Genealogists search records to find family ancestors, descendants, and other related people. Genealogists consult with others about their findings, instruct others about their pastime and profession, and publicize their findings. How do we do that? By helping each other look up records.
All genealogists are look-up providers to one degree or another. Some of us do lookups as society volunteers or on websites like FindaGrave.com. Some of us do it as professionals. Some genealogists go as far as being credentialed as expert researchers, so other researchers have a better source to cite. Me? I’m just a professional look-up provider. I specialize in the Pacific Northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
One of the ways I do lookups as a volunteer is posting to a GeneaBloggers theme, “Sunday’s Obituary.” Some of these posts come from materials I use personally, and some are extraneous to professional findings. I also post materials that might help another genealogist. All of the posts are meant to help others accurately trace their ancestry, family trees, and other persons.
Like many occupations, a genealogy look-up provider is a specialized job. Some people call us record searchers. We accept calls for specific documents or records and return the results of our efforts. When someone contacts us on GenLighten.com or GenealogyFreelancers.com, for instance, we are ready to provide insight into the research issue. If we feel good about taking on a project with reasonable certainty of success, we bid on it. If we feel that there is little certainty of success or the project is beyond the ken of our services, we pass on it.
The lookup services I provide on GenLighten are straightforward record pulls from several archives and repositories. The site also allows researchers to make specialized requests to all researchers for an area. We, the area’s researchers, can respond and bid on the request or simply provide information that will help the requester make a decision on how to proceed with their project.
GenealogyFreelancers is less structured, as it is geared toward full-fledged genealogy projects. GenLighten users focus on specific records and GenealogyFreelancers users focus on projects with a wider scope, such as searching for entire families. The site also provides for international research projects, as it has a global focus. There is some overlap between the two, but that is unavoidable; you can post a project on either site.
The costs of using a genealogy look-up provider are generally less than those of using a full-fledged professional genealogist. The primary reason is that a professional genealogist has a higher cost of doing business while a look-up provider focuses only on the act of retrieving the record.
My rates on GenLighten are a bit above average due to costs that need to be accounted for; it is a business, after all. A professional genealogist generally has a higher standard for project acceptance as well as a minimum hourly working scale. They may require say, two hours to review all of the project’s documentation before deciding whether and when to proceed with a project. Genealogy look-up providers don’t need to analyze a researcher’s entire project before pulling a record.
Working as a professional look-up provider has its benefits and drawbacks. The benefits are that you are providing a service that helps others, you learn something new for yourself, and you receive income from it. As a professional, you need to account for your actions in a responsible manner. If you follow the rules of the site you are working through and follow recognized standards for genealogy professionals, then you will likely gain legitimacy and reputation in the genealogy pastime and flourish.
Check out both GenLighten and GenealogyFreelancers and see if there are projects you’d like to work with. If not, you can always work with a genealogical society as a member volunteer, pulling records from their collections. The benefits of doing lookups there are also pretty good.
© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research