FLAT RATE OR HOURLY CHARGE. Which is better?

There are many companies who offer genealogy research and their rates and methods of charging vary greatly.

FLAT RATE

This is very popular with the larger companies who want the ‘whole job’ of creating your family tree.  From you at the beginning and covering several generations.  Most have it broken down into a rate for research covering a set number of generations.  This can be very advantageous for the company and for the client, but much depends on the type of family and the town where the family originate.  The LDS (Family Search or Mormon Church) have microfilmed civil records at most of the State Archives in Italy and the researcher can do this research without leaving town for the number of generations up to 1809.   Beyond that a personal search (in most cases) of the parish records is required.  Companies outside of Italy must then rely on a local person to handle this part of the job.

The set rate can vary from US$1000 to $2000 and more for 1-9 generations.  Sometimes including a ‘book’ format and CD with photos of the town and church etc.  If you also want to include living relatives then the rate usually doubles.   A deposit of half the money upfront is required.

This option is best for the person who wants the end result without any of the effort of researching it themselves.

HOURLY RATE

Rates again vary from US$30 to $100 an hour usually depending on where the company is located and if they can use the microfilms or must hire a researcher on site in Italy.  Travel expenses are not usually included.  This option is better for the client who wants to fill in the gaps left by the microfilmed records so they can then do the rest of the search themselves.

DOCUMENT REQUESTS

Document requests from Italian archives or town offices also vary again from a low of US$30 to a high of US$185.  Useful for those applying for Italian citizenship or just needing one or two documents to get them started on their own research path.   The process is the same for everyone.  The higher price does not get better service unless they go in person.

WHY I CHOSE TO CHARGE THE HOURLY RATE

I love Italian research.  The records are written in a set format and the records lead easily from one record to the next.  Most of my clients love to do their own research but sometimes there is a lack of records available to them on microfilm or on line, or they are simply overwhelmed by the  Italian language and handwriting.  An hourly rate allows me to give them the records they need to continue the search on their own without breaking the bank.  It also lets me review the research they have done and help to break down any ‘brick walls’ at a reasonable cost .  It’s a ‘no-frills’ approach.   But if you want the frills, I can recommend people who will produce your family history in book form.

But the main reason is the availability of ‘other’ records that are available to on-site researcher that can speed up the research  process.  In my own town of Sora with the help of these other records I can do a family tree of 4 generations complete with back up documents in 3 hours plus another 3 hours in the office to organize and notate (translate) the records and put everything into a Family tree program for just  150 Euro and no travel costs.

However, the next client might need research in a town which doesn’t have these ‘other’ records, and whose record books have no indexes will take double the time to research.  Maybe more if the surname is common and the town is large.  The town may be a good distance from where I live and if the mileage charge seems high just try driving up the narrow mountain roads with hairpin bends in second gear, then parking and walking up to the highest point in the town where the church or anagrafe office is always located!

And there is always the family who changed towns every generation when they married slowing down the research process and increasing costs.  This is something that cannot be predicted in advance.

There is no standard approach.  In the Region of Lazio, which includes towns in the former Papal States whose records did not begin until 1870, research conditions vary greatly from town to town.  I don’t feel it is appropriate to average the costs over all clients.  I am experienced enough to be able to give a prospective client an estimate of what kind of time the research will take and the costs involved. I know most of the towns and parishes,  what records they have and how easy it will be to access them.   I also know that many of my clients work with a budget and they appreciate being able to choose when a research stage will begin and therefore control their costs according to their budget.  Sometimes a whole year will go by before they commission the next stage, and that’s OK!

Parish records are another challenge.  In some parishes they are well indexed, with parish census’ done regularly and a priest who will give me more than just the hour it takes him to say the mass.  I always insist clients contribute to a parish record restoration fund which I then use to restore the books in the worst condition.  The local Diocese recognizes my efforts and dispenses with the regular 50 cents a photo charge knowing my clients will add this and more to the restoration fund.

WHICH OPTION WILL YOU CHOOSE?

Depends on your budget, your time and interest in genealogy and where, in Italy, you need research done.

P.S.  Towns around Cassino are often very difficult to research.  The parish records for almost the entire area were sent for safe-keeping to the Abbey of  Montecassino which was bombed to the ground in WW2 and I am told the parish records were destroyed in the ensuing fire.  Civil records served the same fate in the town.  Unless you can reach 1865 or earlier without needing to access civil or parish records your Cassino area story might never be told.

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Comments
2 Responses to “FLAT RATE OR HOURLY CHARGE. Which is better?”
  1. Robin Schoch says:

    I was very pleased with the work you did for our Salvucci family. I like the hourly rate and the way we communicated on line.

  2. Ann says:

    Thanks Robin, it was a pleasure to work with you.

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