What to expect from Lineages’ Professional Research

p4TreeShadow What To Expect

Many people who hire a genealogist for the first time have no idea what to expect. Commonly, those with no prior knowledge of the research process believe that for the average fee of $1200.00, their lineage can be extended as far back as possible. Many believe that doing genealogical research nowadays is as simple as pushing a button on a computer, which will then print out all the information needed. The truth is: both notions are false.

Genealogical research is a time-consuming process, requiring special knowledge and skills that few people have developed. Searching in several different record sources is difficult, painstaking and costly. Even searches which are not so involved take time. Computers are just beginning to be used for storing genealogical information, and it is doubtful that the lineages of all mankind will ever be stored in computers for easy access in research. However, research alone in only part of the genealogical project. The entire process is a very involved one, consisting of the following:

  1. Analyzing data received from the client. The information that accompanies a research request must be carefully sifted in order to fully understand the research problem, ancestors of interest, reliability of the information provided, areas where the ancestors lived, and other factors to ensure that prior research is not duplicated. It is important that the client furnish the genealogist with copies of all data previously acquired by the family or other genealogists. This way, the client can avoid disappointment over duplication of previous research or being told what he already knew about his ancestors.
  2. Determining the objectives of the client. This important step, done with the assistance of the client, ensures that the professional does not focus on a portion of the ancestry that is not of interest to the client.
  3. Surveying the types of record sources available. The Family History Library of the LDS Church has the largest collection of records in the world. However, that repository does not hold everything that might be needed to solve a research problem or to extend the ancestry of a client. An analysis of what can and should be done in the Family History Library is essential, along with an analysis of the records maintained in other libraries or public records offices.
  4. Designing the research process. Next, the genealogist constructs a research design which outlines the search of the most pertinent records available to meet the client’s objectives. Those records that should contain the most valuable information are top priority. Less applicable sources will be searched in order of descending value in the time allotted.
  5. Searching the records. The genealogist will identify and obtain the record, then search for mention of the ancestor of interest and take notes or photocopy that document. If records are not available in the local repository, letters will be written to the appropriate person or agency, requesting needed information. A check to cover costs of the service and documents must be included with the letter.
  6. Evaluating the records. Each piece of evidence found in a document must be carefully examined to determine its value, the leads it provides in identifying additional ancestors, and its accuracy. It must be determined whether it agrees or conflicts with information already gathered.
  7. Compiling family group records and lineage charts. Although simple on the surface, this is a time-consuming process that consolidates a great deal of information into a manageable, understandable format. Each document extracted from the records must be culled for the information that appears on these forms. Without the lineage chart or family group record, the genealogist would have to wade through mounds of reports to know exactly where research had taken the extension of the client’s ancestry.
  8. Reporting on research. As important as quality research is, it is the research report which tells the client exactly what was done and how, and the conclusions of the findings. Every report should be accompanied by photocopies of the documents to which it refers. It should also tell the client what more can be realistically done to extend the lineages during future projects, without promising the impossible.
  9. Putting the information on paper. Each research report, family group record, lineage chart, letter and all supporting material must be typed. Each page must be checked and cross-checked to ensure accuracy. Invoices must be prepared, copies must be made and filed, and the project must be mailed to the client.

Other things to be aware of:

Post-1930 U.S. research is difficult. Due to privacy laws, there will not be many records in libraries that pertain to ancestors born in the U.S. after 1930. Thus, it is extremely important that the client provide as much information as possible, such as names, birthplaces, residences, moves, children, etc., about ancestors who lived or were born after that time. This information is critical to the success of the research project.

  1. Previous data is a must. Again, in order to avoid duplication of research already done, it is important for the client to tell the genealogist in advance everything he knows about the ancestor and provide all the data previously acquired. If the client’s records are incomplete, it may be necessary to search the same records again to obtain a complete picture of the family in the document.
  2. There are no guarantees for any one record. There are instances where an ancestor lived in an area for only a short time, and he will not be found in that record. The genealogist can only search the available records and share the client’s hope that the needed information will be found in that record. In addition, please realize that there is a finite amount of easily retrievable information on any given ancestor. The further back one goes, the fewer records available. The more that has already been found or is already known, the less there remains to be discovered.
  3. There are limits to lineage extension. Extending a person’s lineage depends on many factors, including availability of records for the areas where the ancestor resided, frequency of the family’s moves, the commonalty of the surname, the ancestor’s station in life, the preponderance of evidence with which to determine relationships, and many lesser factors. Most lines can only be traced back as far as the beginning of the civil or ecclesiastical registration, generally about 1650. Some lines, particularly those of ancestors with a higher station, can be traced back further if they link with lines of royalty and landed gentry.
  4. Expect slower progress on large city research. Research in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and other large cities takes much more time and effort than, for example, that in a small, rural county in the Midwest. Hundreds of volumes of records must be considered in the large city, and unless the family of interest was prominent, there may be no mention of them in local histories. Thus, progress is usually slower.
  5. Evidence is not 100% proof. Seldom, if ever, can 100% proof be obtained in genealogical research, since most relationships are based on material and circumstantial evidence found in the available records. The evidence is evaluated and conclusions are drawn, based upon the preponderance of that evidence. When carefully pieced together, all evidence points to a relationship or a non-relationship. When the client presents the genealogist with a large amount of previously extracted information, he should understand that it will take considerable time and effort to properly examine, evaluate, and commit it to memory. If the material is voluminous, it could take an entire research period. However, it is critical that the genealogist see that evidence and evaluate it in order to avoid duplication. Clients who have been researching their surname for years and have memorized the factual data pertaining to every person by that surname who lived in this country should not expect the professional genealogist to ingest this knowledge in a single research period.
  6. Family traditions may or may not be true. Many clients provide lengthy stories that have been handed down through generations which may or may not be accurate. Some parts of the tradition may be valid, while others are not. In some instances, the entire tradition has no foundation. Each piece of tradition must be tested and evaluated, then either accepted or rejected, based upon evidence in the records. The client should be aware that undocumented traditions handed down through several generations are subject to change and interpretation. Although these stories are surely treasured, the genealogist seeks only to clarify the tradition and build an unquestionable lineage for the client.

Contact Information

Phone (801) 571-6122
Email info@lineages.com
Mailing Address PO BOX 1584, Draper, Utah 84020-1584

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