Preparing for a Research Trip – Introduction

suitcaseI hope all of my readers realize that you can’t do ALL of your genealogy from home. We all need to get out there and look at the originals ourselves sometimes. Of course there are some who physically can’t go stomping around the cemetery or afford to travel to every place where a record might exist. In those cases you are likely to ask a family member, professional researcher or volunteer to go in your place. Yet the point remains, someone is leaving the comforts of home to explore the physical world where the original records exist.

While more and more records are being posted online, there is nothing like holding that actual document your ancestor signed, standing on the ground your ancestor farmed, or finding the graves of your ancestors. Our ancestors lived “out there” in the world and that’s where we need to go to find them. I hope the following series of posts will give you some good tips for taking a research trip.

Upcoming posts will cover in more detail:

  • Research goals – Why do you want to go on a trip? What do you expect to gain?
  • Creating a research plan – Once you’ve identified your goal, how are you going to reach it? What repositories, records and other sources are available to you?
  • Accessing online catalogs, maps, index and other web information – Once you know where you are going, how will you know which repositories have the records?
  • Creating a research log – Once you know where you are going and what you expect to find there, how will you keep your research organized?
  • Using maps to plan – Either on your drive to you destination or while you are in an area, how will you know the most efficient way to reach all of your desired locations? What other opportunities exist for research while you are on your way? Are there cemeteries along the way for other lines you are researching?
  • What to bring – Depending on whether you fly or drive, your space may be limited. What should you bring to assist in your research?
  • Involving kids and other family members – If you have younger children, what are some ways to involve them on the research trip? Other family members might also like to help and I’ll share some experiences I’ve had with my family.

Some of my most memorable times have been on research trips, especially when I’ve engaged my children and other family members in the process. By sharing some of the tips, pitfalls and successes I’ve had, I hope you will venture out and do some on site researching if you haven’t already. If you have taken a research trip, I hope you will pick up something you didn’t know before, and I hope you will share any of your own tips in the comments. Mostly, I hope to see you “out there” sometime!

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