3 top tips to help you choose a professional family history researcher


05 October 2018
If you’ve been battling a family history conundrum for some time, or have only recently hit a roadblock in tracing your tree, employing the expertise of a professional can work wonders on your research.

If you’ve been battling a family history conundrum for some time, or have only recently hit a roadblock in tracing your tree, employing the expertise of a professional can work wonders on your research.


Whether you’re seeking specialist knowledge, are unable to visit an archive, or have an absent ancestor that you need help in finding, it may be time to call in the professionals to assist.

This can be a difficult decision – perhaps you loathe to admit defeat, or you’re worried about the cost. Maybe you think that you’re just being daft, and with a little more knowledge and experience you will be able to solve the problem yourself. All these are very good reasons.

Researching your family history requires a lot of determination and patience and few, if any, fellow enthusiasts will tell you that tracing your tree is easy. We all hit the odd stumbling blocks and, in fact, solving a long-standing family history problem can be one of the most rewarding aspects.

Even if you are up for the challenge, no-one can know everything, and employing a researcher with specialist knowledge of a certain geographical area or historical period can reap great rewards. It can enable you to overcome a problem and unlock further clues, so that your search can continue apace.

Membership of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA for short) follows peer-review and adherence to a code of conduct, so you can rest assured in the knowledge that you are gaining the expertise of a trusted pro when you choose a certified member to help you knock down those pesky family history brick walls.

If this is the route you have decided to take, you can’t go far wrong by following our 3 top tips to employing a professional family history researcher:

Step 1 - Get organised

- Gather your thoughts and write out clearly the details of the problem that you would like help with. Gaining this clarity yourself will help you explain to the researcher succinctly what information you are seeking.

- You should also organise your research notes. If they are a little haphazard, now is the time to get them in order. Having organised notes will save the researcher time, and so save you money.

- If your notes are already in good order, read through them and be selective. You need to strike a balance between providing too much (possibly irrelevant) information to the researcher, while also providing enough detail so that they can work out what research steps you have already taken, which sources you have referred to etc, and what you haven’t.

- As ever, information as to negative searches (ie ones where you have found nothing) are useful to include.

Step 2 - Choosing a researcher

Now you’re ready to approach a researcher. The hourly rates of researchers vary enormously. Some conduct family history research on a part-time basis, their experience perhaps gained over many decades of investigations; others may be qualified professionals running a full-time business. Enquire as to their rates, their areas of specialism, and the possible time frame to expect an answer within, and discuss with them your budget aims too.

Step 3 - Waiting for the result

As we all know, with family history, there is no certainty as to how long a problem will take to solve – and indeed, some genealogy mysteries remain lost in time. However, whether your researcher is able to get to the bottom of your family history conundrum or not, they will be able to provide you with a full written report of the steps they have taken, so that you can see their workings. These are well worth filing with your family history research as part of the record – even if they don’t hold the answer – though of course we hope they will!

Problems that may seem completely unsolvable to you, could well be resolved under the experienced eye of a professional, and by enlisting their help your family history research could flourish too.

Wish you could meet the association?

The great news is that you can come to meet AGRA members in person at Family Tree Live, which is taking place in the beautiful Alexandra Palace in London on 26-27 April 2019, so make sure you are prepared with all the right questions and copies of your notes before you set off for the show.

You can also meet family history experts from the Society of Genealogists (SoG) at this fantastic new genealogy event, presented in partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies. As one of the show’s Associate Sponsors, the SoG will be giving visitors free help and advice on the SoG stand and sponsoring the ‘Society of Genealogists Lecture Theatre’ at the two-day event.

Get your tickets today by visiting here.