Sometimes you get to a point in your research when you have hit a complete dead end and cannot go any further without some help. It might be time to hire a professional genealogist to get you back on track.
Most people hire a professional genealogist to do limited research projects which means they only need to find out one specific piece of information. Another reason you might want to hire a professional is if you need certain documents that you just do not have access to. The researcher can find the documents, copy them and even do a transcription (exact word for word) or an abstract (the important parts). There are researchers that will do lineage work for you. This can be simply putting together your family tree for as far back as you are willing to pay for or to assemble the evidence you need to gain entrance into one of the lineage societies like the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Mayflower Society.
Before you contact a professional researcher make sure you can define the exact problem that you want researched and make sure you can provide the researcher with your notes (legible and in some sort of order). You will be wasting his/her time and spending more money than you need to if the researcher checks resources that you have already investigated. Knowing what work you have already done will help the genealogist devise a plan for further research that is time and cost effective.
The best way to find a good researcher is word of mouth. Talk to people who have hired a professional and get some feedback about their experience. When you meet with the researcher for the first time ask a few questions. How long have you been doing research? Are you accredited or certified? (There are some very good researchers that are not accredited or certified but if they are, you know they have met certain standards). What resources do you have at your disposal? When you talk with the genealogist, does he/she seem interested in your case?
You will sign a contract authorizing the researcher to conduct a certain number of hours of research. At the end of that work time, the genealogist will write up a report with his/her findings and recommendations for further research. You can then continue the research on your own or you can agree to have the genealogist do another set number of hours of research for you.
So how much will all of this cost? Most professional researchers charge $15-$50 per hour plus expenses. Researchers that do limited research projects, complex evidence case studies and compiled lineages charge more than the researchers that mainly handle record searches. The added expenses are things like copying fees and mileage.
If you focus your request to a very specific piece of information you can use a professional genealogist without breaking the bank. It just might be enough to get your research back on track and you can continue on without paid help.