How much would it cost to research my family history?
How much someone pays depends on how involved the research is. If you are interested in determining the fate of every person in your tree, it will obviously take longer and cost more than if you are just interested in following one family line from generation to generation.
With every new client, the information the client possesses about the family is examined. A rough budget is discussed and a “plan of attack” is created to try to suit this budget. The client is the one directing the research (with guidance from the researcher) and can stop at any time.
A fair amount of information is usually found in the first few hours. For this, generally speaking, your investment might be in the same range as going out for a good dinner and a movie.
If the client wished to remove the unknown time factor, a package rate can be provided. In this situation, the client’s information in examined. A list of sources available for searching (including my opinion of the likelihood of finding good information) and a price to search them will be provided. If the client wishes to make changes to the list, a new price will be quoted. The client will, therefore, know exactly what will be searched and what they will pay.
How far back can I trace my family history?
The answer to this depends entirely on the “paper trail” that a family left and the availability of surviving records. Some families can be traced back 10-15 generations while the trail of others’ disappears after 3 or 4 generations. Records from some locations are more readily accessible while others are closed.
What are your thoughts on these big family history websites?
These websites are wonderful tools to help you research your family history. They provide lots of different databases of primary information from which you can gather a lot of information. Many times, these databases have been “indexed” for us. BUT, I often discover that this work has been very poorly done – misread names, misread places, missed records. My suggestion is to search the primary records yourself.
That said, these websites don’t contain anywhere near all available information. Often, with simple searches. you will discover sources which provide a wealth of information on your family but you might have to dig for it.
I caution my clients that these websites make it far too easy to click to add new family members to your online family tree. I look at these “family trees” and often discover that errors in one tree have been blindly copied to everybody else’s tree — incorrect dates, people with the correct name from from some place very far away, people linked who cannot possibly be related etc. Had one of them actually looked at the original records or done some thinking, they might have found the error. Check everything!
If you are interested in researching your family history and need some help, contact me. I’d be pleased to help.
Should I get an analysis of my DNA to 'Do my family tree'?
There are now many companies which offer to analyse your DNA, tell you all about your ancestry and even some genetic diseases to which you might possibly be predisposed.
DNA analysis is extremely helpful in proving familial connections (ie in the cases of adoption or paternity/maternity), locating long-lost kin, or, more recently, helping convict criminals in cold cases. Otherwise, “having your DNA done” is really just a fad which some describe as a “toy” or a “parlor game”.
You are far better off researching your ancestry yourself or with the help of a knowledgeable researcher. This will be a far more fulfilling process than simply finding out that some ancestor of yours from hundreds of years ago came from “X”. While this process requires time and work – searching generation by generation using proper research techniques – you will develop a much fuller picture of your family: their stories, occupations, where and how they lived, where, when and why they moved, and the diseases from which they died.
If you need help with your search, contact me.
What information do I provide so you can start researching?
Due to privacy legislation, more recent documents are closed to the general public. In order to start researching, we need to start with information on family members 2 generations back (ie grandparents). Ideally, this information would include names, approximate ages, and where they lived. For more common names, it would be even better if we had information on the great-grandparents, or some names of uncles and/or aunts.
Can you recommend genealogy software?
I've found some information about my family on the internet. What should I do, now?
With the rising popularity of Genealogy or Family History Research, more and more people are posting their information on-line. This is great for those who are trying to connect to other people researching their trees, too but one must be careful. Some of this information might contain typographical errors, or might be hearsay, supposition or just totally wrong. Even sites in which someone (even professionals) are reading documents and transcribing them (like Ancestry or FamilySearch) are subject to errors. People will often “cut-and-paste” information from one site and put it into their own site thus perpetuating the errors. One must check the original records to ensure accuracy and to weed out mistakes.
How do I get my family's "Coat of Arms" or "Family Crest"?
“Coats of Arms” — sometimes now interchangeably used with “family crests” — were most often granted to individual knights starting in the middle-ages. The crest actually formed just the uppermost part of the Coat of Arms. To repeat, they were granted to individuals not to families. Thus, there is no such thing as a family Coat of Arms. The Coats of Arms could be passed through the direct male line usually with slight modifications from generation to generation. If you find a “Coat of Arms” with your surname in a book or if some commercial company is trying to you sell one, most likely, it has absolutely nothing to do with your ancestors.