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HSP Launches New Genealogist-for-Hire Service


Have you ever considered hiring a professional genealogist to tell your family story? At HSP, now you can!


HSP is proud to launch Past Made Personal, an in-house genealogy research service for hire, managed by our genealogy director, Katy Bodenhorn Barnes. Katy has spent a decade researching families at a professional level, across the United States and numerous other countries. She has completed thousands of hours of research and performed peer reviews on hundreds of projects with worldwide focus. And she’s here to answer questions about what this service has to offer you. You can reach her at kbarnes@hsp.org


Q: Do my ancestors have to have been from Pennsylvania for HSP’s genealogist to research them?

A: No! Whether your family has Pennsylvania roots or not, we can help you learn more about them. There may be limitations to what kinds of projects we can tackle for various reasons, but you would be informed up front if the work is best suited for another genealogist.

Q: Why would I want to hire a professional genealogist?

A: It’s no secret that family history research can be fun and rewarding. Even so, there are times when genealogy can also be difficult, confusing, or even downright tedious. Maybe you’re not sure you’ve identified the right ancestor, or maybe the records are so hard to read or in a foreign language. Perhaps you’re simply more interested in the results than the process or you want to be able to give the gift of heritage to family or friends.


Q: How much does it cost?

A: Projects are billed hourly and we have a 25-hour minimum package to start. (Quality genealogy research plus all the appropriate documentation takes longer than you might think.) So, our starting package is $2500, though discounts apply for subscribing Friends of HSP.


Package options also include 50-, 75-, and 100-hour blocks. For more specifics on pricing, click here.

Q: What does that get me? A: For starters, you’re getting the personalized, one-on-one expertise and labor of a trained, professional genealogist!

All clients receive the following:

  • written narrative report of the research and findings

  • research log of sources consulted

  • digital copies of records found

  • Zoom call at the end to discuss the results and next steps

From our perspective, your investment enables a living wage and also helps HSP continue its mission of preserving our beautiful, historic building and making the 21 million precious items in our collection more accessible to the public.

Q: How many generations back can I expect to learn about?

A: That entirely depends on your family, the amount of research you commission, and the nature and difficulty of your goals. Some projects are easier or harder than others, and it’s not always possible to tell up front what exact challenges we might encounter.

A good rule of thumb is that the further back in time you want us to start, or the more entrenched the mystery, the more difficult a project will be and thus the more time it may take. That’s not true in every case, but it’s wise to be prepared.


Q: How is Past Made Personal different from some of HSP’s other existing services?

A: The biggest difference is in the scale and scope. Research By Mail is mostly centered on records at HSP and the research is completed by HSP’s librarians and other staff. Past Made Personal, on the other hand, will use historical records across a wide variety of websites, archives, and government repositories, as needed. This may include HSP and it may not, depending on the project. Research By Mail also mostly deals with Mid-Atlantic research, since that’s the major focus of HSP’s collections.


Note, too, that HSP still offers personal one-on-one consultations as well! If you’re not quite ready to take the big leap and would like some advice on where to go next in your own research plan, you can book an hour’s discussion with Katy. Sessions are offered both virtually and in person. Sign up for a consultation slot here, or email Katy: kbarnes@hsp.org.


Q: What do you need from me to get started on research? And how can I be sure you won’t just find what I already know?

A: If you’ve conducted your own research, it helps us to know what you’ve already done and already know as specifically as possible, so we don’t waste time repeating searches. This might involve basic names and dates of birth or places your ancestor may have lived (estimates are fine!) Copies of relevant documents you’ve found, or links to online family trees are also appreciated. (If you don’t have any of these, reach out to Katy and we can figure it out!)


Please note that part of the research process is a review of leads and existing material so as to get ourselves up to speed and to place those details in proper context. It is inevitable that we will at some point tell you something you already know; that said, our goal is to build on those findings to give you new results as well. The best way you can ensure this outcome is by making sure we have all the material we need at the beginning of the project!


Q: I have some very specific needs. Can you analyze DNA test results? Help me get dual citizenship in another country?

A: For now, we are restricting our services to documentary research. While DNA results may be consulted in the course of research, we do not currently offer extensive genetic-centered services such as the identification of biological parents.


Dual citizenship requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but we can provide only genealogical research as part of the process. We cannot assist with legal matters and advise clients to retain an attorney specializing in dual citizenship separately.


We do not accept heirship or criminal cases.

Have more questions? Email Katy: kbarnes@hsp.org.


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