When you’re thinking about doing genealogy and you get stuck, it’s totally normal to wonder about hiring an expert to help you get things done. But how much will that cost you – and what will you get out of it?
Hiring an individual genealogist costs an average of $65 per hour while hiring a team costs an average of $129/hour. Costs range from $40-$150 per hour. Hiring a genealogist may also come with a minimum time commitment and an upfront payment. Here are the costs we found with hiring a genealogist.
Whoa – right? But let’s break it down, see some examples, and see the best way to go about hiring professional genealogical help.
How Much it Costs to Hire a Genealogist – with Quotes
Hiring a genealogist has a wide range of potential fees. I knew that going into this research mess! Breanne, from some genealogy school number (that was tossed at me by multiple other genealogists I contacted), knew that genealogists usually charge anywhere from $25-125 (or more) per hour for their time and expertise.
Breanne also warned me that finding specific quotes from genealogists wouldn’t be easy. After hours of research, emailing at least 50 individual genealogists (and another dozen companies), and requesting quotes from everyone I contacted, I’ve verified that she’s totally correct.
Most genealogists don’t like to post prices – or guarantee any results. And given that so much of genealogy depends on so many wild factors that take a lot of time to sort through (like available or known research, where they’ll need to research, what language the records will be in, and so on), I guess I shouldn’t have been as surprised to see that she was right.
Even so, not having a baseline for pricing makes it really hard for those of us who are considering hiring an expert to help us get our family’s research unstuck and going again.
So even with the general hemming, hawing, and reluctance to answer my queries for basic, ballpark numbers, I did manage to find a few quotes. And, to be totally fair, some of the smaller companies (and the individuals) were quick to respond to my queries – and were very upfront with associated costs.
Even so, as you sort through these quotes, keep in mind that they’re only for ballpark numbers – so that you can see if hiring a genealogist is even a possibility for your budget.
Oh, and keep in mind that most of these genealogists do offer a free consultation of some sort – so it’s always good to double-check final pricing with them. That way, they can give you a specific quote for your family’s genealogy project. After all, their prices may have changed since this article was published.
In any case, we’ve collected a lot of important data to share. So if you’re on a mobile device, turn it long-ways and enable the auto-rotate feature – that way you can see it all! Even doing that, you still may need to scroll sideways to see it all. (Sorry, not sorry and you’re welcome.) 🙂
|Genealogist||Specialty||Individual or Team||Location||Hourly Fee||Minimum Work or Time||Minimum Fee|
|ancestry.com’s ProGenealogists||General||Team||Worldwide||Unknown||Unknown||$2500+ for full research, writing, and design.|
|Marina Brizhatova||Russian and Eastern European Genealogy||Individual||Russian Federation||$40||3 Hours||Pricing for a full research project starts from $1000.|
|Hollander-Waas Jewish Heritage Services||Jewish Genealogy||Teams||Dual offices: New York City and Israel||$120||Hourly||Their core package is a 25-hour, $3000 in-depth research report. Their dual office locations give them access to more Jewish records.|
|Ellen Kowitt (Sole Searching)||Jewish Records Researcher||Individual||Denver, Colorado||$50||20 Hours||Done-for-you research has a 20-hour minimum, though there is guided coaching available in smaller time increments.|
|Legacy Tree Genealogists||General||Team||Worldwide (HQ in Utah)||$88-$115||5 Hours||$575 for a 5-hour DNA analysis or $2500 for 25 hours of genealogical research|
|Anonymous||Anonymous||Anonymous||Anonymous||$150||Hourly||Billing is only for research. Smaller projects typically cost $300-600 total.|
|RusGen Project||Russia, China, and European Genealogy||Individual||Moscow, Russia||$40||Hourly||$40 per hour or $150 per day, (whichever is less) plus applicable travel and archives expenses at cost.|
|Debbie Soren||Emigration and Immigration||Individual||Deerfield, Illinois||$45+||Hourly||Prices reflect the current, 2020 worldwide pandemic.|
In any case, here’s how we came up with our average prices of hiring an individual genealogist. It’s pretty simple, actually. We averaged the fees quoted to us by our individual genealogist experts. Then, for our average price of a team of genealogists, we did the same thing.
We also analyzed specialties – and while that got a little bit more complicated in its mathiness, here’s what we found.
- General genealogists usually charge less than super-specialized genealogists.
- Many genealogists only charge for the hours they spend researching – and they’ll do a ton of other things (write-ups and design work) for your project essentially for free. This means that there’s some false pricing inflation going on, but that clients usually get the better end of the deal out of it.
- There is definitely a correlation between pricing and where a genealogist is located. (correlation doesn’t equate with causation)
- All genealogists have at least one area of expertise or specialty.
- All genealogists can handle the general stuff.
- Hiring an individual genealogist usually costs less than hiring a team – unless you need to be working with multiple specialists.
