Seven Reasons Why You Should Hire a Professional for Your Family History Book
SEVEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE A PROFESSIONAL FOR YOUR FAMILY HISTORY BOOK
Your family’s history has always fascinated you.
It fascinates others, too.
It always puts a little smile on your face when your noteworthy reputation precedes you, as when you’re introduced to friends of friends as, say, “the gal whose grandmother worked for Walt Disney,” or perhaps “the guy whose dad built a plane in the garage.”
Maybe your uncle’s gripping tales of life as a young man in World War II Europe never failed to put a dramatic edge on those otherwise boring barbecues.
Or perhaps your aunt’s hilariously juicy stories of celebrity encounters during her days as a touring backup dancer were always the hit of every block party.
“You should write a book!” some captivated listener would always exclaim. But your relative’s practiced response was always something like, “Oh, there isn’t enough there for a whole book,” or any number of other shy but flattered dismissals.
Honestly, they were probably right to wave off such a notion.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Not every life comes standard with enough intriguing anecdotes to fill a solid inch of library shelf.
But the collected stories of an entire family, on the other hand, most certainly are enough for a book — a rich and colorful tome at that!
These histories are as unique as the individuals that make up our families and they deserve preservation. They deserve to be written down, handed down, and added to with time.
Everyone who sets out to document their family’s history has a starting point. Usually, this is the impetus to begin the journey in the first place.
Classic family stories like the kinds suggested above are often enough to get the gears in motion. But sometimes would-be family historians are inspired to begin their projects with actual, physical pieces of family history:
- A leather-bound photo album, found tucked away in a cabinet after a grandparent’s passing, filled with dozens of black and white prints dutifully annotated with names, dates, and locations.
- A charted-out family tree, found folded up in a desk drawer, branching back through centuries and linking up to majestic looking coats of arms from a dozen different countries.
- An old black trunk, the kind so many carried through Ellis Island, discovered during an attic cleanout packed with documents that haven’t seen the light of day in decades.
Unfortunately, despite the passion behind them, the quests that are born from discoveries like these often come to an early end exactly where they started.
Between roadblocks in genealogical research and a simple lack of time, most family history projects end up on the back burner. However, with the help of a professional historian or genealogist, your endeavor can turn from a simple pipe dream into a reality.
Seven Great Reasons Why You Should Consider Hiring a Professional Historian or Genealogist
1. DEAD ENDS AND BRICK WALLS
Dead ends and brick walls exist in research just as they do in the physical world.
A dead end is exactly what it sounds like: the end of the road where there’s nowhere else go and nothing else to do but turn around and head back to where you came from.
A brick wall on the other hand, while seemingly solid and formidable, hints at the possibility of another side or an interior.
A brick wall could be the apparent end of a paper trail, a language barrier when tracing back to your ancestral homeland, or misplaced documentation.
An experienced researcher will know the difference between a true dead end and a brick wall.
They’ll know when to quit and when to continue on, and they come equipped with workarounds when the potential for further investigation is there.
When it comes to our most precious commodity, you will definitely save a great deal of it by hiring a historian to help you write your family history book.
Obviously, two heads are better than one and four hands are better than two. With a professional researcher at your service, your progress will accelerate exponentially. You could work together step by step or tackle multiple tasks simultaneously by delineating the work most suited to each of you.
Historians and genealogists bring an entire career’s worth of expertise and research skills to the table.
When taking on a family history project solo, you’ll be starting out literally years behind where you could be with the help of a professional.
On another note, your family history book might have a built-in deadline.
Maybe you’re hoping to have it completed in conjunction with a certain milestone, such as an elderly family member’s birthday, or the big family reunion next year.
When working with a professional historian, they can take these factors into account and advise you on the best course of action to create the most comprehensive final product possible within your given time frame.
The cost of producing your family history book will vary, depending on numerous factors, such as its length, breadth, and final trim size or design.
Taking on a project of this scale completely uninitiated will definitely result in at least a few financial setbacks.
First off, you’re likely to waste a lot of time. And, as the saying goes, time is money.
Also, you’ll inevitably find yourself burning cash on postage, shipping, fees for document procurement, and various subscription-based services. Not to mention a lot of unnecessary personal travel.
A professional historian or genealogist will have connections, a plan, and a proven method in place that produces the desired results within your budget.
While hiring a professional is likely not going to be less expensive than doing the work yourself, you will get a lot more bang for your buck going this route.
Historians and genealogists live and breathe this kind of research, so they will be able to streamline your project and avoid a lot of the hiccups that would be encountered without their help.
People tend to move around a lot. Here in the United States, especially, it seems that most of our ancestors were quite mobile. It’s the norm for Americans to have many miles between their current locations and their points of origin.
Our shared heritage of migration is a veritable fountain of captivating history, but it’s also a source of frustration when it comes to tracing our family’s moves backwards in time.
Our forebears crossed seas and oceans and, in many cases, spread out across the country.
Retracing their movements, finding evidence of their presence in one location or another, and locking down the documents that they left behind can be incredibly time consuming and even overwhelming for a first-time researcher.
An experienced historian or genealogist will know exactly where to dig, and can travel to the places your ancestors once lived to do the nitty gritty research for you.
5. DIGITAL LIMITATIONS
The advent of the Internet was undoubtedly a massive leap forward for human ingenuity. Eventually, it will probably be credited as a catalyst for our continued evolution as a species.
It’s been said time and again that anyone who owns a smartphone is carrying around the entire catalog of human knowledge in their pocket. When it comes to sleuthing out your family history, however, Google will only get you so far.
The various online ancestry sites may find a few recent birth certificates, death records, and marriage licenses.
And you can use satellite imaging to take a peek at what’s left of the old family homestead on the other side of the planet (if you happen to know its coordinates), but that’s about all.
Up until very recently, the entirety of human documentation existed in the analog world of ink and paper.
A qualified genealogist will know when, where, and how to contact churches, town halls, libraries, and hospitals in the pursuit of documentation that will help you paint a vibrant portrait of your family’s history.
Sadly, many modern families do not have a firm understanding of exactly where their ancestors originated.
Thanks to the Human Genome Project and DNA analysis—a relatively recent addition to the arena of genealogical research, such mysteries can finally be solved.
If the plan for your family history book includes a deep dive back in time and a wide scope, professionally interpreted DNA tests will add to the richness and diversity of the story it tells.
Your family’s DNA will provide direct, scientific confirmation of a heritage that previously could only be presumed.
The results are often unexpected and illuminating. And your hired historian or genealogist will know exactly how to take those fascinating results and use them to find fresh routes to investigate.
Recruiting historians and genealogists to help tell your family’s story will ensure that you end up with a comprehensive and polished final product.
All interesting avenues will be explored.
The reporting will be accurate in its entirety.
If you aren’t confident in your abilities with the written word, many historians and genealogists are associated with ghostwriters who can help you dial in the diction to your exact preferences.
They can even connect you with artists who will design your book’s cover, so it mirrors how you see it in your mind.
Your family history book should be perfect. The lengthy and emotional adventure from concept to print should be free from even a single regret.
Its final form should be exactly as you’d hoped it would be, if not even better. And it should stand as a cherished heirloom that makes you burst with pride each time you hand out a copy.
With a little professional help, you’ll get to that very place.
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