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How Much Does Genealogy Research Cost?

How Much Does Genealogy Cost in the U.S.?


How much does genealogy cost? You know it costs money to hire a professional. Have you considered how much it costs to do your own research?

Are you wondering how much a professional genealogist costs?

There are a lot of factors involved. I'll hit just the bare bones, first, and then suggest some ways to save when hiring someone or doing your own research.

First, the cost depends on exactly what you are hiring someone to do as well as their skill level. As with any service, where the person is physically located makes a difference. Genealogists, professional or not, like to help people but genealogy is a big commitment. If someone is charging for genealogy, they probably need to cover some or all of their living expenses with the money they earn. Those living expenses vary by where they live.

Tasks, skill level, cost of living---that's a lot of factors that work together. Genealogy is just like any other professional service, it just isn't as common as hiring a plumber or a lawyer. You won't find a comprehensive (and accurate) list of what you should pay. Finding a single marriage record has a lot more variation than drawing up a standard will---which is why...

Genealogy is mainly charged hourly. Understanding the minimum hours for any project will help you get started. A professional can't do much for you for less than 10 hours. Ten hours will not get you much (the easier the problem and the more skilled your professional, the more you get but if you're a genealogist with any skills, your problem is likely not "easy").

If you really need professional help, assume you'll need 20 hours of research, at least (options other than full-service "research" are discussed later in this post as that is a way to save money).

Genealogy just takes time. Later in the post I'll also point out some of the costs you're incurring to do your own research, don't forget to consider your time. You are spending a lot more than 20 hours!

So here is the bare-bones information on costs.

Professional genealogist for traditional research (i.e. not DNA work)

Average (not a highly sought specialty and an average project)

$35/hour to $60/hour, 20-40 hours of work = $700–$2400

possible to have a 10–20 hour project but that is a "small" project

Premium (for certain specialties or experience level)

$65+/hour = $1300 and up

Notes

Anything less than 10 hours is more a review, not a research project.

Beware of rates under $35/hour without an obvious explanation (i.e. new genealogist getting experience, remote area with little demand for research, "hobby job" where the person only takes a little side work). These are all good reasons to pay less.

Getting Copies of Records


Save on hiring a professional genealogist by ordering copies of records instead of getting research done. You can then use other options to save money.
This is not "research" and therefore may cost less. If you just need someone to get a copy of a record and you have all the details, don't worry about rates that are too low. In fact, look for help from the local library (if the library holds the record), local genealogy society, or a graduate student (in university towns---repositories are often at universities).

If your look-up requires some skill to find the record, you may still need to hire a "researcher" or at least someone with experience working in that repository or with that record type.

Remember, you are paying for someone's time so a look-up may cost the same as research because the person needs to earn that rate for ANY work they do.

Costs vary widely and may involve expenses like the cost of the record (common with vital records) and photocopy costs.

Records can be as little as $5 for a record or $50 for a record.

Notes

If ordering from the "official" repository has extra expenses for mail order, and you need several records, consider hiring a genealogist (local genealogy society or grad student) if their expenses will be less for their in-person visit.

Genetic Genealogy (DNA)

Rates for genetic genealogists are in the "premium" category

$65+/hour (usually $85/hour to $100/hour)

The number of hours needed varies but for full analysis, can be 50+ hours.

It's also important to realize that you may not need a "genetic genealogist" (at a premium rate) if you are mainly having a traditional genealogy project done and DNA results are just one part or option.

Genetic genealogy is a new field so some genealogists do not offer genetic genealogy services at all. Some can offer certain services but not others. Many genealogists can incorporate DNA in a genealogy project even if they aren't a DNA expert. This is something to discuss with a professional you are considering hiring.

Save on genetic genealogy (DNA) by taking advantage of consultations and reviews.Smaller consultations and reviews are more common in genetic genealogy than traditional research. Some are even less than 30 minutes (appropriate for asking one specific question, about $20-$50 flat rate).

These can be as little as two hours at the genetic genealogist's standard rate but some packages are also available starting at about $100 (flat-rate) for a small review, or more for a larger review.



Additional Notes:

Large genealogical companies cost more per hour. The skills of the genealogists are not necessarily better (they may or may not have a specialist for the area you want, but they will find someone to do your project). Large companies are more efficient in many cases so you may get results faster as they have more resources---that's what the extra money is paying for.

