Exactly when to hire a professional genealogist depends on the character of the research needed. But for most, not having the time to do the research is the primary reason. A close second is not having the necessary genealogical research skills to complete a project.
But often a genealogist cannot gain access to records in a particular locality or doesn't know what records exist that might offer a solution to a particular research problem. Or he or she cannot read the language in which the records are recorded. Or the researcher has reached a dead-end. Sometimes, specific on-site research is needed.
Often an amateur genealogist comes up against a research problem and needs to consult with a professional on how to solve it. Or he or she may need need help writing, editing or publishing their family's genealogy.
Sometimes it's downright impossible to talk with relatives, such as those living in far off lands. A professional might be hired to obtain on-site photographs, videos and/or oral interviews with distant family members.
Another situation that often requires professional help is with adoption/birth parent research projects. Finding a birth parent is no easy matter and usually requires professional help. The same applies to locating long lost, but living, family members.
Lastly, an amateur genealogist might not be familiar with records pertaining to a particular ethnic group.
Keep in mind that no professional can tell in advance how many hours of research will be required, or that they can find ancestors quickly. Each family is unique. Also, no ethical professional genealogist will guarantee to find your ancestors. When a professional genealogist is hired, he or she is paid for both time and expertise, not for positive results of a search. It takes just as much time to discover an ancestor isn't mentioned in a particular record as it does to learn he or she is recorded there.
Once the names of professionals who work in the area or category in which assistance is needed are found, the family historian may wish to contact several to find the one who best meets his or her needs and who has the time to accept the commission. Let the researcher know what's needed and agree upon a time limit, costs and when reports will be provided.
To find a professional genealogist, contact the following organizations:
Board for Certification of Genealogists
P.O. Box 14291, Washington, DC 20044
Web site: Board for Certification of Genealogists
Family History Library
35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150-1003
Association of Professional Genealogists
P.O. Box 40393, Denver, CO 80204-0393
Web site: http://www.apgen.org/~apg