This is a continuation from a post in June about hiring a professional genealogist.
Some of the comments I’ve received from both professional researchers (getting paid) and those who are not professional researchers (not getting paid) are similar.
I feel like a novice when I walk into a new records office or repository even though I’ve been researching for more than 5 or 10 years!
This can be true for anyone. When you walk into a new place to look for records, a place you have never been, there can be a feeling of insecurity. Do I know what I’m doing? Will anyone help me? The same can apply to a place you walk into that you haven’t for months or years or where the records are difficult to use. For example, in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, locating deeds is a difficult process. I had to write my own guide on how to navigate these 10-15 steps before I could even look at the deeds on microfiche. They are organized by the Torrens system not a Grantor and Grantee index system. When I haven’t been in that office for many months to look for records, I feel like a novice starting over. I ask for help, use my guide, and go through the process again.
Should I hire someone to look for records in a repository or should I just order the records sight-unseen?
Every repository is different. Some will let you examine records before purchasing them, others will not. If you are on a budget like many of us, see if the Family History Center has the records you seek on microfilm. Chances are $7.50 a roll to pull a record is cheaper than ordering it through the State Department of Health or Vital Records office. If you need quite a few from different rolls of film, see if those rolls exist in that locale and if there is a researcher there who can pull them for you. Again, you need to weigh the costs.
Another thing to consider when you may have to order records sight-unseen is to look for indexes. Every index as you know, was not created equally. The way you view a name may not be the same way I do. And just one mis-stroke of a typewriter can change a name from one thing to another. FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, libraries, repositories, and other resources have indexes. Search them out and look for more than one for the same record set. See what you find. It just might be that you discover an index that has a few more fields of information such as a street address or name of a parent that tells you this is or is not likely the person you seek.
I feel like I’m wasting a researcher’s time if I hire him or her and she can’t find anything for me.
You are not wasting anyone’s time. By searching for those records and finding they do not exist, for whatever reason, is a result. This needs to be noted and sourced in your research reports and database. Noting this also helps you in the future when you wonder, ‘Did I look into that resource?’
Have you worked with a professional genealogist? What was your experience? What did you find difficult or easy about the process? We’d love to hear from you!
© 2013, Lorel Kapke, Sort Your Story