Most genealogists enjoy doing their own research. It is more fun and enlightening and while there is never an end to the research, they feel good about their accomplishments. Sometimes there are "snags" in our research and for various reasons help is needed.
Help may be needed when you don't have the time to spend doing research, or perhaps you are unable to travel to a research site. While there are many microfilmed records available through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' (LDS) Family History Centers, there are records that have never been filmed. Maybe you are also unable to locate them on Internet in a digital format. Sometimes it is cheaper in cost and time to hire a researcher. It is important to weigh the cost against the efficiency of the research.
While help is available, it is up to you to determine the best route to obtain that help. The options are paying for the research or not paying for it. There are many researchers, good and otherwise, who are willing to do free research. A good place to look for these individuals is under categories such as Look-Ups or Volunteers on the USGenWeb pages, http://www.usgenweb.org. Click on the state of your interest, then county and browse until you find information on people who will do look-ups.
Another place to check for research help is Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, http://www.raogk.org/index.html. Be sure to read the welcome page thoroughly and then begin browsing by state and county. This service is free to a point. You are expected to reimburse the volunteer for expenses such as copy fees and postage.
The FHC Angel Look up Requests web page is designed to assist in Salt Lake City LDS Lookups. It is at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~famsearch/LDS/index.html. At this web page you can post your request. Somebody who lives in or near Salt Lake City or who is going there to do research in the Family History Library will do the lookup.
While you are checking out free looks ups be sure to browse through GeneaSearch at http://geneasearch.com/. This is a location where people post what they will check in off-line records.
When contacting any of these individuals, be sure to give them full information (names, dates and locations) and be specific as to what record you wish to have checked. Do not ask for too much information in several resources. At the same time be sure to tell them what you have already checked so it is not researched again. The above listed web pages have rules and tips that should be read before contacting any volunteer.
It is a good idea to ask about the time frame for performing the research. Are they available to do it now? Can they perform the research? Because they are performing the research free does not mean they are limited in skills. Some may be and that will surface as you communicate and obtain the needed information. How much should you request from a person performing the research as a free service? Because the service is free, it is unreasonable to ask them to do extensive research for you. If they volunteer to do more look-ups, you can always accept their offer.
Professional genealogists offer various services at various prices. There are more than 1,600 professionals who are members of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). You can learn more about hiring a professional genealogist, plus check out the directory of members at http://www.apgen.org/index.html. When making any contact with a professional genealogist, keep in mind their specialties along with geographical location. If you are in need of military records in the National Archives in Washington, DC, you certainly would not hire somebody who does not have access to them. Some of the professionals will also provide consultation for a fee. They will give you ideas and help with planning your research strategy.
Not all professional genealogists are certified or accredited. There are some who are not and yet do extremely meticulous research. However, if you are in the market for a certified researcher, start by checking out the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) at http://www.bcgcertification.org. There you will be able to learn more about the certification process and also locate a professional researcher.
The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) at http://www.icapgen.org/ has a list of accredited professional genealogists. With both ICAPGen and BCG, researchers are required to pass stringent testing and review in order to become either accredited or certified.
Members of any of these organizations set their own fee schedule. Many require mileage or travel expense, plus incidental costs, such as for copies.
As the genealogist needing help, you are in control. In all instances you should provide as much information as needed, particularly outlining what you have previously researched. However, you should also ask questions before hiring a professional researcher. These should include requesting information about their knowledge of your specific research problem. Professional genealogists normally require a retainer fee for an allotted number of hours.
If it is time to ask for that help, check out all possibilities. Perhaps a volunteer can help with your research. If you need more detailed, extensive help, it might be time to check out the listings of professional genealogists.