A genealogist is a person who studies and researches families. These individuals trace family lineages and history as far back in time as they are able to go, or as far as a client wants them to. Often, people request the services of these professionals because they want to learn about their family history and pedigree. In some situations, they may need to find out about their family history for medical or religious purposes. In others, it is simply a desire to learn more about where their ancestors came from.
In some cases, a genealogist may specialize in researching a particular group of people, such as Scottish clans or people who have a particular surname. In other instances, genealogists may simply participate in this type of activity as a hobby, choosing to focus on conducting genealogy searches for themselves and friends. The reality is that anyone can participate in genealogical research. It is not a profession that demands that practitioners have specific educational requirements or training in order to become involved.
The process of conducting this type of research is actually quite complex, which is why many people choose to hire a professional genealogist rather than conducting all of the tedious research on their own. During their research, professionals often utilize historical records to try to piece together a person's family lineage. The further back in time one goes in an effort to obtain this information, the more difficult it becomes. Most historical documentation cannot be found through a quick search online.
An individual might choose to contact a professional genealogist if it becomes obvious that conducting an independent search is going to be too difficult. Professionals within this field often have an easier time accessing obscure sets of records, and may be better able to decipher text that was written in a foreign language or that has become faded with time and wear. Hiring a professional genealogist can be quite expensive, however, so it is always wise to research different agencies before choosing one to conduct such a search.
Genealogists can also be useful for conducting family research when there is not a lot of initial information to go on. Professionals within this field have often received training regarding how to find historical documents that many people would never realize existed. Depending on the number of years of experience that they have, they might also be better able to gain access to archives that would not be accessible to the general public.