- When you work with specialists, you’re usually working with a team of specialists or a team of specialist researchers and project managers.
- Hiring a larger team of genealogists means you’ll work with managers (usually a project manager and a research manager) and they’ll handle working directly with the researchers and specialists.
And if you’d like to contact any of these genealogists for a more specific-to-your-situation quote, scroll to the end of this article. Where allowed, we’ll include links to their sites or profile pages. Thank you again to each of these experts for taking the time to respond to our research queries!
Whew! That’s quite a list of genealogists and experts. I guess it wasn’t as fruitless a search as I originally thought it would be. But how do you decide on which genealogist to hire? And should you hire an individual or a team?
How to Decide on Which Genealogist to Hire
As you’re deciding on which genealogist to hire, there are a lot of factors you need to take into consideration. Here are a few of them.
- How much are you willing to invest in your genealogical research?
- How much does having an answer mean to you?
- Do you want to hire a team that manages everything for you? Or would you rather be the team project manager – and manage working with any individual genealogists yourself?
- How comfortable are you with a particular genealogist (or project manager)?
- Does the genealogist have the expertise needed to get the research done in a timely manner?
- Do you need access to any specialties or subspecialties of research expertise? If you do, the APG will let you search their directory of certified genealogists by specialty and areas of expertise.
- Does the genealogist do their own write-ups?
- What does the end product of the research look like?
These are all important questions to ask yourself. After all, if you’re just curious about a family history moment – and you just need a little bit of help? You may be fine asking a general hobbyist-level genealogist for help. And it’ll cost you (on average) far less than if you were to pay a dedicated specialist for an hours-long research project.
On the other hand, if you’re desperate to find your biological family, then a hobbyist genealogist (like myself) probably won’t be able to do much to help you – and it would be far more efficient to get a professional with expertise. Especially if you were adopted from a more obscure part of the world – you’re going to want a genealogist with knowledge of both that area of the world and adoption. And getting access to that kind of expertise? It’s going to cost more money.
Oh – and make sure that you’re working not only with someone with the right kind of expertise – but that you’re also comfortable working with and talking to. After all, if this is going to be an ongoing or large research project, you’re going to be keeping in contact with them frequently. So make sure you like talking to them – and that you mesh well with your contact or project manager.
So which genealogist should you hire? Well, here are a few recommendations for you to consider.
|Example||Who to Hire|
|You’re stuck on finding something but you want to know how to find it yourself.||Use free resources to learn to find things yourself – or go to a FamilySearch free-access genealogical library to get free help.|
|You’re stuck and you don’t know if you need help.||Ask a hobbyist if it’s within their existing skillset to help you find the answers.|
OR use a free consultation with a professional genealogist to see if it’s something they could solve quickly.
|You’ve got a burning question that’s got to be answered – and you know it won’t be easy or possible to do by yourself.||Contact a professional genealogist and talk with them. Most offer a free initial consultation to give you an idea of what answers they can find – and what it will cost.|
|You want to be more involved with the research process.||Hire an individual or a team where you can be as involved as you’d like to be.|
|You want answers – but for whatever reason you need to be more hands-off on the process itself.||Hire a very focused individual genealogist who doesn’t mind you being hands-off or hire a team with a dedicated project manager.|
|You want answers but you don’t want to interview lots of genealogists to do the research.||Work with a team. You still may need to interview several teams or project managers, but then they can manage the genealogists and research for you.|
As far as going straight to a generalist versus a specialist? It’s sixes either way. Thankfully, genealogy isn’t like the current world of medicine. You don’t need a prescription for a specialist – and all of the specialists know the generalities of genealogy. So if you can find a specialist? Great. Go with them. Or if you’d rather start with a general genealogist to save some money? Great. Go that route.
No matter your end choice, please interview and talk to several genealogists. You’re going to want to find the right one for you – whatever your situation might be.
Why Hiring a Genealogist Costs this Much
If you’ve ever spent any time trying to search old microfilm records for a piece of data about an ancestor, you know why hiring a genealogist isn’t always free – it’s an awful lot of work!
So not only are you paying a genealogist for all of their hard, eye-straining research time, but you’re also paying them for access to their expertise and experience. They’re professionals – and they can get the job done because they’ve put in the time, effort, and training to become really, really good at what they do.
Oh, but here’s the fun part. All those hours you spent trying to find that little piece of information (that you may still have missed)? A genealogist can find it faster and easier – and they’ll be able to get copies made so you’ve got your research citations done.
So instead of focusing on how much hiring a genealogist costs, focus on how much time they’re going to save you. Think about how many brick walls they’ll push over for you. And think about how much sooner you’ll have answers than if you kept trying to do things yourself.
Even if you’re “only” hiring a genealogist to help you focus your search, that’s still going to save you tons of time and help you find answers sooner than if you did it all yourself.
