How to get the most out of a professional genealogy consultation


Have you recently booked a consultation with a professional genealogist? Or did you purchase a gift consultation (link) and plan to give it to a genealogy enthusiast close to you?

Consulting with a professional genealogist is an all-purpose tool that can help researchers at any level of experience solve a wide variety of genealogical problems

We recommend all researchers do a little preparation to make sure you maximize your time with the professional. The most important thing you can do to make sure you have the best consultation possible is to prepare in advance. 

Read on for some quick tips and easy tasks that will help you get organized and ready for expert input on your genealogy research.

While we we invite you to explore the Research Services provided by our society, this article is relevant to anyone who is about to consult with a professional - if you know someone who could use it, send them this article!

What do you want to know?

This is very first thing you want to think about. You really should be thinking about this before you even schedule a consultation, to help you determine when a consultation can help your research

General goals and questions tend to yield general advice and guidance. If you come into the consultation with a broad goal such as "I want to learn more about the Smith family" then you'll receive some pretty broad advice.

And this can be fine if that's what you're looking for. Sometimes when you're early on in your research, some general advice and tips can be exactly what you need - it's all about your personal goals. 

But keep in mind that with a more focused goal, you'll be able to receive more focused and actionable advice - that's why it's a good idea to determine if there is a specific research question you would like help answering. 

No matter how experienced you are, forming a solid research question is one of the foundational elements that will shape your research and determine your success finding you ancerstors. To brush up on some tips for forming a research question, read our blog article about asking the right genealogy research question

What do you already know?

Once you decide which aspect of your family history research you want help with, you should gather everything that you already know about the individual, couple, or family unit.

This can include images of documents, an online or offline family tree, or any other important notes you have. Keep in mind if you're just starting out your research and don't know anything, that's okay! No matter where you are in your research, a consultation will set you on the right path to discovery. If you're just starting out, you may want to conduct interviews with your relatives to gather information - this is an excellent way to get started. 

Reviewing any evidence or notes you have will be a crucial part of the consultation - it will help the professional genealogist form their recommendations, and they may even be able to tell you more information based on their analysis of any documentary evidence. 

Perhaps most importantly, this will help the genealogist make new recommendations. They will be able to build off of what you already know, and give you new advice that helps bring your research to new heights. 

Where have you already looked and failed?

Keeping track of where you have already searched without success can be just as valuable as organizaing the information that you did find. 

If you show up without any idea of where you have already looked without finding your ancestors, you may receive guidance that results in you repeating searches you have already done. 

Furthermore, the professional genealogist may be able to take a look at any failed searches and help you figure out why you couldn't find what you were looking for. It could be that you need to employ some advanced search methods, or perhaps the genealogist will know that there is a limitation to that specific record set that may have resulted in you coming up empty.  

Conclusion: What to expect

The best thing about a genealogy consultation is that it's totally tailored to you and your research - truly, no two are ever the same!

You can expect to come out of the consultation with a verbal research plan to achieve the goals you discussed. The more you think about what you want to know, and organize the information you have (and don't have) before the consultation, the more you can maximize the benefit gained. 

If you haven't yet booked your consultation, click here to do so today. If you have any questions about whether a consultation is right for you, you can also fill out a contact form and have our professional genealogist get in touch to answer any questions you may have. 

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About the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society

The NYG&B's Publications have won
back-to-back Awards of Excellence from
the National Genealogical Society 
in 2016 and 2017.

Since 1869, the NYG&B's mission has been to help our thousands of worldwide members discover their family's New York story, and there has never been a better time to join.

The cost of an Individual Annual Membership is less than six dollars a month, and includes the following benefits: 

  • Access to over 50 exclusive digital record sets covering the entire state of New York, including the fully searchable archives of The Record
  • A complimentary subscription to all of Findmypast's North American records, as well as U.K. and Irish Census records.
  • Access to hundreds of expert-authored Knowledge Base articles and webinars to help you navigate the tricky New York research landscape. 
  • Exclusive discounts and advanced access to conferences, seminars, workshops and lectures to learn more about researching people and places across New York State. 

To learn more or join us, please visit our member benefits page.​