Answers to Some of Your Questions
I (or one of my ancestors) was adopted and I don't know who the biological parents are. Will you be able to discover their names?
That depends. DNA testing is the most powerful tool available to individuals seeking to fill out the unknown branches of their family tree. And while the keys to your biological heritage will absolutely be reflected in your results, interpreting those results and unlocking those doors may not be so straight forward. One's level of success is determined by several factors. That being said, I have had some success helping adoptees identify the family of a birth parent based on their DNA results. If you have done DNA testing and are trying to identify an unknown branch of your family tree, please contact me for further information.
Which ethnic groups do you specialize in?
I have researched people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds including: Mexican, English, Portuguese, African-American, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, Russian Jewish, etc. I have experience reading records in English, Spanish, Latin, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, French, and German. And I am always eager to immerse myself in a new language or culture. The beauty of American genealogy is that while our families may come from all over the world, the vast majority of records created for them here in the United States are in English. However, there are parts of what is now the United States that once belonged to other nations and where records were not always created in English. I have years of experience with the Spanish records of the American Southwest and Mexico.
My family wasn't wealthy. Will you be able to find out anything about them?
Of course! Unlike the perception of past generations, genealogy is not just for the rich. Family history can and should be done for "regular folks." The vast majority of us come from more humble rather than privileged origins. But the lives of almost all of us, rich and poor, have been creating a paper trail for many decades.
Will you be able to find all of my ancestors/relatives?
Absolutely not! No one can ever discover all of their relatives. Written records just haven't been around long enough. But I will probably be able to find a lot of them! My results will be determined by several factors including: region where your family lived; when record keeping began and the level of preservation of records in that area; the level of public availability of said documentation; another key factor to consider is the degree to which your ancestor belonged to a marginalized group of society. The classic example is if your heritage is African American and you have ancestors who were slaves. While there will doubtless be many records available about the white families who owned them (yes, it is uncomfortable for me to even write that), there may not be much, if any, information on your ancestor(s) who were enslaved beyond their gender and approximate age once we get back to records prior to the American Civil War. But everyone will eventually hit a "brick wall" in one or several lines of their family tree. This is a term used to describe the situation where no records can be found to further document our family therefor preventing us from discovering the names of our ancestors who lived before that point in time.
How far back will you be able to go?
Since I am researching families in the United States, it is always my goal to trace each of a person's family lines as far back as their immigrant ancestors. The longer your family has been in America, the more difficult this becomes due to the scarcity of records available the further back in time one goes. Also, depending on the country, time period and records available, I will attempt to trace families back a further generation or two in their country of origin, if possible, during the research period.
Why do you charge so much?
Genealogy takes time. It actually takes more time to search for a particular document without success than it does to search successfully. That is because more and more unusual search techniques must be employed when searching for that elusive document. Each package level I offer is, more or less, the purchase of a block of my time to conduct the research and assemble my findings - basically, eight, sixteen, or thirty-two hours. Many genealogists hired to research a specific genealogical question often charge between $25-$100/hour for their time. Keeping those rates in mind, my prices are actually more than reasonable. While a few hundred dollars may seem like a lot of money, in my opinion, the information I will be providing to you about your unique family is actually priceless.
Can you really find that much in 8/16/32 hours?
Keep in mind, I have been doing this for almost two decades. It might not sound like a lot of time but unless all lines of your family are unusually difficult to research, this should be enough time for me to discover quite a lot about your ancestry. Remember, these numbers reflect only the actual number of hours I will spend researching your family. It will take me additional time to assemble and organize your tree, input data, type up my research notes, etc. All of that time is already included in the price you pay.
Do you guarantee that your results are accurate?
My results will be as accurate as possible given the information provided to me by you per the initial questionnaire and per the data in the paper trail that is available to me during the research period. But it is possible for mistakes to occur for any number of reasons. If the paper trail is inaccurate, I may unknowingly follow an incorrect lead. In some cases the paper trail may not accurately represent an individual's biological parentage. Any information I add to your tree will be corroborated by documentation. Those documents in conjunction with my research notes (a copy of which you will receive) should explain how I have reached my conclusions. If you know that something I've recorded in your tree is inaccurate, let me know so I can fix it.
Why is my ancestor's name spelled differently from one document to the next?
Standardized name spelling is relatively new. Many of our forebears were illiterate and could not tell record keepers how to spell their names. Documents were frequently created by someone recording (to the best of their ability) what they heard someone else say. Our country is comprised of individuals whose first language might not have been English. Those recording our ancestors' information may not have been accustomed to our ancestors' accents. When I search and read documents, I do so phonetically (by the basic sound) instead of rigidly adhering to spelling.
Why is the date of birth you've recorded for my ancestor different than what it says on his/her headstone?
Since we were not present at our ancestors' births, we have to rely on the information contained in the documentation to determine our ancestors' dates of birth, marriage, death, etc. Sometimes our ancestors weren't even certain about their own dates of birth. It is only recently that we have started carrying ID cards. The rule of thumb in genealogy is to use the date for an event that was recorded the closest to the time the event occurred. Therefore, if I have a baptism record and a death certificate for the same individual that record two different dates of birth, I will use the date given on the baptism record because that document was created closer to the individual's actual birth.
Can't I do this research myself?
Of course you can! And I encourage you to do so. But I already have the paid subscriptions. I've learned where many of the worthwhile websites are and I already know how to navigate them in order to get the most out of them. Years of experience has taught me many valuable searching techniques to find information that at first seems unavailable. I can put a tree together for you that will give you a direction to head in to pursue your own further lines of inquiry. Let me construct the branches of your family tree and you can then do your own research, if you so desire, to fill in more leaves.