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How to Choose a Professional Genealogist

June 4, 2018

We discussed why you should hire a professional genealogist in this post. Now let’s consider how you should choose one. A professional genealogist is not required to be licensed or certified by law, so a “professional” must be evaluated on a number of key factors.

  1. Look for someone who is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and adheres to their Code of Ethics.
  2. Have a conversation. A free consultation allows you to express your research goals, state your expectations, ask questions, and determine if this person is the right fit for your research project. Look for someone who will give you a realistic idea of what can be delivered.
  3. Determine if you want to be involved in the process of discovery, require frequent updates, or want to be hands-off and wait for the final reports. Some genealogists prefer the client be hands-off and some prefer the client be hands-on. Be sure you both are clear on communication expectations and timelines.
  4. Look for someone who meets your budget. Affordable family history research is available for all budgets. Note that a higher fee does not necessarily represent a more credible researcher, nor does a lower fee make one less credible. No one person can cover all research fields, so you want someone who feels confident that they can help you with your research project.
  5. Retainers and contracts. A professional genealogist will often ask for a retainer up-front as a good faith measure. The retainer can range from 10% to 50% of the projected final fees. A contract should be signed by both parties that clearly expresses the agreement, expectations, fees, hours contracted or package price, time estimate of project, etc.


Learn more about J. Wendell Research, meet Ericka, meet Karen, review our services, and contact us today. We look forward to sharing your journey to learn more about your ancestors.

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    1. We agree. Personally, I think it’s more enriching to be able to have an ongoing conversation – you never know when a piece of information is going to spark a memory or a forgotten tidbit!

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