Monday, January 31, 2011

"I Need Help With My Family History! Where Should I Turn?"

For those people who until recently have hired genealogists through Ancestry's Expert Connect program, here's some advice on where you can turn for help.

I'm going to assume that you're already using message boards such as those found on  I'm also going to assume that you know about the helpful Roots mailing list.

Free and Easy

1) Try your local Genealogy Society
My first suggestion to folks who need help would be to attend a meeting of your local genealogical society.  Search the web for the name of your city, county or state plus the word genealogy.  That should turn up something fairly close to your area.  Genealogy societies are great because they will be there to support you over time.  The members vary in their ability and years of experience but they are very willing to share their knowledge.  They would be happy to watch and help you grow as a genealogist.

2) Try your local Family History Center
Family History Centers are offshoots of the Family History Library.  There you can rent and view microfilms, access databases online and talk to the staff for advice.  If you are looking for help with your family history they are a friendly and helpful bunch to seek help from.  You can locate your nearest family history center on the FamilySearch website. (Note: as seen from the website, they are now referring to them as FamilySearch Centers.)

3) Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
If you need a specific lookup you can check a site called Random Acts of Genealogical Kindess (RAOGK).  This site provides one-on-one volunteer assistance.  Search for the geographic area where the item you need is located.  Then select the volunteer who will most likely be able to help you with your request.  Send them an email and you're off and running.  The abilities of the various volunteers may vary greatly.

Sometimes You Need More Expert Help

If you find that these free, volunteer options are not solving your family history problem then maybe you need to try some more expert help.  Professional genealogists have the knowledge and the experience to provide a consultation to steer you in the right direction if you want to do the research yourself or they can do the research for you.  Either way, they will be able to solve your problem quicker and more expertly because of their experience.  You will be expected to pay for their services. Here are some options to try:

4) Genlighten
Genlighten is a website that connects genealogists with on-location researchers who can lookup offline (not yet digitized) documents for you.  The researchers provide a profile where you can learn about their experience and expertise. Genealogists pay a fee per lookup.

5) The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG)
APG is the worldwide membership organization of professional genealogists. APG has more than 2,400 members.  Members are required to adhere to the APG Code of Ethics. APG also provides mediation when clients have a complaint about researchers. Each member has a profile online where they list their specialties and expertise.  You can search for professionals by location, specialty or name.  These researchers can take on much larger and more complicated projects than just lookups.  When you have a complicated problem these researchers will be able to help you.  Expect to negotiate an hourly rate for their services.

6) The Board for Certification of Genealogists  (BCG)
BCG is a nationally and internationally recognized organization of credentialed genealogists. It is a certifying body for genealogists not a membership society.  Genealogists who achieve Certified Genealogist credentials have passed a rigorous critique of their abilities.  BCG offers an online pamphlet entitled, "Why Hire a Board Certified Genealogist."   You can search for certified genealogists on the BCG website by name, location or specialty. You can also expect to negotiate an hourly rate for their services.

7) ICAPGen
ICAPGEN is the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. It's rigorous accreditation standards are similar to those of BCG. These experts also can take on more complicated projects. To find an Accredited Genealogist search their online database.

One of these options will be sure to help you resolve your family history problem.  If you need more information please read the individual websites carefully.  You can ask questions here about these options as well.  I may or may not have the answer for you but I'll try to find it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you, Marion. I will take a look at Genlighten for some of my brick walls.