Affordable Genealogy

Boosting Your Start for Your Family Tree

It’s hard to get started in genealogy, especially if you’ve never done it before, and an Ancestry membership is expensive. Also, finding a professional genealogist can be a baffling challenge. Who to pick? Will they understand what I want? Can I afford them?

So here’s the deal:

  • I have almost 40 years of genealogical research experience and an Ancestry membership I’d like to have help funding.
    • I’m also a big ol’ queer, if that makes any difference to you (and yes, I do think of queer things when I look through family trees — that cousin in the 1920s who lived 40 years with another woman? mmm-hmmm).
  • You have a family tree you might be interested in, whether you want to know some of your ancestors’ names for religious purposes, your kids/siblings/parents/other relatives are asking questions, or you’re just curious.

Let’s help each other out!

The Process

  1. Send me money for what you want (see What You Get below) and the best email address to contact you:
  2. I’ll email you to confirm receipt with a list of questions: that’s your chance to give me whatever you’ve got: names, birth/death/marriage dates, and locations. 
  3. You email me your information.
  4. I’ll email to confirm receipt, ask any clarifying questions, and provide you with approximate timing for my response.
  5. I create a locked family tree on Ancestry and go digging.
  6. I provide you with whatever level of deliverable you have paid for.
  7. You enjoy your newfound family tree information!
  8. (optional) If you want, we can talk about expanding the tree, getting more writeup, that sort of thing, and what the pricing on that would be.

If I run into challenges that are insurmountable using my normal resources, I will email and we can discuss. If I’m unable to provide you the deliverable or an agreed-upon alternative (see Caveats, below), I will refund you.

What You Get

$25: The Basics

I will spend 2-3 hours driving your family tree straight back as far as I can reasonably go. After that, I will download and send you the GED file so you can upload it to your own family tree program, as well as inviting you to the Ancestry tree for you to peruse and edit. 

$50: Names and Numbers

I do the same as I did at the $25 level, as well as sending you a text summary of the tree, with names and birth and death dates. Eg (fictional): 

Jane Smith (1857-1932)
married ca 1880
James Jones (1855-1932)
2 children:
Augustus (1875-1918)
Ophelia (1879-1970)

$100: Essential Storyline

Same as the $25 level, but the writeup is in short, readable, surface-level biographic blurbs back to the great-great-grandparents level. Eg (also fictional):

Jane Smith was born on August 4, 1857, in England. She emigrated to the US around 1880, and married James Jones in Philadelphia. They had 2 children: Augustus (1875-1918) and Ophelia (1879-1970). Jane died on February 2, 1932. James died on March 25, 1932.

$250: Whole Kit and Kaboodle

Same as the $25 level, but the writeup has more depth in that I’ll go digging into the records (back to the great-great-grandparent level) for information deeper in the documents, such as cause of death, immigrant ship name, cemetery where they’re buried, that sort of thing. I might go hunting for other sites/books/newspapers that could have more information about particularly interesting-looking people (distinctive names, startlingly short lives, death certificates that have no cause of death but clearly indicate an inquest, that sort of thing). Eg (utterly fictional):

Jane Smith was born on August 4, 1857, in London, England. She emigrated to the US in 1880 on the ship Hesperus, and married James Jones (born April 15, 1855, to James Jones Sr and Eliza Divine in Pennsylvania) in Philadelphia, at St Mary’s Episcopal Church on Broad Street. They had 2 children: Augustus (1875-1918), who died in France in World War I, and Ophelia (1879-1970). In 1920, they were living in Germantown, and appeared to still be there in 1930. Jane died on February 2, 1932, of pneumonia. James died on March 25, 1932, at the Old Man’s Home in Philadelphia, of heart disease contributed to by senility.

Want More?

Beyond this point, if you want more breadth of family and/or depth of research, we can discuss the possibilities, potential pricing, and probable timing. I do write full-blown books about family research, but these are very time-intensive and can take me more than a year to create. For instance, I started working on a new one in January and here in October, I’m at about a halfway point of a large family tree (2000 people and expanding) first draft, which translates to 45 pages of a single-spaced Word document. Then there’s a revision draft, proofing, diagrams, and layout. A book would be priced accordingly.


My research is dependent upon the databases available. What I can find depends entirely upon what’s out there. If no one’s managed to convince New York City to license their marriage registry through 1960, then I’m not gonna be able to dig that up. Some states have better records than others. Minnesota and California, for instance, have fantastic birth records. Florida has great marriage and divorce records. Maryland? Eh. Not much there.

I also depend on the family histories of other people on Ancestry to a certain extent. I try to back this up with records and by my own judgment of the likelihood of the connections. This has led me astray in the past, but I’ve learned from those experiences what some of the warning flags are and can avoid them.

That said, if I go down an attractive garden path of someone else’s family tree or other seemingly likely records and it turns out to be wrong, I will do my best to fix it at no additional charge.

If I can’t get back to at least your great-great-grandparents’ level, I can instead go outward, pulling in information on aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’ll let you know before I do this, though, in case this isn’t an acceptable alternative to you.

My current membership is US only. I can sometimes leverage other sources to get extra-US information. If I get enough interest (and income) so that I can expand my membership to the world version, I will!

Your family’s ethnic and geographic origin will impact the available information. If your family is from a place whose records have not been translated, or is from a population that was oppressed and/or impacted by genocide (that includes within the US), there won’t be much for me to find. 

If part or all of your family arrived in the US later than 1940, the information I can find will be limited.

If your family is chockablock with common USian names and lived in big cities, I might not be able to connect up people. But I’ll do my best! Dates, more precise locations (eg, “They lived in Germantown,” as opposed to, “They lived in Philadelphia”), and middle names can help there.

When I say I’ll try to get back as far as possible in your family tree, the number of generations will vary. For some people with colonial ancestors, this can be back 6 or more generations. For most of us whose families arrived in the US in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that usually translates to great-great-grandparents. I will almost certainly not connect your family to the Scottish laird your aunt swears you’re descended from (most connections to nobility are tissue paper and wishes, and one can see that in some of the family trees out there).

And finally, if your family is white, I can 99% guarantee that the unspecified “Indian princess” your uncle swears your great-grandma told him about is a myth, especially if she’s supposed to be Cherokee. However, I will do my best to confirm or deny.

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