Just a handful of
Frequently asked questions
(or ones that at least should be!)
How does this whole thing work, anyway?
Thing of it like ordering a fast-food burger. You decide what you want and how you want it, order it from the menu, submit payment, and wait for your order to come up. If you are not sure what searches you'd like to run, I might suggest some but shall await your approval and payment before proceeding.
Could you just pick out some searches for me? Here is my family data.
What I try to offer here is a low-impact low-budget solution for those who need NJ research. While I can offer some direction, I prefer that you first indicate what matters in your family you would most like to look into. After all, you have already put much more thought into your own tree than I ever can, and that is of great value. Tell me what you wish to accomplish and I'll tell you how we might go about it.
How long should this take?
It depends on the timing. You might be holding results in less than a week. It might take a month. I do research about twice a month, sometimes allowing as much as three weeks or so between outings. A few orders, ones that incorporate interdependent searches or certain census research, may take two trips to complete. Searches are performed first-come first-serve with the exception of state census searches. These are time-consuming and are sometimes held until last, in the interest of all who are awaiting results.
You didn't find the vital record I requested. How should I proceed?
It depends on the type of record and the quality of the information you have supporting the date and place of the event. A failed vital record search could mean that we searched in the wrong state, wrong county (most searches are statewide), wrong timeframe. It is possible the event was never recorded, was recorded under an unanticipated name variation, was recorded but never filed with the state, or that the record does not survive. You will want to reconsider the information the search was dependent upon. With some failed searches, it may be wise to follow-up with a search of county records.
How likely is it that the vital record I seek will be found?
Assuming the information you provide is reasonably accurate, the chances of success are rather predictable. 20th century records are almost always extant; these are a pleasure to work with. Searches in the late 1800's mostly produce positive results. Records from the 1840's through 1860's can be extremely helpful in one's research but often do not turn up.
The state said that they could not find my ancestor's record. What should I do?
Depending on the type of record, there is a chance the record may have been overlooked. Or after waiting months you may have received the wrong document. If your record is too recent for me to acquire it for you, you are left facing the old brick wall. If your document is one I can poke around for, let me know what you need by filling out the search form and be sure to let me know that a previous search attempt failed, and we can determine if there is any cause to search further. Many times they get it right, but based on my experience I don't generally take the state's word on much of anything.
Why not charge only for each successful search?
This is generally frowned upon as a practice among serious genealogists. It establishes an environment where the researcher is encouraged to find results, even when reliable results may not be readily available. As family researchers, we are sometimes tempted to let down our skeptical guard when finding an unsubstantiated but appealing genealogical link, perhaps to an early settler or famous person. It is important to maintain a critical perspective when researching, no matter how much we are motivated to find and embrace results.
Furthermore, I have found that my clients have an huge impact on how well their searches go while I am merely doing the best I can with the information I received. Some like to hunt about running hunches, which is quite alright. Others embrace information from any source they can lay their eyes on regardless of its reliability. Searches based upon such sloppy work often go nowhere.
Why not charge by the hour?
Ugh. Then I would have to keep a running record of the time I spend on each request. Also, I never want to hear someone say to me "You spent three hours doing THAT?!" And, after all, how will you know how much time I have put in for you? I rarely know myself. :)
How will I receive the results of my searches?
Prints of all discovered documents will be sent via first-class mail in a catalog envelope.
How do I use Paypal?
If you have to ask, I'd guess you probably aren't a Paypal member. If you wish to use the service, you will need to visit paypal.com and sign up with your credit card or bank account. I have found it difficult over the years to keep up with the changes at paypal.com enough to provide accurate support to those who wish to sign up. Payment by Paypal is simply offered as a convenience, and payment by mail is perfectly acceptable.
Why is it spelled 'genealogy' and not 'geneology'?
Enlighten me. I haven't a clue.
Just what is so wrong with getting information from other people's family trees?
The internet has empowered people to do amazing things, but just because one can do something does not mean that one should. Just as the internet allowed many to invest who might have been best served leaving it to a professional, the net now allows people with limited understanding, judgement, or patience to do their own research and share their sometimes dubious work with others. Some of the trees you find online are laughably incorrect. Quite often the mistake is made of assuming that, since the person has the same name as a known ancestor, that person must BE the ancestor. Faulty information like this propagates freely on the net.
How do I know if genealogical information posted on the internet is reliable?
I have three basic levels of acceptance for the information I find in my research:
1) BOOK IT. I personally viewed the document, gravestone, newspaper article, etc., and can feel certain that the information provided is generally accurate. I will enter this information in my journal and incorporate it into my GEDCOM file. Still, there are some details like places, dates, and ages that may be incorrect.
2) LOOKS GOOD. I have found information with a reference to an original source (vital document, gravestone, etc.) that I have not seen, and I have no reason to question the reference's reliability. This will get recorded in my journal with a note: 'Did not view'. It is wise to follow up and confirm these sources at one's convenience.
3) WHO KNOWS? I have found a database, website, book, or person who is presenting information with no basic source to back it up. I now have a potential clue in my search but assume the information is erroneous and proceed to attempt disproving it. Many of the trees posted on the internet are more incorrect than not. Even the largest websites and databases cannot be trusted without reference to a reliable source. When less than absolute care is taken, fraudulent or sloppy genealogical research can become widely accepted on the internet as accurate.
Remember, anyone can collect information. You are collecting sources. The sources you uncover provide the patchwork picture of the past that you seek.
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