The first thing to do is organize your new information within your system. File the documents, copy the photographs, or enter data into a computer database. As you do so, be sure to record where you found the information and what condition the records were in. For example, if the deeds at the courthouse were falling apart and very hard to read, make a note of it so that you can remember that for future reference.
If you took photographs, get the film developed or download your digital pictures and label them! The longer you wait, the fuzzier your memory will become. You may want to put some photographs in a scrapbook, or scan them for inclusion in your computer database. If you recorded an interview on cassette tape or video, listen to or view the recording and make sure you can understand everything. Sometimes an audio recording may be difficult to understand in places, so consider making a transcription. Also, make at least one extra copy and keep it in a safe place. You may also want to send copies to interested relatives.
If you visited family members or met distant cousins, you may have promised to send them copies of documents or photographs. I often procrastinate this and the longer I wait, the harder it is to remember what exactly they wanted me to send them. So share your information as soon as possible.
Similarly, if someone shared their information with you or went out of their way to help you, it may be appropriate to send a note expressing your thanks. We all like to feel appreciated for our efforts. And you never know—the librarian who gets your thank you letter may be more inclined to help genealogists in the future.
My last suggestion may seem time-consuming, but is probably the most valuable. Write yourself a report! This can be formal or informal, but will prove extremely useful in the future as you continue your genealogy research. A report should include where you looked for records, what you found and didn't find, as well as the condition of the records or special hints for obtaining them. You can also use a report to record your ideas for further research, or to describe a record repository. After a few years (or maybe only months) all the different courthouses and libraries you visited may start to blend together in your memory, so be sure to write about which records were found where. If something was closed or unavailable, write it down so you can follow up on it later. You may want to describe a cemetery while the details are still fresh in your memory; future generations will appreciate this. If you took photographs, you can refer to them as you write, or include them with your report.
After all the time and expense that goes into planning a successful research trip, make sure to follow through with the final part—organizing your findings. Then you can start planning your next adventure!
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.
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