♦ FAQ ♦
- How long will it take to you to research my family?
I can't really answer this question. Even knowing some details about your family history, I cannot determine how long it will take me to exhaust my resources. I may find that I have no access to records, or I may find vital records in your ancestral village going back two hundred years. Either way, I can never be sure how much I will find about your family. That is why I work at an hourly rate. My first ten hours of research will usually determine if I need to do more. Sometimes I will find the US records listing the ancestral town and begin to do the European research. Sometimes your ancestors arrived so early that I can't find the ancestral town and will have to keep searching. And sometimes things will be easier and I will find a plethora of European records about your family in the first attempt. Some families are entirely elusive and others seem almost like they want to be found.
- Why do you do genealogy professionally?
I love doing genealogy research and I'm good at it. A long time ago, I once read the advice to "find something that you love to do, then find a way to get paid for it." So that's exactly what I did. I love puzzles, and genealogy is a big puzzle. You have to take all the pieces, figure out how they fit together, then search for all the pieces you dropped under the table to fill in the gaps in the picture. I love trying to think of different ways to mispell names to find them in online indexes, or to search through scanned documents on microfilm looking for that one elusive piece of information; a parent's name, a birth place, etc. Of course, the best part of doing the research is when I actually find the information I'm looking for, so I always do my best to find the information about your family.
- In what areas of research are you most experienced?
That would probably be 19th century Jewish Polish records. I have strayed into other religions in the same time period, where most records are the same format, and into neighboring countries, working in Russian, Hungarian, and German. I have also worked a lot with US records, mostly in the 19th century.
- How many languages do you know?
I am only fluent in English, but I'm working on that. Reading the records and speaking a language are very different skills. I have worked in records in Polish, Russian, Hebrew, Hungarian, French, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Ukrainian, and German. On the other front, I have been learning to speak both Polish and Russian.
- Can you do research on-site in Europe?
YES! In the summer of 2012, I spent a month in Europe, mostly in Poland and Ukraine, visiting ancestral locations and doing research in the archives. I found more information about my own family and had a great breakthrough for one client.
As easy as it is to research at the Family History Library, there really is nothing else like looking through the original books and searching through records that haven't been indexed.
- Why do you have a minimum number of hours?
While some look-ups are quick and easy, in-depth research takes time. Some of the time is often spent organizing what clients send to me and figuring out what research can be done. Some of the time is spent doing the research and/or translating records. And some time is needed to write a proper research report. I have found that ten hours is usually just the right amount of time to begin the research and get an idea for how much more there may be in the records for a family.
- Why are you so interested in genealogy?
I have given several answers to that over the years. I used to say that I was looking for cousins with my surname. (My father is an only child, as is his only Feldstein cousin, a female.) The truth is, it's a lot of things. A fourth grade assignment got me curious, and my grandparents soon told me that they were from families of 5, 8, and 12 children. I went to a cousin's bar mitzvah when I was three, didn't remember any of it except that there were a lot of relatives in attendance, and hadn't been back to Canada since (until I started doing genealogy research). I knew I had a lot of relatives, I just didn't know any of them.
As another curiosity, I once looked up the Cancer-Leo cusp horoscope (I'm on the cusp, depending on which transition dates you go by) and it actually pointed out that the Cancer-Leo has an interest in family history. Not that I'm saying that I believe in horoscopes, but there are a lot of genealogists who have birthdays within a week of that time.
- So, now that you've met many of your relatives, how do you keep them interested in your research? How do you get them to contribute?
You can try, but I don't think you can make someone more interested in their family than they already are. Some will be more interested than others. Some will keep you more informed. You may find a few close friends among your relatives and keep in constant contact. You'll usually get updates from them.
I have gathered a lot of information from my relatives. Most of it comes when I visit them in person and not when I simply ask via mail. Some are much more open about sharing, and others need to be coaxed a little. Some have helped monetarily, while others help by giving me a place to stay and feeding me when I'm in their neighborhood.
Keeping them interested is even harder. I began publishing a family newsletter in 2004. Over time, many have come to anticipate each annual issue.