Beyond History Blog

Happy Birthday Abenteuer Ahnenforschung! Or: What can professional genealogy achieve?

Heike Leiacker - 19. June 2017 - Anniversary, General, Genealogy

On 19 June 2007 the first blog post went online on Abenteuer Ahnenforschung (adventure genealogy, only in German). It was one of the first genealogy blogs in Germany. Our head, professional genealogist and company founder Andrea Bentschneider, still chats there about her daily work, shares tips and informs about various aspects of ancestry and family research. Our corporate blog on this site is with (almost exactly) 2 years comparatively young. Both blogs are characterized by years of experience in professional genealogy.


The very first blog post on Abenteuer Ahnenforschung was about "Genealogy and why one starts with it or At the beginning is curiosity…" (only in German). Motives can hardly be separated from the personal gain that accompanies genealogy. Following this, we ask today, which advantages professional genealogy provides and which limitations it has. What can be achieved and what not?


Professional genealogists…

  1. …have years of experience with the various sources. The daily work with sources makes the search for documents and the communication with archive or library employees etc. easier. In addition to the most popular sources, professional genealogists also know those less commonly known or only useful under individual circumstances.
  2. …have a wide range of contacts due to their daily work. Among those are not only archivists, but also other researchers as well as genealogical associations. Often, this speeds up and simplifies the research. Another advantage is that they can cover investigations outside one’s own research area reliably and professionally.
  3. …are experienced in structuring the findings. Due to the variety of ancestors and information, it is quite easy to lose track. Especially, if one lacks the experience how to best organize the information. Professional genealogists are used to manage research results and data in a structured and clear way.
  4. …are able to continuously and usefully pursue the research. An important advantage is that you don‘t depend on your own few hours of leisure time to continuously carry on and advance the research. Furthermore, professional genealogists are able to usefully complement your privately started research as they know the sources as well as the archive laws and therefore know where to find new and previously inaccessible information.
  5. …are able to more easily "read between the lines". Due to their experience, they are able to find indications for further research in almost every, even seemingly insignificant document. Or they can draw conclusions regarding living conditions of a Person.


But even professional genealogists…

  1. …cannot guarantee findings. Even the best researcher is powerless, if there are no sources. And many records aren’t preserved (for instance due to wars, natural disasters or decisions to destroy them).
  2. …rely on full and genuine information to start with. If important details are unknown, insufficient or even wrong, no useful results can be achieved. The research comes to nothing before it even really started.
  3. …cannot usually find private documents. Photos, letters or diaries are usually kept private. You can only find them in archives, if you are extremely lucky. Often, it is more likely to make a find within one’s own family property or that of a relative.
  4. …need time to do the research. Even professional genealogists rely on authorities and archives as well as their schedules. Responses take time, some documents are even under protection and won’t be accessible for years. As one information leads to another, this can bring the whole research to an end or at least postpone it. If you want to do ancestry research, you need patience. A few weeks are not enough.
  5. …are no psychics. Professional genealogists can gather information on a person and research living conditions. They cannot explain individual decisions or read the thoughts of an ancestor. At best they will be able to make justified assumptions.


To summarize: Even professional genealogists cannot perform miracles and conjure information up that is non-existent. But especially in difficult research situations their prospects are often better due to their experience. Furthermore, professional genealogists comfortably provide interesting information on family history that is well organized and edited.

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