Hiring a professional genealogist. What if genealogy results are not found? A: That's still a result! See the post to learn more.With all genealogists, you are paying for the genealogist's time, not results. Genealogy results can never be guaranteed. NOT finding a record or information is actually a type of result.

Now you know all the places not to look next time you approach this problem, and that is necessary information.

The best way to think of paying a genealogist is you are paying for expertise. Beware paying too little as you might not be getting any expertise, just the person's time.

Expertise does not mean an answer will be found. You may not have allotted enough time to find an answer. Very skilled genealogists can often find an answer even when no record provides it. That usually takes 100+ hours of work, over time.

Experienced researchers know you may not be able to pay for 100s of hours. They will do their best on your project but they still need to make a living. That means not giving away 100s of hours of time, either.

Use what they did do as a place to continue your own research instead of thinking you got "no result."

How much does a genealogist cost in the U.S.?

It varies a lot but for a skilled genealogist performing actual research (not just making copies of records), a small project costs at least several hundred dollars. Complex and large projects cost thousands of dollars.

If you can't afford full research, decide if a look-up is in your budget. You may also want to save up to get expert help on one very specific problem that is beyond your skills.

Don't forget to look for options with fewer hours such as a consultation or a review. Also, be active with your local genealogy society where you might get the chance to "ask the expert" in-person for free or for a nominal charge when the society holds an event.

With all of these "small" choices, you need to have your existing work organized. It won't take a small number of hours to help you if the professional can't even tell what you've already done (or what you're asking---be clear and concise).

One final note when thinking about paying for a professional. Genealogy is not free. That is a common misconception. If you need expert help, make sure you consider what you are currently paying for genealogy.

Subscription websites cost money, ordering records costs money, driving to repositories costs money. If you need expert help, it may be more affordable than you think when you compare it to what you're paying to repeatedly be unsuccessful.

If you are just now interested in your family history, you can see why the cost drives many people to do their own research. That's probably how most professionals got started (this one did).
Professional genealogy services are not mandatory. You can do everything yourself. Even doing the research yourself is not free and it takes a lot of time.

Consider if you
  • prefer paying someone to get results,
  • prefer doing the research yourself but need help,
  • just need a copy of a record, or
  • just need a question answered/information (i.e. need education or a consultation).

Each situation can have a different cost.

Professional genealogy services are not cheap but even DIY genealogy is not free. Look for services that fit your specific needs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to genealogy.
What does it cost to get professional genealogy help? Is a DIY solution cheaper?

Now that I've given you some general information, I'll tell you about the cost of my professional genealogy services.

I'm an experienced genealogists so my rate is higher on the scale, but I've found a way to offer something besides "hourly" work. I still charge hourly but I use interns and contractors to do simpler work, work that doesn't require my level of expertise and that means you pay a lower hourly rate for those portions.

If you want a full-research project, I offer two starter packages (one for traditional research and one if DNA is involved) which are "flat-fee" instead of being a set number of hours. I've designed them to include enough hours to start a project even if I need to find a contractor in a specialty (thus saving you the headache of doing that, it's not as easy as it should be!). If your project is simpler, you'll get more hours of research since an intern (or contractor) can handle it. I still oversee all work to make sure it meets my standards of quality so you get peace of mind without paying my expert rate for something simple.

I also offer a "Premium Consultation" which can be tailored to many smaller needs, not just a consultation. If you love doing your own research but need some professional advice, this is for you. It is also a "budget-friendly" option if a full-research project is beyond your current budget.

To get details specific to your needs, fill out my contact form and tell me what you're looking for. If I can't help you I may be able to make suggestions of what you can do instead.
Learn more about me and my specialties on the About page.

Genealogy Research Logs


Genealogy Research Logs

genealogy research calendars and logs
find the right research log for your genealogy

Find and Create the Right Research Log for YOU!

Part 1: Advice for those who don't like their current research log or don't have one.

(If you're using a research log and need some tips, see part 2, below.)

When I lecture about keeping a spreadsheet research log, I always tell the audience there is one thing they can definitely do WRONG. That is not keeping and using a research log.

[NOTE: I've written a newer post over at The Occasional Genealogist that talks about not keeping a research log. It actually does not disagree with this post but approaches this subject in a different way, I recommend reading it as well as this post to get a fuller understanding of "research logs."]

