Is This Bill Customary for Genealogical Research? #general
Steve Axelrath <saxelrat@...>
Recently, I received a bill for 550 American Dollars for research
performed for us by am Eastern European researcher. I?d like some
feedback as to whether these charges fit within what is customary in the
The researcher charged me for travel and hotel costs. While the prices
charged seem high (the apparent equivalent of American prices), I assume
they are legitimate.
Before performing his work, the researcher stated that we would be
billed $20 for each document found and translated and copied for us. I
thought this was a reasonable charge?.BUT, I assumed that the documents
would describe members of our family.
When the package of research materials arrived, there were 17 documents
from the largish city in question which listed people with thesame?common?last name we were searching for and in the appropriate time
period. BUT? we have no reason to believe that any of these people are
related to us. We were searching for my wife?s great grandfather
Ignatz KAUFMAN, and the researcher seems to have merely sent us birth,
marriage, and death records of all KAUFMANS he could find in that city.
Six or seven of the records were about the same two people.
As we understand the situation, the only reason the researcher had for
copying and translating ("translating" meaning identifying it as a death
record, for example) was that the record included the last name of our
relative. He had no specific reason to believe that any of the
documents referred to our relative or a member of our relative?s
family. >from my point of view, we are being billed $340 for information
that the researcher knew was in no presently documentable way pertinent
to our search for Ignatz Kaufman. Let me repeat that Ignatz Kaufman
lived in a city, not a village. This general Kaufman information is
unlikely to ever provide us a link to my wife?s grandfather.
Should my wife and I have understood that we were agreeing to pay for
documents regarding people who had the same last name of our relative
but had no apparent relationship with our relative?
Is this researcher?s billing within the bounds of customary genealogical
David Bajot - temp act <dbajot2@...>
I would also consider "results" oriented bonuses (whether agreed upon
or impromptu.) Said researcher provides X amount of material which
is remunerated with Y. She spends a modicum of time on a quality-
oriented research that brings a positive result. Reward her generously
for this, because:
a) You got what you really wanted
b) It's good kharma
c) You want to reward the researcher for doing that extra work
d) You want the researcher's goals to be in line with your own (quality,
I would also discuss these matters with the researcher *in detail*.
Explain what your goals are and what is important to you. Explain
why you are doing this.
First of all, I would caution you and anyone else hiring someone in the
future to come to a very specific agreement about what is and is not
covered, paid for, expected before research is done. If you asked for
Ignacz Kaufman's death record in 1901, for example, that would be
great-unfortunately we sometimes don't know that specifically and have to
ask for a search for Ignacz death record whatever year. If you don't
specify, and especially with a name which you know to be pretty common (the
researcher may not know that), he might copy every Kaufman record thinking
he had found you a treasure trove.
It is customary to pay for travel and hotel costs; unless you specified
sending receipts, then you pay whatever. Travel is not easy or convenient
in many places.
If you paid for translation, I would expect translation of the document.
Again, it depends on the agreement, and whether he said his English is good
It seems like you asked the person to get information on Ignacz Kaufman
specifically. If so, then I would not feel it responsible for paying for
any documents which are not somehow related to him. If you were not clear
on that, then you would pay. If you hope to get anything else in the
future, you will pay him well for what he has done.
Since you have the documents and haven't paid yet, I would suggest writing
to the researcher and suggesting a compromise. You should end up paying
for the search and the travel, but I would think there would be a
compromise on the 'translation' and possibly the documents which don't
relate to Ignacz.
Finally, for the sake of all genealogists, be diplomatic! We all want
better cooperation with people we will possibly want to use in the future
(unless they are outright crooks, and this one sounds like he did much or
most of what was asked).
Werner Cohn <wernerco@...>
in article 3ACFE686.F9278DA8@..., Steve Axelrath at
saxelrat@... wrote on 4/8/01 11:31 AM:
Recently, I received a bill for 550 American Dollars for research
While I have no direct experience with the matter at hand, it is my
impression that this bill is completely out of line.
OTOH some questions suggest themselves. Just how specific were the
instructions to this researcher to begin with ? In the initial discussion,
was there any mention at all of hotel & restaurant bills ?
My own feeling is that before engaging a researcher for this kind of work,
it would help to spell out in detail, in writing, what kind of documents
are required and for what purpose. It would seem desirable to stress the
need for these documents to be relevant to the research purpose. As this
case shows, it would also be a good idea to indicate what is NOT wanted,
namely documents dealing with apparently unrelated persons who happen to
have the same or similar last names. Of course an honest and competent
person should not need such warning.
So the main question is whether this particular researcher is a reputable,
competent person. It would seem desirable to have some indication of the
bona fides of a prospective researcher -- regarding both competence and
probity -- before engaging him. I would ask for references and I would
check these references.
I totally disagree with other comments I've read concerning the $550
you were charged for "same surname" documents >from the city of your
great grandfather, Ignatz KAUFMAN. You were supposedly hiring a qualified
genealogical researcher, who should have had enough professional ethic to
have not provided you with documents on individuals for which he could not
show any relationship to the individual you were asking him to research.
At ther very least, he could have informed you of the fact the he had
found other individuals with the same surname whom he couldn't tie in and
given you the option of having him provide you with the documents on them
or not....or perhaps at a reduced price.
Now as to "translation"......identifying the type of record you received as
"birth" "death", etc. is not called " a translation". Translating would
mean translating into English every word of the document...sometimes some
tiny detail mentioned is enough to provide you with a whole new line of
The only thing about the charges that "might" be reasonable are the
travel/food/lodging charges. These types of charges should be agreed upon
in advance with the researcher with no surprises later.
