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How Much Does a Professional Genealogist Cost?

image showing title question how much does a professional genealogist cost

So you've gotten hooked on researching your family history but now you've got a problem...

You either got stuck and need help.


You want results faster.

Now you're wondering, "how much does it cost to hire a professional genealogist to research my family tree for me?"

Well, that's a tricky question to answer on a webpage but I'll give you the best answer for the two situations above.

(These answers are for the United States in mid-2023, but with inflation still changing, these costs could go up. Professional genealogists have to cover their bills just like any other business!)

How Much Does a Professional Genealogist Cost?

$250-$5000 (but that's not the whole story, keep reading...)

To hire a professional genealogist to "find your family tree" will result in a research project that costs thousands of dollars. Even a small amount of genealogical research is around $1000 and up. 

There are smaller research or specialty services that cost less. Most professional genealogy services, even small ones, cost several hundreds of dollars.

Determining what you actually need a professional to do for you, versus what you can do yourself, makes a huge difference. You should always ask yourself if you NEED to hire a professional (if cost is an issue, the answer is "no." You can do this yourself!).

Get more details about hourly rates, project types, and cost of hiring in this post on our sister blog.

When should I pay to have family history research done for me?

There are a number of situations where you should choose to pay for genealogy research instead of doing it yourself.

  • You are willing to pay the cost to have an expert take care of the research. (i.e. you prefer to pay a professional to have the work done right).
  • You can afford the cost and prefer to get the results faster than you could get them yourself (i.e. you're willing to give up the fun of doing the research yourself because you are short on time. This can be trying to get research done by a deadline or just recognizing that you don't have enough free time for research or that you don't have the time needed for education).
  • You have a legal issue requiring genealogy research (you should really have a lawyer hire the professional in this case as a court will want certain qualifications).
  • You need a specific skill that is unreasonable for you to learn (such as needing to be fluent in a foreign language or multiple foreign languages---this can also apply if the skill will just take too long to hone, see the second option above).
  • You need to obtain specific records and can not get them yourself (or it is cheaper to pay someone to visit the repository and get them for you---if you would have high travel costs, this is likely).
  • You want a (professional) second opinion on your research and can afford the cost (this can potentially be a consultation instead of "research.")

As you can see from the list above, "you can afford it" is a major factor. There isn't a blanket "you can't do it yourself" issue. There may be specific parts of your family tree you can't further on your own but if you are willing, there are always parts of your family tree you can work on yourself. It may be slow going, but you can do it.

This also works the other way. There are parts of your family tree you might want a professional to tackle. And that's the best way to save money---hire a professional for a very specific project instead of "finding my family tree."

What should I do so I don't have to hire a professional genealogist?

  1. Learn and practice
  2. Get organized
  3. Be persistent

The only reason you should hire a professional genealogist for research (versus hiring someone to get copies of records you can't access) is you can't get the needed experience or don't want to. It might be you can't get the experience fast enough or cheap enough but you should hire a professional genealogist because they have more knowledge and experience.

If you can't afford a professional genealogist, you need to become the professional. Trust me, that's exactly what I did (and I never intended for this to be my career, I thought it might be a hobby job when I retired but not my first, and so far only, career. I just wanted to do genealogy and couldn't afford to pay for any help!). 

If you're stuck on your family tree and think the only option is hiring a pro, it's not.

Genealogy research is expensive. The harder the problem, the more expensive it is. The longer you research, the harder the problems. That means genealogy gets more and more expensive (when hiring a pro) whether you start by DIYing or start with a pro.

If you want to keep building your family tree, you will need to learn more about doing genealogy. I'm not mentioning getting organized and being persistent because you have to start with learning. Continually learning and researching is persistence and if you don't know how to be organized, you need to learn. Just being organized or just being persistent isn't enough. The list above is numbered for a reason.

Where to start your genealogy education...

If you just hopped online and starting building your tree, start with a basic genealogy course or book. Whether you are a beginner or experienced isn't determined by the size of your tree. I could build a tree of millions of people today. That doesn't mean any of them are related to me.

Recommendation: The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy (book)
This is a standard for U.S. genealogists. Not a quick read but you can reference it again and again. Buy at Amazon | Buy at

If you've been doing an accurate job building your tree without any education, you'll be able to fly through some of the basics. But they'll help you decide what you need to learn, next. If you think a basic course or book is like starting at the beginning (and you're way down the track), it's not starting over. You're learning what you don't know so you can address those topics.

If you have had some basic education, whether that's a course, a book, or just reading lots of articles online, write down all the questions you have about genealogy (your research or just in general) and pick one to find the answer to. Just keep answering your own questions and you'll gain lots of knowledge and probably the experience to go with it as you apply your answers.

Once you're in the habit of improving your genealogy skills, it'll become second nature. You'll want to learn more and you'll look for ways to do that. There are online and in-person opportunities including lectures/webinars, courses, institutes, and conferences as well as books, journals, and articles. These come in free and paid options and the paid options come at a variety of price points (many of the more expensive options allow you to learn more, quicker. With this option, you spend your money on education and keep the fun of genealogy research to yourself instead of splurging to hire a pro).