New to Genlighten? Trying to figure out what we're about and what we can do for you? We answer some popular questions about the site here.
Genlighten.com connects genealogy enthusiasts with skilled local researchers who can help them find the source documents they need to move their research forward – quickly and affordably. Our network of lookup providers specializes in fulfilling well-defined requests for specific genealogical records from local repositories in an efficient manner. In return, they charge a fair but moderate fee to cover both the time and the expense involved in locating the record and providing a digital copy. The website makes it convenient to find a lookup provider, see ratings and feedback on their services, submit lookup requests, and track the provider’s progress.
Cynthia Richardson, a member of our founding management team, first launched an online genealogy lookup site called ChicagoGenealogy.com in 2003, focusing on Cook County Illinois vital records. As word of her efficient and reasonably-priced service spread on genealogy message boards, she began to receive e-mails asking if there was a similar site available in other states and counties. Her husband Dean was motivated by MBA classes in entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School of Management to found Genlighten.com in response to these requests. Enlightened Research LLC was formed and initial design of the site was begun in August of 2007. Our CTO and co-founder Justin Ball came on board in May of 2008 and immediately began work on the current version of Genlighten, which is implemented using Ruby on Rails.
Our providers are basically people with a passion for genealogy and local history, perhaps much like you. They range from college age to seventy and beyond. A few are accredited professional genealogists with many years of full-time research experience on behalf of their clients. Most are serious amateur genealogists who have gained particular expertise with records repositories in their community and the documents they contain as a result of their own personal family history research. Many are members and volunteers of local genealogical societies, donating some or all of their lookup fees to help support their society’s efforts. You can learn about a specific provider's background by clicking on their username whenever you see it on the site.
Genlighten is designed as a marketplace for fixed-fee genealogy lookups. Our providers offer to retrieve a specific type of genealogical image or document from a particular repository at a prearranged price. If you're looking for someone to perform open-ended research projects such as "Here's what I know about my ancestor, please trace his line back as far as possible", we recommend you consult the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) or the Board for Certification of Genealogical Professionals (BCG) for a referral to one of their members.
While we try to recruit the best lookup providers possible, we do not require our providers to have any specific educational background or certification status. If you're a professional genealogical researcher and you want to differentiate yourself from skilled amateur genealogists who offer lookups through Genlighten, we encourage you to list your genealogy-related coursework, experience, and certification credentials on your provider profile. We will attempt to verify the credentials you list.
Since Genlighten focuses solely on fixed-fee, document-retrieval services rather than open-ended hourly-rate research projects, we do not restrict the kinds of lookups our providers can offer based on their professional or amateur status.
Genlighten.com does not charge a subscription fee. You may browse through the entire list of the lookups we offer at no charge. You pay only when you decide to submit a lookup request to our providers through our site. The fee you pay is set by the providers themselves, based on the complexity of the lookup, the time typically required and the providers’ costs (gas, copying, etc.) We add a handling charge to the provider’s fee to cover payment processing and other site administration expenses.
We charge lookup providers a set percentage of their lookup fee as a commission. This commission pays for marketing and search optimization efforts that help bring traffic to the site and enhance the income providers earn. The default percentage we charge our providers is currently 15%. We plan to discount this rate for providers with particularly high lookup volume and for providers who donate their fees to the genealogical societies for whom they volunteer. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more about our revenue-sharing policy.
When you complete a lookup (by uploading either the document(s) you've retrieved or a "not found" report) your fee (minus our commission) is credited to your provider account on our site. We retain the fee in a non-interest-bearing escrow account for seven days after completion of the lookup as a fraud-protection measure. To retrieve the funds you've earned, log in to your Genlighten account, click on the "Account" link in the upper-right-hand corner, then click on the "Provider Fees" tab. Once you arrive at the Provider Account Administration page, follow the instructions under the heading "How Do I Get Paid?". You'll be guided through the process of transferring your earnings to your PayPal account. If you don't yet have a PayPal account, you'll be shown how to create one.