There are many ways to correctly keep a "research log" and there's a lot of personal preference related to it. If you don't know what a research log (or research calendar) is, you need to learn. You need to understand why you should keep and use one before you can find one that works for you.

I love my research log in Excel. I never did a good job keeping it or using it before I put it in Excel. I also love Evernote. So I tried keeping it there; it made perfect sense. It just didn't work for me. I don't love Microsoft so I tried keeping it in a different spreadsheet program (Open Office or Google Sheets). That didn't work for me either. I've given up; I'm keeping it in Excel. It works for me.
That does not mean it is necessarily the answer for you!

Here is a list of things you HAVE to consider.
will you actually use this method to keep a research log?
  1. Will you actually KEEP the log (i.e. record your research/sources as you research)
  2. Will you USE the log (i.e. refer to it in future)
  3. Will you be able find the log when you need it
  4. Will you be able to read the entries and fit/find everything that should be in the log
As I mentioned, Evernote sounded perfect for me. It would always be with me, it was legible and searchable but it just didn't quite meet items 1 & 2. I didn't like the way it looked and I didn't like the way I had to find entries.

It didn't matter how perfect it seemed because I wouldn't keep and use a log in Evernote. Why am I rambling on about this? Because one link to research log information is probably not going to be enough if this is your introduction to the concept of a research log. You need to keep learning about them until it clicks. Visit your local library and get some general "how-to" guides on genealogy and read about research logs.

I could write on and on about how to keep a log and what goes into a log but instead, I'll provide some links. These are just a sampling but are a good starting point.

Also try searching "Genealogy Research Logs" or "Genealogy Research Calendars," the Google image results may be helpful to see a variety of logs. You can also add the name of a program if you want to see if there is information specific to a program you are interested in. For example, I know there are many blog posts about keeping a log in Evernote.

Here's the link, again, to my Occasional Genealogist post about not keeping a genealogy research "log."



Part 2

Tips on Keeping a Research Log

Source Citations in Your Log


You don't have to record your source in footnote format. You can. It will save you time if you need footnotes later.
Don't let fear of footnotes stop you from keeping a good research log!

research logs don't require formatted sourcesWhat is important (in your log and notes) is to capture all the parts you will need for a formal citation PLUS any information you need to judge the quality and completeness of the source.

Unfortunately, it is hard to know if you have all the parts to judge the quality and completeness of a source until you become experienced. It is better to err on the side of recording too much information.

Just recording a formal citation won't capture all this information.

You can record the extra information in your notes but make sure you still capture this information if you have no notes, such as when you have "negative" results.

Completeness is obviously a major question with negative results. For example, did you not find a marriage because the book you used didn't include some years or because there is no record of that marriage for those years?

Are there any marriages recorded for the years you are interested in? Laws sometimes change and marriages don't have to be recorded for a few years. A partial book of marriages may have been destroyed so only a few years are gone. Some clerks aren't good at their job.

Wouldn't you like notes to yourself that indicate if the marriage didn't appear to take place in that location versus the chance the record doesn't exist (i.e. the marriage might have been recorded there and have been lost)?

Excluding notes about quality and completeness usually means you'll have to obtain that source again. No big deal if it's available online from home (but a waste of your time). A big deal if you have to travel or if the source is no longer online (that happens, too).

Don't worry about formatted citations. Worry about recording more than just what goes in a formatted citation.

Make Your Search Goal Clear

I still struggle with this. If you keep a paper log it is even harder because you are limited on space.

record clear goalsPart of the point of recording your goal is to know if you need to search a record again (what were you thinking and therefore what were you looking for). I find many notations of "no names of interest" in my old log entries. That's not very helpful five years from now when the names of interest have changed.

Once again, your notes can record additional information but negative results are often the issue.

Even with an electronic log, where space isn't such an issue, time is often the constraint. How much extra information do you want to record just to make your goal clear or make it clear if the record should be searched again later?

My rule, if it's easy to check again, save the time now. If it's unique, hard to access, or at risk of being lost/destroyed, spend the time now.

Another, and better, option is to prep your log and or notes documents ahead of time.

With electronic documents, you can easily cut and paste. Set-up a draft log entry with the information for the research you intend to do. Then cut and paste for each similar item you actually search. Tweak your goal as needed to specify exactly what you were looking for (for electronic searches I record my actual search in the body of the log entry).