But if you’d still like to see some of the factors that impact how much a genealogist charges you, here you go.
- Level of expertise within a specialty
- The physical location of the genealogist
- Access to specialized records (usually not-yet-digitized records)
- Nature of the project
- Scope of the work (and how hard it will be)
- Need to know multiple languages
- Travel involved, if any
- If other experts will need to be involved in the project
- If the genealogist works individually or with a team
There’s more to it than that, I’m sure. That’s just what we were able to find in our research or ascertain from Breanne’s experience. In any case, there’s a lot of factors that influence the price.
Oh, and as we mentioned before – many genealogists only charge for the actual research being done. So while their hourly rates may look high? They may not charge you for all of the other hours they spend writing up your results. Just remember that this is a generality to “many” genealogists – and not all.
Based on our data, genealogists who charge a lower hourly rate are less likely to “only” charge for research. They’re more likely to charge for all work done. It’s hard to know where the final costs for your project will be without doing a specific bid or quote from several genealogists. So make sure you get several bids from genealogists.
How Much Work a Professional Genealogist Can Get Done in an Hour
A professional genealogist can get as much work done in an hour as they can. Yeah, I know – not a perfect answer. But that’s because every genealogist is different – and every question they’re finding answers for is totally different.
Some questions are harder to answer – and need more research. Other questions are easier – and answers are readily and easily found.
But no matter how long it takes for a genealogist to find your answers – here’s a simple but hard truth to hear: they’re still going to find the answer faster than you will.
They’ve got the knowledge, experience, and expertise to know where to look and to see clues that us hobbyists would miss every stinking time. They’ve already put in the time learning the craft of genealogy – so they don’t have to learn as they go. And that’s going to mean that they’re much faster at finding answers – no matter their level of difficulty.
When should I hire a genealogist? Hire a genealogist when your need for answers exceeds your ability or availability to find answers. Hiring help can come due to knowledge or time restrictions. For more, read our article on hiring a genealogist.
Can I do my genealogy for free? There are many free and low-cost resources available to help people do genealogy, especially at the beginning stages. However, doing all of your genealogy for free is very difficult. For more information on how to do your genealogy for free, read our article on free genealogy websites.
How do I do my own genealogy? To do your own genealogy, start by writing down what you do know. Then head to FamilySearch.org and sign up for a free account. While it won’t tell you everything, it is a fantastic (and free) resource to get you started. Then read our beginner’s guide to doing genealogy.
Citations and Contact Information
Want to contact one of the experts who so kindly contributed to our data points? Here is the complete list of who contributed – and their contact information.
A quick note for any genealogist who’d like to be included in our table – use our contact us page – and let us know you’d like to contribute to this data set. In return, we’re happy to include a citation and link back to your website (when appropriate).
- Anonymous – A big thank you to our sources who provided data upon the condition of anonymity. I was very impressed with their timely help and answers – and a peek behind the curtain at how they bill. While I’m sad that this means we can’t refer anyone to these genealogists, I’m more than happy to honor their wishes to remain anonymous.
- Ancestry.com’s ProGenealogists – this link will take you to their free estimate page. If you’re on Ancestry.com, this is their group of genealogists – who are experts in using that system. I found several of their researchers on the APG website.
- Association of Professional Genealogists – this link takes you to their current directory of professional genealogists. Here are some of the association’s professional genealogists who were kind enough to provide quotes and other information.
- Marina Brizhatova – this link will take you to her APG profile page and this link takes you to her website. Genealogical records in Russia have yet to be digitized, so hiring a genealogist is a great way to get access to records – without having to travel there yourself.
- Hollander-Waas Jewish Heritage Services – this link will take you to their services page. Working with New York-and-Israel based Hollander-Waas gives you access to their whole team of expert genealogists (a team of 2) who specialize in Jewish genealogy. Having offices in both New York and Israel is a unique advantage – it gives their clients access to all American-based archives and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People. I was impressed with their forthrightness, speedy responses, and kindness in replying to my inquiries.
- Ellen Kowitt – this link takes you to Ellen’s website. Rush fees are an option if you’d like to get ahead of the 1-2 month wait time for her services.
- Debbie Soren – this link will take you to her APG profile page. Her “Genealogy by Gene’s Daughter” focuses on family history but she has research specialties in emigration and immigration, naturalization, and Jewish genealogy. She’s well-versed in genealogical research in these areas: Midwest US, general USA, Belarus, Lithuania, Norway, and Ukraine.
- Kirill Chashchin of RusGen Project – this link takes you to his blog and this link takes you to his very reasonably priced translation services of genealogical documents. Kirill specializes in European, Russian, and church records (Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, and Russian Orthodox).
- Legacy Tree Genealogists – this link is to their services page. This Utah-based company has a global genealogical team, so they’ve got quite the ability to help pretty much everyone. I did find several of their researchers are listed on the APG website, too.
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