What is a genealogical consultation?

I have received some questions in regard to my appearance on TV last week. A couple people want to know what a genealogical consultation is and how does it help someone working on their family tree.

That’s an easy one to answer. It’s as simple as hiring a professional genealogist to sit down and give you what ends up being a private class based on your own family. If you are new to genealogy, a consultation can help you get started. If you have been doing some work, the consultation helps you learn about more sources, where they are found, what else you need to know, and many other things. It’s a time to ask all sorts of questions and get some answers that are directed specifically to your own research. These consultations can take place in someone’s home, at a library or a restaurant.

Some consultations can be done as working sessions at a genealogy library or courthouse. No matter the place, it is reasonable to expect to pay for 2-3 hours minimum for an in-person consultation where you bring all your material with you and you take notes. If you desire a written report that will increase the time. If your consultation consists of you sending the professional consultant your materials, that person doing a thorough review and analysis of what you have, and preparing a report reviewing what you have done and what is suggested for the next steps, be prepared for several more hours of time. It takes almost as much time to prepare the report as it does to analyze the materials.

Who do you hire?

  • Someone who has been researching family history for quite a while.
  • Someone who knows about online resources
  • Someone who knows about all the other important resources found in courthouses, archives, libraries, churches, and historical societies
  • Someone who can review what you already have or have found and help you tailor a reasearch plan — sort of a “to do” list for genealogy shopping.
  • Someone who knows how to evaluate sources for their importance and accuracy
  • Someone who continues their education in genealogy and history and hasn’t been stagnant in the field.
  • Someone who can look at the broader picture — in other words who knows enough to help you get your ancestors out of the town, county and state you have them in.
  • If you need help only in research in another country, that person needs to have a working familiarity with resources particular to that place.
  • The consultant may be someone with access to a variety of databases that you don’t have.
  • The consultant may know of some obscure indexes, guidebooks, databases or even another professional that may be just what you need for part of your family history work.
  • The professional may be a whiz at things electronic and can help set up your databases, software, and other options.

A consultation usually ends up saving you a lot of money down the road since you will now be better prepared for the continuing research process. And before you ask, yes, I am a genealogical consultant for hire. My area of expertise is the U.S. and Canada. It’s one of the most fascinating aspects of my business.

© 2009, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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