Help, Support and FAQ: Posting Custom Lookup Requests and Managing Quotes

Looking for advice on how to create custom lookup requests? Wondering how to evaluate potential providers' quotes? We answer some common questions about the custom lookup request process on this page.

How does the custom lookup request process work?

Here are the basic steps in the process:

  1. You post a custom lookup request specifying the document you're looking for, a target price and a deadline for lookup completion.
  2. Providers browse our list of available custom requests, find yours, and submit quotes along with brief research proposals.
  3. You review the quotes you receive and accept the one that best fits your needs (which will oftennot be the lowest-priced one.) Requests you don't accept are automatically declined. Requests expire on the deadline you specified in your request if you don't accept any quotes by that date.
  4. Once you accept a quote, you place the provider's "Document Found" fee in escrow using your credit card or PayPal account.
  5. The provider begins work on your request. If they find the document, they upload a scanned digital image to the site for you to download.
  6. If the provider is unable to find the document after a thorough search, they upload a brief "not found" report to the site for your research records.
  7. Depending on the outcome of the lookup, either the "document found" fee or the "not found" fee is charged to your credit card or PayPal account.
  8. You rate the provider's efforts and provide feedback on your transaction with them.


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What kinds of research requests are appropriate for a custom lookup?

On our site, custom lookup requests are intended to focus on fixed-fee document retrieval tasks, just as our non-custom "off the shelf" lookup offerings do. The difference is in the originator of the lookup, not the scope. So for example, large-scale open-ended research problems such as "Find everything you can about my great-great-grandfather" would be inappropriate to post as a custom lookup request via Genlighten. We feel that such projects should be negotiated directly with a professional genealogist. Our market platform is not designed to handle them. If you're interested in hiring a professional genealogist for such large-scale research efforts, we recommend you contact the Association for Professional Genealogists (APG).


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What advice can you give for setting a target price?

This is a difficult question, since the kind of custom requests you could potentially submit vary so widely. Here are a few basic suggestions:

  • Think through the process the provider will likely have to go through to fulfill your request. Consider the provider's travel time, copying expenses, access fees, and their effort in optimizing a digital image of your document. If you were performing the lookup, what price would motivate you?
  • How unique is the request you're posting? If it represents a task that the provider is unlikely to have ever done before, you should probably consider offering more than you would for a more straightforward, commonplace request that should require much less effort.
  • Review the fees that providers elsewhere on Genlighten charge for similar non-custom requests in their respective localities. If you're looking for a probate record in a county where we don't yet have providers, for example, what price are providers of probate record lookups charging in nearby counties? This might provide a good starting point for your target price.
  • If you're still completely unsure of what your request should cost, simply name a price in the middle of the range you'd consider paying. If you don't receive any quotes, consider lowering your target slightly. If you receive several that look promising, you'll know you've probably priced your request appropriately.


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Do I have to have a specific locality in mind to create a custom lookup request?

Yes, we ask that you provide a specific locality (i.e., at the state/province or county level) so that we can publicize your custom request to the providers who are best able to fulfill it. If you're not yet to the point in your research where you have a specific locality in mind, the request is probably not appropriate for our custom lookup process.


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Do I get to approve the provider's work before payment is released to them?

Not exactly, no. In the typical situation, a charge to your credit card or PayPal account is triggered when the provider uploads your document to the site for you to download. For us to be able to attract qualified lookup providers, we need to offer them the assurance that they'll be paid for the work they do, even if their effort fails to yield the requested document. However, as a means of discouraging and detecting 'bad actors', we do hold provider fees for a brief period (currently one week) to give you and our staff an opportunity to detect fraudulent activity. In the extremely rare situation where you feel a provider has dealt with you unethically, please contact us at support(at)genlighten(dot)com and we will respond promptly.


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Can I edit the details of my request even after I've started to receive quotes?

No, not in the current version of the site. Instead, if you find that you need to edit your request for clarity or content after you've received a quote, you'll need to cancel the original custom request and post a new one with the modified information. Before doing so, be sure to message each of the providers from whom you've received quotes and alert them to look for your updated custom request.


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How will providers learn about my custom lookup request?

We offer two basic ways that providers can find your custom requests:

  1. Providers seeking custom requests to quote on can simply click on the "Submit Custom Quotes" tab on the "Provide" page. They'll see a list of all our custom requests currently open for quotes. They can filter the list by locality or record type as needed.
  2. We send e-mail alerts and display Lookup Feed notifications regarding newly-posted custom requests to all providers who sign up to receive them. If a provider has set "Shelby County, Tennessee" as a favorite locality, and opted-in to e-mail alerts for that locality, they'll be notified whenever you post a new Shelby County custom request.

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What do the custom lookup status codes such as "Open" and "Accepted" mean?

  • "Open": This custom lookup request is currently open for quotes from providers.
  • "Accepted": You have accepted one provider's quote for this custom request; any other quotes were declined. No further quotes can be submitted.
  • "Declined": You didn't accept this provider's quote on your custom request.
  • "Expired": Your 'deadline' for this custom request has passed, and no further quotes can be submitted.


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The provider's proposal doesn't fulfill what I asked for. How should I respond?

Several options suggest themselves in this situation:

  • Simply ignore the deficient proposal and hope that another provider submits a quote that's closer to what you wanted.
  • Post a message in response to their proposal detailing your concerns and how the provider could change their proposal to address them.
  • Instead of suggesting they rephrase their proposal, ask for suggestions on how you could re-word your request to better fit the on-the-ground research realities.

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How should I decide which quote to accept?

We'll start by stating the obvious: don't just go with the lowest price. At the very least, take a look at the provider's profile and see what types of lookups they currently offer and what sort of client feedback they've received. Compare the respective experience, educational background, and certification status (if any) of the respective providers and weigh those in your decision too. Also, look for hints in the tone of their messages to you that may tip you off to how easy they will be to work with. Finally, keep in mind that even when you accept one quote (and reject the others), you can still approach the other providers later if the first one doesn't work out.


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I'm not receiving any quotes on my custom request. What should I do?

Some possible strategies:

  • Review any messages from providers seeking clarification of your request. That might be a subtle indication that you could stand to rephrase parts of what you've written or include more details.
  • Have someone you trust read your request over and point out anything that sticks out to them (spelling, grammar, etc.)
  • Consider canceling your existing request and re-submitting it with a slightly lower target price.
  • Try re-writing just your "headline" for the request in a more attention-grabbing style. You might be surprised at the difference it makes.

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