The Pathfinder Package for Starting Your Family Tree

Get the help you need to start your family history.

Gather the information you already have, lay out a plan for what to do next, and start building your family tree.

The Pathfinder flat-rate package can provide you customized help to start growing your family tree.

If you know your parents and grandparents, this one-to-one service can help you get started.

This isn't a generic course that will launch you straight into research, skipping the vital, and usually free, information all trees are built on.

Just like building a house, if your foundation isn't stable, you'll have problems later on.

But unlike building a house, you don't need to go buy supplies and rent heavy equipment for a perfect foundation.

You already have everything you need, you just need to recognize it.

This is where The Pathfinder package comes in.

Today it's so easy to start your family tree on a website. But that's building your house without starting with the foundation.

Stop trying to figure out what names to put in what fields, feeling overwhelmed with the amount of typing, and being presented with pages of information---all of which you want to review before your free trial ends!

If your family history matters to you, give it the attention it deserves.

The Pathfinder is flat-rate, meaning you aren't tied to a set amount of time like most research packages. It can be adapted to what you need.

Here's one way it could work if you're starting your family history journey from scratch.

You'll start by submitting your request so I can make sure it's a topic I can help you with. If you know your parents and grandparents, usually I can help but occasionally there are starter projects I refer to someone who is better suited to help you.

Based on your (accepted) request, I create a contract. Once it's signed and you've paid, the project begins. This is where the fun starts!

We'll start with your request. I'll ask you any questions that have come up and/or I'll ask you for more information on specific things.

At this point, there are two different directions The Pathfinder can take (it's a fork in the road!). We'll take the written path, first.

You'll email me back with answers to my questions and any additional material for me to review.

Depending on how much material you provide, I might email you again asking more questions and requesting more information.

If you provided a lot, and reviewing it takes up most of the remaining time, I'll put my questions and suggestions into your written report.

This cycle of reviewing your information and asking questions is the value of using The Pathfinder to start your tree.

When you start your tree online, you see fields for name and birth and death date and place. Then you move on to the next person. The computer can put up a warning for dates that don't make sense (there aren't any 5 year-old mothers or children born years after their father died---at least not until recently) but that's about it.

A professional genealogist sees clues and hints everywhere. Your family history is not just names, dates, and places.

It can be exciting to have research done for you and get a report back with generations after just a few months of research.

Doing your own research will take longer but it can also give you so much more insight into your family.

Starting with The Pathfinder lets you see the kinds of questions a professional asks. You have to do a lot of work but you're guided along the way by more than a field asking for a name.

Your interests are important and you can focus on something besides just growing your tree back in time. Maybe you want to learn more about grandpa's war service but have no idea how to do it. Perhaps you have a family story you're curious about.

The Pathfinder gives you a chance to focus on these options instead of just building a tree using a form. It also has the advantage of giving you professional insight. Most family stories have been through a game of telephone. They started out true but over time they've been changed, and you don't know exactly how.

A professional can recognize the stories that pop-up in many families (meaning you should focus on the details unique to your story). A professional is also used to checking the details (Grandpa didn't serve in World War II if he turned 18 in 1951, try the Korean War, instead). They can also provide feedback on how likely an "unlikely" story is. Although finding out a family story isn't true is no fun, neither is spending a lifetime trying to research something that couldn't happen.

This strong foundation, made up of your family information, your interests, and a bit of professional feedback leads to a stronger family tree.

The Pathfinder helps you get there by providing review and feedback as you gather the information you already have and then make a plan for what to do next.

But what about that other path? The one we didn't take at the fork in the road?

That's the conversation path.

Some people struggle to provide their information in written format or have so many questions they aren't even ready to provide information.

If that's you, you can use a Zoom chat instead of written options. Zoom is an online "video conferencing" service like Skype. It allows me to record our chat so you can have it instead of (or in addition to) a written report.

As with all of The Pathfinder, how you incorporate a Zoom chat can be customized based on your situation. It can simply be a conversation to start or finish the project or it can be the primary review.

Since the Zoom chat requires us to meet at a specific time, there are additional considerations so please ask about it when you make your request. It is also possible to have a pre-recorded audio report instead of a live chat or written report for some projects.

So what will you get with The Pathfinder?

That's always really hard to answer because it depends on what you put into it.

I highly recommend maximizing the back and forth review/question/response aspect if possible. If you really are just starting your family history, not starting with existing research from someone else or that you gathered in the past, you should get multiple "sessions" of review and questioning as you slowly provide more and more information you didn't realize you had. This of course requires you answer the questions and find more information. What you put into it greatly impacts what you get out.

If you do have existing information or happen to be able to write down a lot of what you know about your family, you will mainly get a review followed by a written report. Whenever possible I try and ask any questions I have and get your feedback before I write the final report but sometimes there is so much information to review, that isn't possible.

Finally, realize The Pathfinder is part of my "done-with-you" services. That means your participation affects the outcome. If you don't respond, I have to wrap up the written report with what I've done, even if it's less than ideal.

The Pathfinder is ideal for people who want to participate or would rather participate to save over the cost of a "done-for-you" project.

If you prefer to pay to have research done for you, The Pathfinder can still be a starting place so you can get a (very) customized quote for a full-research project. You should gather everything you have so you can provide it at the start. If you don't know what to provide, you need to participate as described although you might like to use a Zoom chat or "mini-VIP Day" option to complete the initial Pathfinder as quickly as possible.

Submit your Pathfinder request, here.