The main reason I would say for you to protest these charges and refuse to
pay his bill in full is not really for your case alone. I have been
involved in considerable such research endeavors and attribute the success
I've had to holding the various foreign researchers to agreed upon firm
guidelines and standards. Rewarding a researcher tor such a lax effort by
paying him as though he had done a completely professional job would be
very detrimental to all the rest of us who might use him in the future.
My advice is to pay him anything you agreed to "beforehand" as long as
that is *exactly* what he provided. If he provided you with some
"unsolicited" documents or with less than competent "translations", I
would politely point out to him those points and refuse to pay anything
for them. In the case of receiving a useful document but with an
inadequate translation, I would propose paying him 1/2 or perhaps 3/4.
I urge the entire Jewishgen community to please demand a high standard
of professionalism >from *any* researcher and to set out agreed upon
procedures and charges *before* agreeing to begin the project.
I've been reading the posts regarding this topic and have decided to add
my 2 cents worth.
How many of us have recieved birth, death or social security applications
which we sent for and which we thought for sure was "family" only to
discover that we were wrong? All the indications seemed to be there
(name, dates etc) and yet until we actually had the document in our hands
we were unable to ascertain whether or not we had really uncovered a new
connection. Now put yourself in the place of a researcher thousands of
miles away and trying to accomplish the same thing.
Unless you specifically request one document (for sentimental reasons)
that researcher is going to do exactly what we do-look for some connection
which may or may not be there and the most logical way to do it is by last
name. To castigate someone for providing documents which are not at this
time connected to the family you're looking for eliminates the possibility
that they might turn up the one that might open new doors for you. I
offer my own recent experience as an example.
I am working with a researcher in Romania, regarding finding family
records >from Iasi. I was able to provide him with the specific years
regarding the documents I was looking for 1870, 1871(my maternal great
grandparents marriage certificate and the birth certificate of their
eldest daughter). He was able to find these documents for me, and then
using the family name, locate other documents >from the same time period.
Although many of these documents seem unrelated to my family at this time,
one set seems to indicate that my great grandfather had an older brother
that no one in my mother's family knew existed. Do I consider the
documents that I can't connect wasted money? No way, because as I
continue reconstructing this family, they might fall into place. What
about the ones I can't connect? As I've often seen on jewishgen posts
when people recieve the wrong certificates which they themselves have sent
for, I'll offer them to others. Maybe they will help someone else locate
their ancestors and new family. And after all, isn't this what it's
really all about? Carol Blumenthal-Cohen
There is a common belief (it may possibly increase the further East
we move) that Americans are:
1. incredibly wealthy
2. unbelievably stupid
3. inordinately generous
4. out-and-out suckers
The help I've had >from professionals abroad has been based on an hourly
rate plus expenses (so far, these have been so reasonable that I have
never demanded a receipt).
Remember, too, that the further East you travel in Europe, the lower the
salaries and incomes--and expenses. A hundred dollars there might be a
reward commensurate with a thousand dollars in the USA. Be generous by
all means, especially if you get good results, bon't let them take
advantage of you.
Michael Bernet, New York
WOLFF (Pfungstadt, Frankfurt/M, Koenigsberg, Amsterdam, N.Carolina); BERNET,
BERNERT, JONDORF(Frensdorf, Bamberg, Nurnberg); FEUCHTWANGER
(Schwabach, Hagenbach & Fuerth); KONIGSHOFER (anywhere); BERG, WOLF(F),
(Demmelsdorf & Zeckendorf); Shim`on GUTENSTEIN (Bad Homburg ca 1760);
FRENSDORF/ER (anywhere); MAINZER (Lorsch); anyone in Ermreuth or Floss;
GOLDSCHMIDT (B. Homburg, Hessdorf). ALTMANN (Silesia); TIMMENDORFER
Before JRI got involved in East Galicia, the Pikholz Project undertook
its own project to coordinate searches for a group of surnames based
on participation in the search expenses and individual oreders for the
It involved (and still does) a huge amount of rewarding but
uncompensated work on our part, but we get the side benefit of
seeing everyone else's records and occasionally picking up some
that the archives missed.
Some of the people who have joined this project have been very
appreciative, realizing that to do the same on their own would have
cost much more. Others complain alot.
Life is tough that way. If you ask for a surname search, the archives
will charge you for each of the twins born to the parents in question,
even if both died before even being named. But you pay the
researcher to do, not always to think. Occasionally you will find half a
dozen births to the same couple but only one has some critical piece
That said, $550 for seventeen records seems like alot to me, without
warning. I'd think that unless very specifically agreed beforehand, the
travel and food are included in the charges.
Myra S. Davis <myrabokpg@...>
I had a strange encounter with a researcher. She was recommended to me
by one of the Sig members. She was very nice via e-mail and a price was
set. She was very reasonable. She then sent me a list of names and
dates of birth. No place of birth listed. One matched my family. All
the others were speculation. She sent an attachment saying that would
explain the relationship. The attachment was blank. I wrote her back
and said to send the attachment back or type it in text. I told her I
thought she has spent a little too much time on the other names but ok if
she could show the relationship. She had asked for money to be sent via
Western Union. I had also asked if she would accept a personal check or
payment with a money order because of the high cost of Western Union.
The gist of the whole thing is I never heard >from her again. She never
answered my next four of five e-mails to send answers to my question. I
don't know what happened to her or if she became mad for some reason but
I have never heard >from her and it has been about 6 months now.
searching for: MOTANKY, SPECTOR, KLIGERMAN >from Pavoloch or Skvira
Myra Davis, Tucson, AZ