If you are using paper, prepare your notes document, even if it's blank paper, and include a descriptive goal. You can enter a similar but more specific goal in each log entry. This will help you in the future and save you time now.

Techie option: A great way to record a clear goal is in your research plan which then becomes your notes. The trick related to research logs is making sure you understand your goal when you are simply reviewing the sources you have searched, rather than actually reviewing your previous research.  With my log in Excel, I link to my notes documents so if I have a question, I can easily open the plan->notes for a full explanation.

Using a database would work similarly--- which may be an option if you use your genealogy software correctly (or if you know how to create custom databases, I told you this was a techie option). If you are new to a software program, keep a separate log initially in case it doesn't work the way you think or you decide you don't like it. Having a log trapped in a software program is the same as having no log.

Beware of Too Many Logs

I keep one research log for all of my personal research. I could divide it out a little but I don't.

Here's how I ended up with one log.

For my first trip to the Family History Library (FHL), I prepared my logs ahead of time, while still at home, by surname and goal. This is pretty standard advice for keeping a paper log, which I was.

keep 1 log or several?

After I pulled the same roll of microfilm at the FHL for the third time, I realized separate logs for separate surnames didn't work for me. I have too many relatives in too few counties (yes, too many cousin marriages). I usually do USE my log by surname but I KEEP it by record and therefore usually by location.

Also, don't separate by online vs. offline research. Records are coming online too quickly to safely be able to search just one log or the other. It is easy to KEEP logs divided this way but not USE them.

I also roll my correspondence log into my research log. I can filter entries to access any variation of records I need and once the records arrive, I turn the correspondence entry into a log entry (with a note that the work was done by a contractor). A correspondence log is traditionally kept separately so it is up to you.

Remember items 1 & 2 above, you have to KEEP and USE your log. Use separate logs if it works for you but don't divide them up so much they are too hard to keep or too hard to use.


Do you know how to find a good research log format for your family history research? This article will help you understand.
Keep a genealogy research log. Finding the right format is personal. Learn more in this article.

Did you like the tips and advice above? You can read and learn more at my blog, The Occasional Genealogist (click here).


If you're interested in getting professional help with your family history. learn more about the services I offer by clicking here, or use my contact form to get more information about your unique genealogy problem by clicking here.

Mississippi - 1878 Copiah and Covington Cos. enumeration of Educable Children

Mississippi - 1878 Copiah and Covington Cos. enumeration of Educable Children

USER GUIDE

This is a 2012 post from my (now retired) blog.

Recently I needed to read line by line through the 1878 enumeration of educable children for Copiah County, Mississippi at FamilySearch. In the process I ended up making a quick access guide to the towns and districts.

Below is both an alphabetical and numerical list - location followed by the image number where the letter "B" began. In most cases this will be the first or second page for the location. I also discovered Covington County, Mississippi began after Copiah. I did not look through Covington's entries but now you know it's there! These records are also accessible through the Mississippi Archives digital archives.

Mississippi. Copiah County. 1878 Educable Children enumeration.“Mississippi, Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850—1892; 1908—1957.” Digital images. FamilySearch. http://www.familysearch.org: 2012.

List for Covington County starts at image 276

District - image number where "B" began

Alphabetical
Beauregard district - 70
Beauregard, town - 64
Browns Store - 260
Crystal Springs East - 233
Crystal Springs West - 215
Crystal Springs, town - 206
Ferguson's - 130
Gallatin - 27
Gallman - 35
Green's Store - 191
Halls Hill - 158
Hazlehurst East - 14
Hazlehurst West - 21
Hazlehurst, town - 2
Heaths Store - 164
Hopewell - 249
Martinsville - 45
Matthews - 121
New Salem - 141
Pine Bluff - 179
Rockport - 80
Rose Hill - 53
Salters - 92
Wesson - 101

Numerical
Hazlehurst, town - 2
Hazlehurst East - 14
Hazlehurst West - 21
Gallatin - 27
Gallman - 35
Martinsville - 45
Rose Hill - 53
Beauregard, town - 64
Beauregard district - 70
Rockport - 80
Salters - 92
Wesson - 101
Matthews - 121
Ferguson's - 130
New Salem - 141
Halls Hill - 158
Heaths Store - 164
Pine Bluff - 179
Green's Store - 191
Crystal Springs, town - 206
Crystal Springs West - 215
Crystal Springs East - 233
Hopewell - 249
Browns Store - 260

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