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What is a genealogical research company, and what does it do?

Many of us know about genealogists who trace a family tree. But less commonly known are the companies that provide genealogical research services to other businesses or to individuals for legal proceedings. These genealogical research companies are the link between important information and the various professionals whose job it is to administer estates or who manage asset or estate services.


What does a genealogist company do?

The job of a genealogist research company is to manage and guide a research project for someone or on behalf of another business. This typically happens when you have a genealogical research question that needs a specialist. The research project can be big or small depending on the goal.

When you first approach a genealogist research company, one of their staff, possibly the researcher who you will be working with, will usually take a brief from you. This initial discussion is where the company or their genealogist will ‘discover’ the relevant facts that will create a framework for the research project. The researcher will ask you about your requirements, and about the documents or data you are missing or the person or people you want to locate in the records. The company will ask for copies of the information that you already have, so that you aren’t paying for work that has already been completed. They may also advise you when work you had thought you had completed will need to be double-checked or verified.

This first meeting with the researcher becomes the starting point for the genealogist research company to perform an initial survey of the available records, to create a research plan for the project, and to work out what documentation roadblocks they might expect. After this, the company will talk this through with you. They will predict an estimated timeframe for the research, provide you with milestones for the project, and give you an estimated fee for the work they will be doing on your behalf.


What do your costs cover when you engage a genealogist company?

Professional genealogist companies maintain subscriptions to many different libraries and documentation services. That way, their researchers can access the right information when they are in the middle of an inquiry.

Tracing Australian ancestry, because of our long immigration history, often leads to relatives in Europe or other continents, and it means that the researcher needs to know where and how to look for overseas documents in many different countries.

Genealogical research companies will also spend years building relationships with a network of other information professionals who connect them with probate records, which are the mainstay of genealogical research. This genealogy research network will include archivists who work full-time in official registries, as well as overseas researchers or record agents who will access remote catalogues in person if necessary.

More and more we are seeing official records being digitised. But these collections are often available to the public in a limited capacity. Most frequently, the entire record or archive is only available to a member who pays a subscription, and sometimes only to a professional member. Genealogy companies will usually maintain many subscriptions to different kinds of record depositories to give their researchers access to the best range of data. They will also maintain relationships with archivists who can help them to access rare records.

Genealogist research companies will also perform other tasks related to their searches, or engage, usually at cost, fellow professionals on your behalf. These kinds of services can include translating foreign documents, reading or translating old handwriting on historical records, retrieving records or photographs from libraries or other record repositories, or engaging records agents to find documents in foreign archives.

The final part of the cost equation is the researchers or genealogists themselves, who are employed by a genealogist research company. These researchers not only know how to navigate all the various genealogical sources for information, but their investigations will often also include writing letters or making phone calls to relevant ‘leads,’ just like detectives do. A good genealogical researcher will be experienced in unravelling the ‘knotty’ research riddles that come up in complex searches.


Who might need to engage a genealogist research company?

Almost anyone can find themselves at some point in need of a genealogist who knows advanced genealogist research techniques. This can include families who would like an experienced genealogist to map their family tree, or to find long-lost ancestors. But other people who often need specialist genealogical advice also include information professionals like lawyers and government officials, who need to know the ancestry or descendancy of someone and to make sure that this has been independently verified.

Information services like probate research, estate asset research, or more generally, estate services, often need to identify people who have descended from a particular individual. This is when a genealogist research company can help because the company has the means and experience to locate and supply documentation that can be relied upon by the courts or in other official proceedings.


How do I find a genealogical research company?

Peak bodies in Australia like the Society of Australian Genealogists, and the Australasian Association of Genealogists and Record Agents Inc, usually maintain registers of qualified genealogists who often work as freelancers. Professional genealogy companies are rarer and are found through an internet search for “genealogical research company” or “genealogical company.” Worthington Clark is one of the oldest genealogical research companies in Australia, assisting executors, solicitors and trustees, corporations, companies and custodians, to locate and reconnect with lost, unknown or forgotten people, property and assets.


Worthington Clark, your genealogy specialists, is a family-owned and operated professional genealogy and asset research firm in Sydney. The company has over 40 years of specialist experience in genealogy research for lawyers, trustees, companies, executors and beneficiaries. Request a quote for genealogy research services today.

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