We’ve been helping my husband’s mom do some work on her house and new flooring was part of the plan. So, we stopped by a major home improvement store to ask for a quick quote. You know, to kind of sort of get a feel for whether we wanted tile and/or vinyl and/or carpet, and to figure out how much the project might cost.
Well, we soon learned that it doesn’t work that way. Before the associates could be of help, they needed to have someone come out to take measurements and count closets and doorways and the like. And they needed to know what type of flooring we wanted where–ideally with specific product codes. And then there were also questions like whether or not we wanted new baseboard installed.
To us, it was just a matter of saying, “We’d love for you to put new flooring in the house. How much will it cost and how long will it take?”
To the professional, a proposal and quote required detailed information. Tile? Wood? Vinyl? Carpet? How big are the rooms? How many doors and closets to work around? How many toilets to be lifted? Will existing flooring need to come up? If so, will asbestos be an issue?
It works the same with genealogy.
As a client, it’s so easy to say, “I would love for you to find out where my grandfather went after he disappeared. Do you think you could? Maybe before my mother’s birthday in October? And, how much do you think it would cost?”
But, a research provider would need a lot more information before trying to answer those questions.
Here are five things you can do to prepare to reach out to a professional genealogist. If you’re already researching your family history, you’ll probably be able to check things off the list quickly. If you’re not (or if the tasks seem overwhelming), then just do the best you can to pull the information together in whatever format is comfortable for you. Just know that a project will take more time (and thus cost more money) if a genealogist needs to build a foundation from which to work.
- Update the family tree. If you have an online tree or an offline database, make sure all names, dates, and places are filled in to the best of your knowledge. Focus on the individual or couple of interest, but don’t overlook children, parents, and siblings.
- Provide sources for information on the tree. If this hasn’t been done on your tree in a formal way, make an informal list. Make sure to note sources that have been checked that didn’t yield relevant information, too.
- Gather background information. Jot down any information that’s not on the tree that might provide clues for the research. If there are family members who might know something of interest, consider contacting them.
- Prepare to share scanned documents. If you have digital copies of any of the sources, especially family records that aren’t easily accessible online, upload them to the online tree (unless they should be kept private) or put them in a folder that you can easily share through a service like Dropbox or Google.
- Write a one-paragraph summary that names the person (or persons), place (or places), and time period. Then, finish this sentence: “I would like to know … ” Here’s an example: My great-grandfather, Jonas Smith, who lived in New Miami, Butler County, Ohio, disappeared while my grandmother was in high school, probably 1932-1936. I would like to know what happened to him.
With those five steps done, you’re ready to reach out to find just the right genealogist for your project. I have some tips for that, too, of course, but I’ll save them for another post.
Oh, and by the way, we went with vinyl plank in a light color that reminds us of the local beach, and we’re really happy with the decision!
Stock image (#50165073) obtained through DepositPhotos.com.