Hiring a professional genealogist

Hiring a professional genealogist can be an excellent way to discover your family roots. If you lack the time and skills for research or if you encounter a very challenging research problem, you may need the assistance of an experienced professional service.

When you compare the fees charged by professional researchers with those for comparable services, professional genealogists are not expensive. Have you engaged a plumber lately?

Many people are quick to criticise services they have purchased from professional genealogists but usually an investigation reveals that the person they have engaged was not a true professional. One of the problems the profession faces is that anyone can hang out their shingle advertising their services as a professional genealogist without any of the real skills of the business. To ensure that the service you engage is truly professional you need to seek out an accredited professional genealogist. These people have not only proved to their peers that they are competent professional genealogists but they also follow best practice principles in small business. Moreover, they are accountable to their peers for their performance and so in the very rare case of a dispute, the customer has an appropriate recourse from another party.

Many professional genealogists are also record agents but it is possible to concentrate solely on one aspect of the profession rather than both. Often professional genealogists start their career as record agents in that they locate and secure records for customers and as their expertise and knowledge base increases they become genealogists. A genealogists adds another dimension to the work in that such a person undertakes much more than just recovering records but rather determines the appropriate records to locate and once located interprets them for the client. They also undertake the drafting of family trees or charts and work closely with their clients to provide a full family history service with regular reports in an understandable and logical format. They have the skills to not only locate the data but also evaluate it in the light of other evidence available. They are very experienced people with a high level of competence in their field.

Many professional genealogists specialise in certain complex fields of research and a thoroughly professional genealogist will often refer clients on to their colleague who has special skills in a particular field.
Accreditation in our region amounts to membership of AAGRA (Australasian Association of Genealogists and Record Agents) that was founded in 1977. Members are proud of their membership which was not easy to come by and cannot be maintained if standards are allowed to slip and as a result you will always know when you are dealing with a member of AAGRA as they will make it quite evident to you.

As members of AAGRA, they subscribe to a Code of Ethics:

Article 1 The profession of genealogy calls for scholarly and personal accuracy and integrity: thus, the genealogist is obliged to be honest in research, adhere strictly to the highest standards and methods, and be discreet in relations with clients and the public.
Article 2 The genealogist, whether employed in independent research or acting in a paid, consultative, advisory or assistant capacity, must not engage in exaggerated, misleading or false publicity or knowingly publish as fact anything known to be false or unproven, nor to be a party to such actions by others.
Article 3 The genealogist must respect the confidential nature of the relationship with his or her client; shall not, without the prior consent of the client, divulge any information concerning the client or the client's affairs, nor publish the results of research for which clients have paid.
Article 4 In undertaking research, the genealogist must try at all times to examine the original, rather than printed sources, and avoid, so far as possible, the misquotation of documents or the citing as authoritative of any questionable source.
Article 5 The genealogist in dealing with a client, must make reports as clear and definite as the facts allow, offer candid advice concerning the possible and probable results of lines of research, and avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and research.
Article 6 The genealogist shall not knowingly injure or attempt to injure the professional reputation, prospects or practice of any other bona fide genealogist or record agent.
Article 7 The genealogist must strive to uphold at all times the integrity and reputation of the profession, and not to act in a manner detrimental to its best interests.
AAGRA widely advertises it membership in family history publications and also maintains a web site ( detailing its professional genealogist members.

You owe it to yourself and your research to ensure that the next time you seek professional genealogical help that you insist on a member of AAGRA or a similar body.

Graham Jaunay BA DipT MACE AAGRA

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