There are many ways to conduct genealogical research, but if you want to do it right (and legally), hiring a professional genealogist will be a good idea. But why? Here is a list of reasons:
The main thing an experienced genealogist has going for them is the experience. While that can be experienced by doing genealogy, you will need the proper resources to do that. A professional genealogist has access to resources that you could never dream of having in your home library, whether they are subscription-based databases or exclusive records collections.
Once upon a time, there were no online repositories for genealogical information. Still, once they were created and the internet took off, genealogists realized that there was a wealth of information out there to be had for free or at least very cheaply. However, that isn’t always the case; sometimes, what you get is incomplete, incorrect, or just not quite enough to get you where you want to go (and let’s face it, it’s usually not good enough for a TV genealogy show).
Sometimes, you need to buy an additional item or subscribe to another website. With that being said, there is still information out there that can cost thousands of dollars simply because it is one-of-a-kind and cannot be found anywhere else. Here are some things that only a genealogist can provide you.
1) Access to unique databases and records collections: This is one of the main reasons I often recommend hiring a professional (see genealogist for hire) to do your research instead of digging it up yourself, especially if you are unsure which direction to take your research. A pro can tell you what years or places your ancestor may have lived, what records to check out, and the resources you need to use to find the locations your ancestors lived. In other words, it’s a shortcut through trial and error instead of having to go through hundreds of websites or microfilm reels searching for clues.
2) Knowledge of which archive collections have been indexed: perhaps there is a vital record collection that contains valuable information to your research, but you don’t know where it is or if it has been indexed. A professional genealogist can do this for you and even send copies of the index (if allowed) in a format you can use.
3) Maps: a pro knows how to get from point A to point B in genealogy since they have done this type of research before. So if you are looking for a certain location or want to expand your search area, chances are they will already know the best way to get there.
4) Evidence / Documentation: once you locate an ancestor, it’s always nice to be able to prove it with documentation (such as a census record). A pro knows how to find these things online or in other databases and can date them for you, which saves time from looking at every single image in a database when trying to find something.
5) Translation: if your ancestor was foreign-born, chances are things will be written in their native language. If that’s the case, you will need someone who can translate it for you. They may know the language or find a translator, but either way, help with translation is never a bad thing!
6) Family Tree Information: this kind of ties into documentation, but sometimes what you think is one name is two names combined (*cough* John Smith *cough*). A pro can get this information for you and provide the citations to get it in the right format for your software.
7) Time Management: Genealogy takes time, especially if you try to get it done in time for that once-a-year family reunion. A pro has handled many cases like this before and knows where to find ancestors quickly (or what you can do if you don’t have enough information).
On a concluding note, family history research is not something anyone can pick up and do in a few days. What you put into it will be what you get out of it. For example, if you were hiring someone to work for your business, would you expect them to know everything about the product/services they are selling within a week? Of course not, but without the proper training, they will not meet your expectations. That is the difference between you and someone who gets paid for this kind of work.