Terms of Service – What you can expect

Ethics, privacy and confidentiality

As a member of the Register of Qualified Genealogists (RQG), Association of Genealogists & Researchers in Archives (AGRA), and Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), I abide by a each professional bodies codes of ethics and practice.  For example, APG’s Code of Ethics and leaflet ‘Hiring a Professional’ gives guidance on what you may expect from any professional genealogist.

In compliance with the UK Data Protection Act, I am registered as a data controller (number Z3362023) with the ICO.  I cannot legally share personal information of living people without their consent.  I will only use personal information you provide to carry out work you have commissioned and to contact you.

I will not share or publish reports of other work products commissioned by you without your explicit permission.  I treat the contents of reports as confidential, especially sensitive information.

You are under no obligation to consent if I ask for your permission to submit your report to a professional accrediting body (e.g. BCG) or to publish aspects of research performed for you as part of my professional development.

Initial consultation

In the initial consultation, we will discuss your requirements.  It is very helpful if you have specific questions you want me to research.  However, I understand that you may need help in formulating such research questions.  I will ask you to show me any prior research and identify documents already in your possession. Once I understand your objectives and priorities, I will make a rough estimate of the minimum time the research may take.  Then we can agree which priority objectives may be accomplished within your budget.  I make no charge for this consultation and you are under no obligation to proceed further.

Contract

Once you have decided you want me to undertake work, I will ask you to sign a contract.  It expresses pretty much the same things as this page, but in more formal language.  The contract is for the protection of both you and me, as it formally records our obligations to one another.  If you have questions or requirements not included in the contract, please ask.

Review of documents and prior work

It may appear that a review of prior work and documents repeats other people’s efforts.  However, it is important to identify searches that have not yet been done, documents not yet consulted and information not included in prior work.  The review, which usually starts during the initial consultation, also tests the validity of previous conclusions.  Miss-interpretations of evidence and overlooked information are common reasons for people to get stuck and seek my help.

Sensitive issues

Genealogical research may uncover information that you may find uncomfortable or distressing.  Some examples are illegitimacies, divorces, arrests, imprisonments, medical conditions and suicides.

In my experience, recent events are more likely to be sensitive, and those who remember the person concerned are more likely to be upset by such discoveries.

If you do not want to hear about certain issues, please tell me so that I can respect your wishes.  It would otherwise be un-ethical not to report such findings to you, as the research would be incomplete and potentially misleading.

Unsuccessful searches, inconclusive evidence and time limits

Record destruction, indexing errors and unexpected ancestor behavior are just some of the reasons why I might not find a particular person.  Sometimes there is no direct ‘smoking gun’ evidence that identifies a person or relationship.  Seeking alternative records, employing different search strategies and broadening the enquiry may provide the answer to the research question.  All this takes my time, which is what you pay for.

If it seems that I cannot meet your objectives in the agreed time, I will discuss the alternatives with you.

Why a Report? Why not just give me copies of the documents? Why cite sources?

Writing the report is an integral part of the research process, which I start drafting at the beginning of work. It forces the researcher to address incomplete searches, critically examine the evidence and come to properly reasoned conclusions.  Copies of documents are important for you to see.  The report explains how they are relevant to your family history.  The report lays out research and findings, both positive and negative, so that any future researcher should not need to repeat the work.  Without source citations, future researchers cannot easily find and examine the documents or make new assessments of the evidence.

Copyright and Permissions

I assert copyright of the reports I create, but I also give clients permission to make limited copies to share with friends and family, and for personal study.  Individual facts contained in reports are not subject to copyright, but the arrangement, interpretation, compilation, analysis and conclusions drawn from them are.  I require that permitted copies are complete and un-altered, including my name and copyright statement.  My professional reputation could be compromised if someone passed off my work as their own, or distributed partial or altered reports.

Reports may contain material that is the copyright of a third party.  Images of original documents are a typical example.  Although many original documents are not themselves subject to copyright, film and digital image copies are.  Archives and online repositories may also impose restrictions on what I may copy and how I may use copies I have made.

Some clients may wish to distribute a report more widely through publication on the internet, in print or otherwise.  I will not unreasonably withhold permission for publication in a manner that is mutually acceptable, and will seek permission from third party copyright holders as necessary.

Payment

I charge an hourly rate for the time I spend on research, analysis and report preparation.  I charge expenses (e.g. birth, marriage & death certificates, postage) at cost, and travel at 45p per mile.  I accept payment by PayPal or UK cheque in British pounds (Currency converter).  You can use your debit or credit card with PayPal and do not need to open a PayPal account.

I ask for full payment in advance.  For extensive projects, a schedule of payments may be agreed.  Once we have agreed the work schedule, I will send you a PayPal invoice.

Ready to enquire about commissioning research or want to ask a question?  Please contact me.