Professional researcher or by yourself using family tree software?
Genealogy can be a fascinating hobby – or profession, and one of its most fascinating elements is that you never know what mystery you are going to uncover as you trace your ancestors back. Sometimes what you uncover may be quite painful, such as tracing Jewish ancestry and discovering how many of your relatives died through being persecuted. Sometimes it can be uplifting and exhilarating as you discover bravery and creativity beyond your imagination in a close ancestor.
When you begin this journey you can find a professional researcher or you can do it yourself. If you do it yourself you are probably also best to look at the various family treemaking software that is available.
If you are going to use someone else make sure that they are a good fit for you personally. Everyone has their different reasons for looking into their ancestry and you need to work with someone who empathizes with your reasons. They also need to be someone you feel trust in as they should respect your confidentiality with the information they become privy to.
Make sure you are both clear about what costs are to be covered. Find out if charges will be made to your account for things like photocopying, record fees, overseas calls.
Consider sharing the work. This will make a difference to your budget. You can always ask a researcher to focus only on one individual or ancestral line. There is much that you can do to expand that yourself.
Make sure that they are reliable and reputable by asking for examples of their previous work and also the contact details of people for whom they have worked so that you can take up these references.
Ask the researcher what documentation they have available to them on their own databases: such as newspapers, directories, historical publications, manuscripts, records, census information, passenger lists, military records etc.
Doing it yourself
The other alternative is to collate this information yourself which is far more easily done these days using specially designed pieces of software. There are two basic forms for collecting the information:
Family Group Sheets
Most people use the pedigree chart as it starts with you and then branches out so that you can record your immediate nuclear family easily and then take it further back through about four generations and needs basic information such as names, marriages, place or birth, and death. If you want to take it further back you can do so and then you would be compiling an Ancestral Chart.
The Family Group Sheet which is only going to focus on one family unit. Ultimately you would have many of these as you go back through your ancestry. Of course the two basic forms of chart work together as the Pedigree chart gives you a quick glance visual to see who is who and the Family Group Sheet is like a magnifying glass on the pedigree chart expanding the information with more details.
Tracing your roots like this is fascinating and can be made even easier if you record all your findings in software which can then give you the pedigree or family group information at the click of a button. It is a far cry from the old days where you would have painstakingly written all of this down on hard copy forms!
If this appeals to you then it is probably more rewarding – and cheaper – to do it yourself. If the researching doesn’t appeal then finding a compatible professional is an excellent way forward.