“I don’t know anything about my family history, will you please just tell me everything you can find?”
Such a request must and will be narrowed down during the client’s free, initial consultation. Either in person, through email, or via telephone, Relative Proof will work with you to define a specific, focused research goal. In the words of Thomas W. Jones, Phd., CG, CGL, and author of Mastering Genealogical Proof, "Without a specific question or goal, there can be no specific answer or product."
“Does Relative Proof guarantee its work/research?”
Relative Proof cannot guarantee a client specific results. A professional genealogist is paid for his or her time and expertise, not his or her results. In other words, if a client’s research goal is to uncover a specific ancestor's burial location, Relative Proof cannot explicitly guarantee its location to be found. Over time, churches have moved, county courthouses have burned, and cemeteries have been paved over with parking lots, thus destroying precious evidence of our ancestors‘ lives. Relative Proof does, however, pledge to conduct “reasonably exhaustive research” in the time allotted, as defined by BCG, and will provide the client with a log of all the resources and repositories searched, and the results of those searches. Again, Relative Proof strives to uphold APG and NGS guidelines and ethics. Efficient, accurate research and client satisfaction is always Relative Proof's utmost priority.
"My uncle has an account with several popular genealogy subscription sites and has already researched our entire family line, so why should I hire a professional genealogist?"
Since everyone has more than one family line, it may be that even if your uncle has conducted extensive and "reasonably exhaustive" research on one family line, perhaps he hasn't had the time yet to conduct extensive research on other family lines and would like some help. Also, even the most well-accomplished hobbyists who conduct extremely accurate research can find themselves in need of professional help once in awhile. Relative Proof can be of assistance in helping to resolve issues that may have previously been viewed as barriers. On the other hand, no one should automatically assume a relative's past research is entirely accurate. When reviewing your uncle's research, has he provided documentation, logic, and reasoning for his findings? Do you know for certain if your uncle resolved conflicting information he discovered? Or, did he have a tendency to ignore conflicting issues in an attempt to race backwards in time causing him to go down the wrong path and ultimately to the wrong family? When there were individuals of the same name in the same town, did he correctly identify your shared ancestor, or did he lump them together, assuming they were one and the same person? Did he perhaps merely "tap" into someone else's "research" online, blindly accept it as truth, and claim another family's tree as his own? Does he understand what records to use, what laws created them, and who was providing the information within them? Does he understand the historical context surrounding your ancestors? Does he understand that an online index or database is not the same as an original source? Does he understand what constitutes genealogical proof? Anyone can plug a surname into a subscription database and collect the information it spits back, but a good genealogist understands the importance of resolving conflicts, questioning information that sources provide, while recognizing less than 10 percent of the information needed to conduct genealogical research is currently online.
"What do you mean my great-great grandmother was not a Cherokee Indian Princess? My ancestor was not a stowaway? Our surname was not changed at Ellis Island? My undocumented family chart to Charlegmane, or (fill in other most-common-genealogical-myth here) is not true?"
Perhaps the most difficult job a professional genealogist has is when he or she has to respectively tell a client that his or her previously revered family lore is not, in fact, true.
Please know that if your family lore is debunked, it does not make the family lore any less important or any less interesting in regards to your family's history. For instance, though there was no such thing as a "Cherokee Indian Princess," there is a reason the story was initially created––it is not often that individuals simply make up a family story just for fun. Was the story created through simple embellishment over the years, adding a bit of interest to her being of Cherokee descent? Could the story have been born from societal pressures of the time that led her to claim Cherokee ancestry over another Native American ancestry that was considered "less favorable?" Or, to that end, was the story created because she was actually a very light-skinned, African American woman who recognized letting others think she was a "Cherokee Indian Princess" was crucial to her well-being? Regardless, understanding the lore is a necessary part to understanding your family's history. Inherited genealogies are so important, but they are all vulnerable to becoming distorted as they are passed down from one generation to the next. Furthermore, if your inherited genealogy is not documented, how do you know it is true?
Often more upsetting to a client than debunking previously revered family lore, is revealing information that is simply unexpected and unpleasant. A client should understand that it is not uncommon for Relative Proof to discover an unsavory character in a family tree or to expose a family scandal previously unknown. Some clients may not wish to learn that great-grandpa was a villain instead of a hero, a pauper instead of a prince...or that he had a second family on the other side of town. Relative Proof understands that ancestors were simply people and is sensitive to the human condition we call family, thus holding confidential all information revealed unless you, the client, has given written consent to share your family's history. Also, Relative Proof disclaims any liability and has no responsibility for any actions an individual might take upon discovering unwelcomed information.
"SHE WHO HAS NO FOOLS, KNAVES, OR BEGGARS IN HER FAMILY
WAS BEGOT BY A FLASH OF LIGHTENING."
OLD ENGLISH PROVERB