Hiring the right researcher

9 years ago

Is it ever worth hiring someone to do genealogical research for you?  Sometimes that is the only way you can obtain what you need.

 There are many factors to consider before you hire someone to help with your research.  You need to balance the costs of travel, your researching abilities, how long it will take you to become familiar with the library or archive that houses the information you need, the distance involved, and even the language of the records.

Years ago I needed to look at records in Jackson County, Michigan for my ancestor John Batchelder. A clue led me to believe John had moved to Jackson County from Maine and lived to be 100. I was thrilled to find him after years of searching but a trip to Michigan was impossible at that time.

 The answer for me turned out to be the researchers in the Jackson County Genealogical Society who for a modest fee went to the county library and found newspaper articles and other genealogical information. They found that John returned to Maine at the ripe age of 102 because he wished to die in Maine. An article even gave me the names of his surviving adult children. All this was a great bargain.

 You may also have restricted access issues. There are records in public agencies and private facilities which are not open to the general public.  In that instance you have no choice but to hire an “approved” researcher who has access and who can check collections for you.  Often these facilities will have a list of researchers and there will be a fee.  But if that is the only option to find what you need it may be something you should consider.

 If there is a language barrier that can make research near to impossible. On my Dad’s side my heritage is Lithuanian and researching in Lithuania is extremely difficult.  Lithuanian records can be found in various languages including Latin, Lithuanian and Russian.  Some records are in the national archives of Lithuania while others are at the local level.

 In an instance like this where Google Translate isn’t going to cut it and where the official archives firmly discourages drop-in researchers, hiring someone is the only way to get records.   With the differences between the dollar and the euro this can be an expensive proposition.  But if I want these records I am going to have to spend money for a professional researcher to find them for me and make copies and then translate.

 These are some of the situations where you should consider hiring someone to help with your research.

 If you do hire a researcher check his or her credentials and references.  Be sure you know hourly rates and mileage charges before you commit to any work. I recommend you set a specific number of hours initially.  Based on what is found you can decide if you want to commit to more time.  It will help if you can be very specific as to what you are looking for.  The broader your request the more time will be needed and very likely the more travel.  The costs will reflect this.

 Make sure the researcher gives you a written report and gets good copies of all records found.

 Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com. Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.