Paid geneology research
October 31, 2005 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in tracing my family tree. I've toyed around on before, but the sheer volume of information is staggering... and a bit off-putting for a novice like me. Is there a good, reputable, online service that will wade through the garbage and provide you with a well-researched analysis of your lineage?

Is such a service even available for a non-famous layman on a tight budget? Let's say I have a payment ceiling of ~$500.
posted by bjork24 to Human Relations (11 answers total)
As a former Mormon, here's what I'd suggest.

Truck on down to your local Mormon church. See if you can't put a notice on the message board or talk to the Bishop and tell him what you're trying to do.

Chances are there is a housewife (don't ask me why, just that women in the church are far more into the geneaology than the men) in the ward/stake that is very well-versed in geneological research and would love to make some extra cash.

Or their might be a Mormon geneaology message board on the web that you could post a notice to as well.

(Mormons believe that they have to baptize dead relatives in their temples by proxy with live bodies to get them into heaven -- so a large percentage of the lay population are darn near experts in geneological research).
posted by Heminator at 7:02 PM on October 31, 2005

Heminator, that's funny because I was coming in with my 'I'm a former mormon' dance, too.

My advice is only slightly different, but this is the internet so I can post away even if there's not much substance. My 29.99 a month gives me the right.

Anyway--There should actually be a family history center inside of a mormon church somewhere close. They have family history librarians who work them. Your local bishop will tell you where. Just give them a call.

Now, if you don't want to do any of the research, paying a mormon lady to do it will work, but she'll probably try to get you to talk to the missionaries (for conversion purposes).
posted by nadawi at 7:39 PM on October 31, 2005

At, they have a guide to selecting a professional genealogist. Check here for a certified person in your area.
posted by acridrabbit at 8:00 PM on October 31, 2005

There have been a few AskMe posts on researchigng your family history. Usually if you walk into your local library [in the US] and say "I'm doing family tree research" they will be able BOTH to help you wade through their records as well as point you to someone who does this sort of service for a fee. The more information you can dig up, the better. At the very least, parents' dates of birth and birth locations as well as the towns/cities where they lived. If you have this information for your grandparents, as well as their professions, so much the better. There are a few online resources where you can search history books as well as census data [I use because my library subscribes, others use's] and these are sometimes very useful if your relatives were from smallish towns or did something useful. You luck out if you get a few generations back and you find out that someone has already done the lineage of a particular person who might be your great great grandparent, for example.

Libraries, especially ones with a lot of vital records for their area, get these questions a lot and you could probably call them and say "who do you recommend for family history research?" and they probably have a list of folks they provide.
posted by jessamyn at 8:27 PM on October 31, 2005

What jessamyn said: Your Local Library.

I'm on a board for a mid-sized one, and I know that the Reference Desk gets these questions all the time. They all know how to handle it, what's useful for researchers, and people to contact for more information.

What can't libraries do? ;)
posted by unixrat at 9:03 PM on October 31, 2005

Mormons believe that they have to baptize dead relatives in their temples by proxy with live bodies to get them into heaven

I discovered my great-great-grandfather was "baptized" by someone into the Mormon Church. This initially really pissed me off, if only because the deceased may well not have wanted such a course of action taken. Then a Mormon told me that they weren't baptized, so much as the question was put forth to them, and they (spirit in afterlife) could choose to accept the baptism or not. Would either of you two non-mormons know if this is just hokey, calm the disbeliever jargon, or the actual belief?

As for Genealogy, seek out your family eldest family members! They may not know a thing at all, but once they pass on, anything they did know will be gone. Depending on your family's roots, there's also a lot of databases you can consult for fun information from Civil War records to Immigration arrival ledgers.

Where specifically is your family from/situated?
posted by Atreides at 9:18 PM on October 31, 2005

Then a Mormon told me that they weren't baptized, so much as the question was put forth to them

That is true. The mormons are real big on free will (go figure). As I always heard it, the unbaptized are being held in the afterlife. When their name is called (if you care about the whole ritual feel free to email me, as I've been involved in a few of them) they are given the option to accept the Mormon God and Christ or not. Now, turning down the offer does not secure your place in hell. In fact, only those that have known and denied Christ go to hell but that's a whole other tangent. Back to the point.
The official word is here. Though it is a news release about Jewish people being upset at holocaust victims being added to the roster.
posted by nadawi at 10:24 PM on October 31, 2005

I'd also recommend trying out Maybe get a census account first. The latest one online is 1930, so you could start there and work your way backwards. It's great because in the past you'd have to go to a National Archives office and search through microfilm. The NA is still fun, but easier when you walk in with a fair amount of information.

Also, the Mormon site FamilySearch is very helpful. They've transcribed the 1880 census and also have lots of genealogies. I've stumbled upon genealogies done on branches of my family that go back 6 generations.

Lastly, the GenForum boards on can be really helpful. Post a message with as much as you know and I bet someone will write back.

And as folks have said above, your local Library can help.
posted by jdl at 4:47 AM on November 1, 2005

National Archives offices offer free access to and (among others), but you have to go there to get it.
posted by grateful at 6:15 AM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

If you can only afford one of the two websites, I strongly recommend buying access to rather than It's much easier to use and much more in depth. Also its census images are greyscale, not 2-color black and white, and thus easier to read.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:02 AM on November 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the advice Asparagirl!
posted by rinkjustice at 7:24 PM on May 7, 2006

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