One of the questions I am frequently asked is why, with so much information available online, would anyone want to hire a professional Genealogist?
My answer is that it is often a question of detail. If you do not have time to research your ancestors then hiring a Professional Genealogist to do the work for you is a fairly clear-cut choice… But what if you have time on your hands and prefer to research your Family Tree yourself? If you come up against a problem and need help to enable you to progress further then, again, hiring a Genealogist may be a way forward. However, if you have been successful in tracing your Family Tree back many generations you may feel there is no need to hire anyone.
The real value of a good Genealogist is his local knowledge and access to a great range of archived historical documents that are not available online. For example; now-a-days we take cameras for granted, they are even integrated mobile phone, but, in genealogy terms where 100 years is just a blink of an eye, photography is quite a modern invention. So how do you know what your ancestor born in the early 1800s looked like? If you asked a Genealogist he would immediately say “Prison Records”. When a convict was admitted to prison a very detailed description of his appearance was recorded in case he escaped but very few detailed records of convicts are online. You would in fact be lucky to obtain his admission and release dates! Also school and apprenticeship records can provide an interesting insight into the ancestor who you, until now, just viewed as a Birth, Marriage and Death statistic.
If you do feel it worthwhile hiring a professional Genealogist I would suggest that you take a close look at their charging structure. Take, for example, two of the companies I have mentioned on my resources page: “Discover Your Family Tree” and “Suffolk Family History Research Service”. I can thoroughly recommend both but, although both have flexible charging structures, Discover Your Family Tree is primarily a “do it all” service who charge a flat fee for the entire process of researching your ancestors and presenting their results back to you in a book form (ideal if you don’t have much spare time, or interest, to carry out your own research, or you want to present the research to a loved one as a gift) whereas the Suffolk Family History Research Service can be thought of as a “pay-as-you-go” service. They will do small half-hour jobs (such as searching for an elusive Census Entry) up to a full on-going research study going back many generations.
Researching your own ancestors is fun and an interesting project but, if you do get stuck, or need specialist advice, never be afraid to seek professional advice!