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You should also consider other criteria as you make your hiring decision. Most genealogists are self-taught, and many competent genealogists do not seek credentials. Years of education, research experience, and satisfactory service to clients may be just as important as credentials. <br>
== Part II: The Hiring Process ==
The six steps in this section are designed to help you locate several professional genealogists and then select the one that best meets your needs. <br>
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'''Six Steps for Hiring a Genealogist'''<br>
1. Determine your research needs<br>
2. Obtain a list of genealogists<br>
3. Contact candidates<br>
4. Determine whom to hire<br>
5. Make an agreement<br>
6. Pay fees and provide information to start
=== Step 1. Determine Your Research Needs ===
Before hiring a professional genealogist, clarify your research problem and determine what you want the genealogist to do. If you define your research goals early, you are more likely to be satisfied with the results. In addition, you can often save money by gathering information that already exists.
However, if you cannot gather the information needed to define a research goal, you may want to skip this step. Once you have hired a genealogist, you can let the professional decide where to begin.
Do not start with a general or vague goal (example: I want to know more about my ancestors on my mother's side). Clarify the problem by finding and reviewing as much existing information as possible. You may want to check:
*Pedigree charts and family group sheets
*Family histories and traditions
*Birth, death, and marriage certificates; obituaries; funeral programs; and so forth
*Diaries, journals, old letters, and photocopies of family information from Bibles
*Military records, naturalization certificates, photographs, and so forth
After deciding what you want to learn, summarize your research problem and state how the genealogist can help you.
At this point, determine if you really need to hire someone. Maybe you can get help from friends or a genealogical society. If you decide to employ someone, try to determine what expertise the genealogist needs.
=== Step 2: Obtain a List of Genealogists ===
Next, obtain a list of potential genealogists. The reference section in [[Hiring a Professional Researcher#Part_III:_Reference_Section|Part III of this guide]] identifies where to obtain lists of genealogists. You can also contact libraries, archives, or genealogical societies in your area.
=== Step 3: Contact Candidates ===
Contact several genealogists whose skills and credentials seem appropriate. If you telephone candidates, you can find out immediately if the genealogist is available and interested in working on your project. You may also ask about the genealogist's experience. However, be considerate of the researcher's time. Do not expect too many ideas before the genealogist has seen your records.
Emailing is a slower process, but many genealogists prefer written correspondence because they have time to think about the project before responding. Be sure to include your return address, phone number, and a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Discuss the following in your phone call or email:
*Your research problem, materials, and goals
*The genealogist's availability and interest in your project
*The research strategies the genealogist might use
*The genealogist's access to records required for your project
*The reporting procedure (You may even want to see a sample report.)
*The genealogist's areas of specialty and credentials, including language skills if needed
*Rates and billing procedures<br>
=== Step 4: Determine Whom to Hire ===
After contacting several genealogists, decide which one will best meet your needs. Consider the following questions:
*Do you feel the genealogist has a good understanding of your research problem and knows how to solve it?
*Does the genealogist have familiarity with and access to the records that are most likely to solve your research problem?<br>
*Do you sense that the genealogist is really interested in your project?
*Do you feel that the genealogist has the required background and skills?
*Do the genealogist's fees seem appropriate?<br>
=== Step 5: Make an Agreement ===
Before the genealogist begins working on your project, be sure to make an agreement. Although verbal agreements are possible, especially when the project is small, they may be of little benefit in the event of a dispute. A written agreement can be as simple as an email stating your expectations and authorizing the genealogist to proceed, or it can be a formal written contract. Either you or the genealogist can prepare the agreement. In lieu of a formal contract, some genealogists have a list of their research methods and policies that is modified for each project and signed by the client.
Any agreement, verbal or written, should include at least the following:
*The research goal and scope of the project.
*Frequency of reports and bills
*Content of the reports
*What constitutes fees and expenses
*Payment and limitations of fees
*How cost overruns should be handled
*What happens if one or both parties do not or cannot fulfill their part of the agreement.
*Publication rights to the research findings
*What forms the genealogist will prepare<br>
=== Step 6: Pay Fees and Provide Information to Start ===
Send whatever retainer or fees are required for the genealogist to begin working. '''Share any information you collected in step 1. You will avoid needless duplication by informing your genealogist of the records you found and the research that has already been done.''' Send good photocopies of your materials. Never give original documents or other materials for which you have no other copies.
=== Stay in Contact ===
As you work with your genealogist, be sure to communicate often. Most problems can be avoided through good communication. However, if problems do arise that you cannot solve together, get in touch with the organization that credentialed the genealogist. Many organizations will mediate or arbitrate disagreements between the genealogists they credential and their clients.
== Part III: Reference Section ==

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