Buyer Beware. Warning – Do your own research. And if you do decide to hire a genealogist to research for you, make certain you know what you are getting in advance.
After hitting a brick wall a few weeks ago I contacted the Cobh Heritage Centre in County Cork Ireland with an enquiry about one of our ancestors, John Mahoney. They advertise a genealogy referral service, which puts you in contact with a professional genealogist. Assuming the genealogist had access to records in County Cork that I couldn’t access, I contacted the Centre.
They charge ten Euros for their service (one payment and a maximum of three people per search for ten Euros. Five euro per each additional person you wish to search). Since it was only ten Euros I got sloppy. I didn’t ask for references and I didn’t clarify with them what exactly they would do for me.
All they asked for was the name, date of birth (+/- 5 years), and county of birth. I also gave her John’s parents’ names, John Mahoney and Bridget Buckley. The genealogist quickly replied to my enquiry saying she would carry out an initial search. She did this and then contacted me for payment. As soon as the fee was received, she said she would send her findings. To my dismay, her “findings” were that she didn’t find any records. She said she had searched two databases. I was shocked to see that she only looked in two online resources that are available to the general public. In fact, my sister and I use these websites extensively in our search for Irish genealogical records. They are:
http://www.irishgenealogy.ie <http://www.irishgenealogy.ie> . This is a free government database
http://www.rootsireland.ie <http://www.rootsireland.ie> . This for fee database is maintained by the Irish Family History Foundation.
Now ten Euros isn’t a lot of money. But I feel ripped off. And I have no one but myself to blame. I didn’t ask the genealogist what resources she had available. Nor did I tell her where/what I had already researched. The fee was for the search, regardless of whether or not she found anything. On the other hand, the Cobh Heritage Centre, or the genealogist, could have asked some additional questions of me before searching.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A few years back my sister contacted a genealogist through the Ulster Historical Foundation. The UHF is an example of the right way to conduct genealogical research for a client. They ask you a lot of questions before beginning their search. They try not to duplicate work you’ve already done. If they find records that are close but obviously not your relative they tell you so you don’t waste time and money in the future on those records. Of course they charge a whole lot more than ten Euros. So there’s that.
I learned my lesson. Do it yourself. If you can’t, get references and more information about what you are buying before hiring a genealogy service.