30 June 2009

It's what I do / It's what I live for / To help innocent [genealogists] like yourself

I've been formulating a blog post in my head. It is going to be awesome. This blog post is not it, but it is necessary so that my next blog post will make more sense to you.

Telling people that I'm a genealogist elicits almost inevitably the same few standard responses:
  • Oh, do you work for the Church? (This one comes from other LDS people who know that our Church does a lot in the genealogy sphere.)
  • I really need to get going on my own genealogy. (This one comes from LDS people for this reason.)
  • So, what do you do all day? (This one comes from just about anybody who can't fathom the idea of somebody paying me to research dead people all day long.)
Today, I will answer the third question. Primarily, I research and write reports all day. I also format the reports so that the citations and formatting of the reports meet company standards before they are shipped to the clients. Sometimes I help my supervisor work with agents/contractors around the world who help us with research. I also occasionally call potential clients and try to convince them to spend their money on research. (I have called clients in the U.S., Ireland, England, Greece and Israel. I have only made one sale, and that was to a client who called ready to purchase and had to talk to me because my supervisor was out of town.)

But who can afford to pay to hire you for ten or more hours of research? Well, generally the people are independently wealthy. They usually have an interest in genealogy or else a specific need or task within their genealogy that they want us to accomplish.

People who are just generally interested will often have us research and research and research and research until we've told them that we've exhausted all our resources on that branch and suggest to them that we move to another branch. We have a few clients like this.

Usually the tasks are these:
  • Breaking through a genealogical "brick wall." - This means a client is somewhat (or even very) genealogy-savvy but they have gotten to a point where it is too hard to solve the problem, so they ask us for help. This can be finding somebody's birth place, last name, parents' names - whatever.
  • Irish passports. If you have ONE great-grandparent born in Ireland, you can get an Irish passport. Lots of people want Irish passports, but it can often be difficult to prove that your Patrick O'Sullivan in Chicago is the same Patrick O'Sullivan in Limerick, and that's where we come in.
  • Memberships to organizations - To become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, you have to prove that you are directly descended from a man who fought in the Revolution. There are similar organizations as well, and we can help members prove their ancestry and get in.
  • Probate cases - There are a few states that require every single heir to be named before an estate can be settled. I know that Illinois and New York are two such states. Sometimes lawyers hire us to help us track down living heirs who are distantly related to the deceased individual. (For example, a person who died without children, and without nieces or nephews).
  • Find living relatives such as distant cousins.
  • Determining any possible genetic health concerns.
  • Joining a Native American tribe. This is similar to joining an organization, but it is a bit different. Many people have heard from their parents that they are part Native American, and then they seek to prove that lineage so they can get in on the oodles of money that tribes are making these days with their casinos. (This is the topic of my next post).
And so, that's what I do. I use the information we have, search for new information, put it all into easy-to-understand charts, and then write a report. The report usually consists of what we started with, what the goal of the research was, what new information was found, what information wasn't found, and suggested future research.

Any questions?

Does anyone get the reference in the title?


Packrat said...

Great post. I didn't get the reference. Am I going to do a "duh!" when you tell us?

I'm just an amateur and I always get asked those questions. Because I used to spend so much time at the Family History Center everyone (except those that I went to my own church with) assumed I was LDS. (There are certainly worse things than being LDS - grin.) Anyway, if I was wealthy or even had a little money to spend, I'd hire you in a heart beat.

allicat4 said...

This post....couldn't have summed it up better myself!

I won't spoil your surprise by making any remarks about certain types of ancestral research....but did I mention that this one person never ever ever has to use a razor? Ever? :)

Kristy said...

Cool! (And it's The Little Mermaid.)

Brianne said...

Thank you for explaining all this. Very interesting! I look forward to your future post(s).

Science Teacher Mommy said...

This is so cool! What a great job.

Jana said...

So, I'm glad you explained what you do; I pictured people sitting around drawing family trees trying to figure out how everyone in the world was directly related :) But what you actually do is still pretty interesting!