Successful Research Trips

by Ruby Coleman

Half of the fun getting to your destination is the planning and packing. Just as you should not leave home without the necessities in your suitcase, you should not begin a genealogical research trip without preparation. Summer is a great time to travel, visit relatives, cemeteries, courthouses and libraries. It is important to have everything prepared in advance in order to have a successful trip.

As I have mentioned before, establish a goal for your research trips. Focus on that goal by reviewing your charts and data, along with research calendars and notes. Whether you are toting a laptop computer on the trip or carrying a Palm Pilot, you may wish to print out specific Ancestral Charts and Family Group Sheets which pertain to your research goal. Never take original documents on research trip. Make copies of data that you need to keep in mind or have at hand to compare and review.

At this point you have a good deal to handle ... laptop computer in a carrying case, along with all the additional items that go with it and files or notebooks of charts, forms and copies. But there is more that you may need.

Determine where you are going and secure maps that will help you along the way. Using Internet sites such as the USGS National Mapping Information at , you can easily locate everything from streams to communities and cemeteries. Print off the maps that will be helpful in finding these locations. Other web pages that have maps, particularly those for locating the streets where relatives, libraries and courthouses are located can be found at:

  • Map Quest
  • Maps On Us

    My preference is to also use county formation maps when I do research. There are selections in books form available, such as:

    Ancestry's Redbook, ed. by Alice Eichholtz (various publication dates) Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Publishing.

    The Handy Book for Genealogists, 10th edition, Logan, UT: Everton Publishers, 2002.

    Both of these books are in my library and are great for reference, but heavy for the research bag. The following are lighter, contain maps and good information on the location of Family History Centers, genealogical books by state and web site information.

    The Family Tree Guide Book, editors of "Family Tree Magazine." Cincinnati, OH: Betterway Books, 2002.

    The Family Tree Guide Book to Europe, editors of "Family Tree Magazine." Cincinnati, OH: Betterway Books, 2003.

    Is the bag getting heavy? Depending upon where you are going and what type of research you will be doing, more needs to be added. For taking notes, be sure to include pens and pencils, along with staples, paper clips and erasers. Some libraries and courthouses will not allow patrons to use pens. Make sure you have an ample supply of pencils or also carry a pencil sharpener. For taking notes, be sure to have ample, same size papers. It is best to do it right at the onset of your research, so don't take notes on various odds and ends of paper which can easily become lost when packing to return home.

    Post-it-notes are great for leaving notes to yourself. However, they will leave a sticky residue on pages, so don't use them in libraries or mark documents in the courthouse. Most libraries have coin machines, but just in case, be sure to have a beginning supply of change. Courthouses may not accept out of state checks, so have some money along for copies. Other items that prove helpful include magnifying glasses to reading small print and file folders to hold copies that you have made.

    Mark your bag, folders and notebooks with your name, address and phone number. Now that the bag is more than heavy, determine if you will be able to carry it. If it is too heavy, invest in a computer case or carrying case on wheels. The best is yet to come ... have fun, enjoy the summer and good luck with your research!

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