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Overheard in GenForum: Professional Genealogists
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

January 31, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I am looking for a professional genealogist in the Chicago area, preferably in the south suburbs. If anyone can help me get into contact with a reputable, reliable researcher, please let me know. -- Amanda

A: It is natural for you to be wary when hiring a professional genealogist. There are a number of individuals who have "hung out a shingle." While most genealogists who offer their services for hire have good intentions, there are times when it is only good intentions, and the work is never completed.

The hiring of a professional genealogist should be done thoughtfully, and when possible through the recommendation of someone else who has used the services of the given professional. This is not always the case though. When you don't get a specific recommendation there are two bodies of professionals that you can turn to and feel positive about the individual you are hiring.

Be informed when hiring a professional.

Association of Professional Genealogists

The Association of Professional Genealogists was founded in 1979. Today it is an association with 1,200 members. Those joining the association are required to sign a code of ethics. This code requires the researcher to abide by certain rules, and those rules are to the benefit of those who are hiring these professionals.

When hiring a professional who is a member of APG, you have recourse should the professional not supply you with the requested information in a professional and timely manner. This doesn't mean you should expect the research within a week. However, you should expect to get some informational updates as the research progresses if it is an extended research project.

One of the best sections of the APG Web site addresses the idea of hiring a professional researcher. It looks at all that you should keep in mind when discussing your needs with a professional researcher, and what information you should be prepared to submit to the professional. So You're Going to Hire a Professional Genealogist should be read by anyone considering such a move.

Another benefit found at the APG Web site is the searchable database of members. Through the search form, you will find that there are 13 researchers living in Illinois who do Illinois research. Of those 13, there are 9 researchers who research in Chicago.

Board for Certification of Genealogists

The Board for Certification of Genealogists is an independent group that does not accept membership, but certifies individuals based on knowledge and experience in a given record type, region, ethnic or specialty.

The Board for Certification strives for a standard of competence and ethics in the professional genealogical world. Certified researchers are held to a higher standard as they agree to uphold these standards.

Like the APG Web site, the BCG has a directory of its current certified researchers. You can search for individuals using the BCG Roster - Locate page on the site.

In Conclusion

I think that once you have spent some time at both of these Web sites, you will have a good understanding of what is involved in hiring a professional researcher. You will know what you need to supply the researcher with in regard to information and documents and should have an understanding of what to expect in return.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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