your Fellow Researchers
Sometimes I post to the APG mailing list or other lists/blogs that I have a need for certain services or ask some of my colleagues via email who they might recommend for research. 

Obviously, there are numerous other ways to identify and locate those who might help you advance your research and hopefully this list gives you some ideas of where you may start when you just cannot do the research you need.

If you do decide to “hire” someone to do paid genealogical research for you, I suggest that you check out these resources.  After all, you and the provider want to have the best experience possible.  A little effort can go a long way to ensuring that!

Editor’s Note: FYI -- I first worked with Cynthia Richardson via her chicagogenealogy.com website, predecessor to Genlighten, when she helped me a lot with Chicago research for my husband’s family many years ago..

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