What happens when I contact you? We talk about the project you have in mind. This is a free consultation. I ask you questions to help you focus your thoughts and to help me understand what you want. I tell you whether your project and my skills are a good fit, and suggest how we might proceed. Neither of us are under any obligation until a contract is signed.
What can you do for me that I can't do for myself on Ancestry.com and/or FamilySearch? You can find a lot for yourself on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch. However, a trained professional genealogist (1) knows advanced searching tricks on those online sites; (2) is able to evaluate and analyze the evidence found in the sources on those sites; (3) has access to other subscription websites; (4) knows where else to look on the Internet; (5) knows how to look for sources that are not on the Internet; (6) makes sense of what conflicting evidence is saying; (7) knows where else to look when the "obvious" sources seem to be missing; and (8) can often find the conclusion to a genealogical research question when the direct answer does not appear.
Do you do research outside of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota? Yes. Much research can be done online. Additional onsite research can be subcontracted with local genealogists in the other location, or be undertaken by me on an authorized research trip.
What guarantees can you give me? I can't guarantee that I can find your "lost" ancestor or answer your genealogical question. Sometimes the sources just are not there. I will apply my knowledge and skills to your project and provide you with a complete, documented report that includes everything that I have researched, including the dead ends. I will also make recommendations regarding whether additional unexplored avenues of research remain. When you engage any professional genealogist, you are not contracting for a guaranteed answer, but rather for that professional's time and expertise.
How much will my project cost? That will depend on your project. My standard rate is $50 per hour plus expenses. If the project is a matter of going to a local courthouse or repository to obtain a copy of a document, then that might only take me an hour. In cases of more involved projects, we will negotiate a number of hours I am authorized to conduct the research and prepare the report or other work product. For most significant genealogical research projects, increments of at least ten hours are recommended. However, if I finish researching and reporting in less than the authorized amount of time, you only pay for the actual amount of time spent.
What kinds of expenses are there in addition to your standard rate? Again, that depends on the project. Examples of normal expenses include copies, fees for obtaining vital records, postage, parking, mileage at the current IRS rate. I do not charge mileage for research within Cass County, North Dakota, or Clay County, Minnesota. If I have to do onsite research outside of those two counties, please keep in mind the distances involved within the Northern Plains states. At times, I have had to drive several hundred miles each way to archives or courthouses within North Dakota, South Dakota, or Minnesota. In these cases, expenses for meals and even lodging might be involved. However, I will consult with you first and obtain your authorization for this kind of travel expense.
Why is a contract necessary? A contract helps protect both of us against misunderstandings. It provides us with a written and signed document stating what we understand your project is, what my work product will be that you will receive, and what your payment to me will be.
When will I need to pay? Receipt of payment is required before the final work product is released. Depending on the project, a deposit might be required before work begins on the project.
What do you need from me to get started on my project? First, I need you to contact me for the free initial consultation. Please be prepared to share with me any previous research work done by you or others on the project or question you want me to work on. This includes such items as family group sheets, pedigree charts, copies of documents and sources, family histories, research done by amateur or professional genealogists, and so forth. Depending on the project, the amount of material you have already accumulated, and your location, I might ask you to send me the materials (copies only) via email or U.S. Mail. This step will save me time and effort and save you money. I won't have to duplicate work someone else has already done. However, I reserve the right to "redo" undocumented or unverified research. I will likely ask for a few days to review the material and to prepare a tentative research plan. I then will contact you with a proposal and send you a contract. Upon receipt of the signed contract and any initial deposit, I start work.
I look forward to working with you on your project.