What is the best process for tracing a family line from a great-grandfather and upwards in South Africa. What do you do once the line goes outside of South Africa to Netherlands/Germany? Who do you use over there? Are there professionals one can pay to do the hard work, especially in South Africa?
I'll start with how to trace a lineage in South Africa (leaving the finer points of hiring a professional for another question).
The basic principle of tracing any family line is to start with what you know, and to work backwards or outwards in small steps, working from the known to the unknown. You've already narrowed the focus of your research to a single family line, one of your great-grandfathers.
- Gather whatever information you have which has been passed down in your family.
- Make a list of all the sources you have.
- Extract from this material events and attributes associated with your great-grandfather, his immediate family, and his friends, associates and neighbors. (Some people call these events and attributes 'facts', but for all events which we didn't experience ourselves directly, anything we 'know' is actually what someone else said; some genealogists prefer to use the terms 'assertions' instead, to reflect the fact that a person or historical record says that something happened.)
- Assemble these events and attributes into a timeline, noting where each assertion comes from.
- Write a biographical profile of your great-grandfather, taking into account all of the evidence you have gathered so far.
- Make a Research Plan, outlining the information you would like to know.
All of these steps help whether you are doing the work yourself, or hiring someone else -- any researcher you hire will need to have enough information to recognize that they have located the right person, in order to do this work for you.
Here are some basic links for getting started in South African research:
- Conrod Mercer's website South African Genealogy
- Beginners Guide To South African Research by Rosemary Dixon-Smith, of Mole's Genealogy Blog
- Getting Started with South Africa Research from the FamilySearch Wiki (note their link to Rosemary Dixon-Smith's Beginner's Guide is currently broken; as I write this, the link above is working)
- The South Africa portal on Cyndi's List