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Image by Niels Weiss

FAQ

Questions

1 / Tell me more about your rates.

With many professional genealogists charging over $100 per hour, my current pricing (as low as $45/hour if you purchase the 7-hour package) may seem quite low—especially for someone with my decades of experience. However, I’m not a certified genealogist and I’m not aiming to build a big genealogy business. Instead, my goal is to find my stride in doing something I love while helping people discover their roots, all within a reasonable fee structure. 

2 / Why is a “starter tree” your offering?

I am offering these basic trees as a side gig because I love doing this work. In a relatively small number of hours I can create a foundation that hopefully sparks interest in a client continuing to build on the starter tree. Even a basic family tree offers a rich sense of your roots.

3 / What if I already have a simple family tree on Ancestry.com?

That’s great! That means I can spend my research time helping to expand that tree, adding detail to your chosen starting point. I will need to gain full editorial access to your tree, so I can orient myself and correct any obvious errors (which happens quite often if any information is copied from other trees without verifying details).

4 / When you’ve completed your research what do I get and in what formats?

You’ll receive a PDF Pedigree chart, with basic details on your direct ancestors, including references to sources.  You’ll also get a GEDCOM file (.ged) of the entire tree created, which includes collateral lines (i.e., siblings, spouses, cousins). I will also select a few historical documents to include in .jpeg format. Due to technical limitations, it is not possible to download and attach all the historical documents found for a particular tree. However, I will guide you on how to access and navigate those records, as well as how to utilize your .ged file.  

5 / How come you can’t guarantee a tree with several generations?

Everyone has a unique family, and for a variety of reasons, records don’t exist for every place and every time period. Also, some names are quite common, which can be exacerbated by children being named after relatives. For example, searching for John Smith and Mary Jones might take several hours just to determine which Smith and Jones families are the ones we should be researching. This is why there are no guarantees, although every research project will get you some answers, or at least eliminate unhelpful or incorrect information.

6 / What if I want to learn more about what you discover but don’t have the time to do it myself? Are you available for further research, or can you help me break through a known brick wall in my own research?

Depending on my availability and the scope of what is discovered in the initial tree, maybe I can be of further help. If that seems possible, we can come up with a set number of hours for my additional services. As for brick walls, if you’ve banged your head against a wall for years, I don’t want to do the same! But depending on the nature of the brick wall, I’ll consider looking over what you’ve done within a set number of hours. Perhaps a fresh eye is exactly what you need. And for Italian research in particular, I may be able to make progress toward overcoming your brick wall. But the nature of the genealogy beast is “no guarantees” on what I might (or might not) find!

7 / I’m pretty sure my tree won’t go back that far. Why should I bother?

First of all, you might be surprised at how far you’ll be able to go back—if not now, then eventually. And when doing genealogy, researching the lateral (sibling) branches—in addition to one’s direct ancestors—can often bring rewards. Not only can it help you find crucial information to help you reach farther back on your own line, it can lead to a plethora of cousins—often fellow researchers and interesting people. For example, I’ve met people around the globe (both online and in person) who have not only added spice to my research, but to my travels too. So, you may not find a deep history of direct ancestors, but putting in the research time could yield quite a bit of rich family history and other connections.

8 / Do you only research families from the USA?

The bulk of my experience is with families currently located in the USA. While I’m most comfortable with American and Italian documents, my research has led to records from a variety of countries. If your family originates from an English-speaking country outside the USA, please reach out and tell me a little more about location and historic time frame you’re curious about: I will see if I have access to the required resources and let you know if I can help you. 

9 / What about DNA testing?

It can be very useful in research, particularly if you know very little about your ancestry. A DNA test can help clarify and enrich your tree, offer clues to solve mysteries, and connect you to “cousin” collaborators. It might also bring up unexpected or even uncomfortable surprises. This Wikipedia article gives a general overview on genetic genealogy testing, and there’s plenty more to learn via online searching. The current consensus  for anyone wanting the simplest way to open the door to DNA testing for genealogy is to: 1) Order a test from AncestryDNA; 2) Download the data and upload to MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA (free or nominal fee). This allows you to maximize a single test, since you can gain access to three databases for a broader spectrum of results and a larger pool of matches.  And better yet, if you can get your parent/s to test, your results will already be one generation richer.

10 / How far back have you gone on your family tree?

On one Italian line, I’ve been able to go 10 generations back to 8th great-grandparents, who lived in the early 1600s. Most of my lines end in the 18th or 19th century. With DNA detective work, I’m also close to proving an unexpected Early American, pre-Revolutionary line. Time will tell if the brick walls in my own family tree can be dismantled!

11 / How far back can one get with Italian records?

Italy has an abundance of digitized records, with new ones coming out regularly. Depending on the location, some government records go back to the early 1800s, and many of them include baptismal records that were needed to qualify a marriage. So if you’re lucky, you can get back to the 1700s. There are also church records available online for many villages, and I’ve seen several that go back to the 1500s (even if some years might be spotty). Countless churches in Italy also hold physical records that have not been digitized. And personally speaking, I know that through travel and persistence it may be possible to access those too. (Perhaps this will be your inspiration to sign up for an Italian class and make a trip to Italy!) 

12 / Can you help me get Italian Citizenship?

If you have Italian ancestors, I may be able to help you determine whether you’re eligible for Italian Citizenship. If it appears that you are eligible (based on discoverable naturalization records), I can lay out next steps, how the process generally works, and make recommendations. Although I’ve successfully navigated Italian citizenship for my family and others, I’m not a full service dual-citizenship consultant. If that’s what you need, I’m happy to guide you in the right direction.

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