Question by Kate: What do genealogists typically charge for services?
What is the general range a genealogist would charge? Do they only charge in full if they are successful? Is there a typical time frame? What if they can’t find anything?
Answer by Ted Pack
Most charge by the hour, and you tell them how many hours you can afford for them to work.
Professionals charge $ 25 – $ 100 per hour, usually with an 8, 12 or 20-hour minimum.
A poor but honest widow might do it for $ 10 – $ 15 per hour, cash under the table (Not completely honest; fiddle dee dee to the IRS). You’d find one through your local Family History Center or the county Genealogy society, but tread warily; Mormons are notoriously honest, so don’t suggest stiffing the government out loud.
Anyone who guarantees they will find things or works for a set fee instead of an hourly one is suspicious. Some big companies with 10 -15 salaried researchers do that; they can afford to take the loss when they come up blank. Independent genealogists can’t. In one sense it is like hiring a fishing guide; they know what they are doing and can usually find something worth your time, but every once in a while they get skunked.
I offer 20 hours of my time at our church talent auction every year. My “item” usually goes for $ 200 – $ 300. I’m not volunteering to work for you for that fee, just making this suggestion:
If you attend a church that could use a little extra cash, you might offer to donate $ 200 to the church, over and above your annual pledge, if one of the members would spend 20 hours working on your problem. The member would get her name on the list of contributors to the new roof (Choir robes, hymnals . . .), PLUS a puzzle to solve for fun (our version of the Sunday Times cross-word puzzle is a brand new family to track), the church would be $ 200 richer and you’d have a canceled check made out to First Presbyterian with something reasonable in the memo line, which you could claim on your income tax, again letting the IRS go whistle. Sounds like a win-win-win situation to me.
You could ask, again at the county Genealogy society or your local FHC, if anyone was willing to trade 10, 20, 30 hours of her time (75% of genealogists are ladies) for an equal amount of yours, if you are handy at auto tuneups, house painting, gardening, minor electrical repairs, Chinese cooking . . .
In 20 hours I can usually get to 1850 on a couple of lines; if the family is interesting, I go a little further just for fun.
At the other end of the affordability spectrum, if you were as rich as Bill Gates, you could hire someone from Salt Lake City with a Ph D. in History to fly to Europe and poke through 14th century church records for a year.
If you hired someone to mow your lawn or do your taxes or fill a tooth, there is a set task and a set fee. Every time you find an ancestor, you get two more pieces of the puzzle; who were the parents? So, since there is no definite end point, you hire someone to work for “X” hours, instead of a flat fee.
Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!