Geneology: Traveling for Research

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The arrival of sunny weather, daffodils, and researchers from out of the area made me think that it might be time to revisit “traveling for research”. I realize that it may be a bit longer before all research facilities open but why not be optimistic and ready to go when they do. The Hall House has been open since February with the general precautions of masks and social distancing.

The keys to a successful trip out of town are focus and organization. What is your goal? If you do not already have a goal, set one or two goals. If not, you will find yourself going off in all directions and probably missing what you really wanted to locate.

You will probably want to begin serious planning at least two months in advance. Spend a little time thinking about a problem that you are trying to solve and unable to locate in records close by that are helpful. Next get on your trusty computer and locate the library, historical society, and Court House in the city that you are traveling to. Contact each of them by phone, letter, or e-mail to determine what records they have, what hours they are open and what ground rules apply to using their facility. Take the time to look at their on-line catalogue if they have one.

You have set a goal, selected a destination, and contacted agencies in the town that you are traveling to. Now review what research materials, information, and documents you have in hand already. Examine all of it to determine what is missing that is pertinent to reaching your goal. Do you need birth records, deeds, addresses that the family lived at in that city, marriage records, etc.? Now you are ready to create a focused checklist.

After the check list comes packing. I recommend that you concentrate on packing your briefcase before you worry about clothes. You can always buy a new tee shirt or pair of sox.

Briefcase list:

  • Copy of goals & lists.
  • Copy of family group sheets.
  • Copies of the research that you have completed. (I always print out the genealogy
  • report from my software program)
  • Blank charts & forms
  • Pencils(lots), paper clips, change for copiers.
  • A Laptop with a lock (do not forget the power cord)
  • Magnifying glass for reading small print and old records.
  • Handheld scanner & extra batteries if you have one.

Suitcase:

  • Comfortable clothes that you can layer (select business casual rather than sweats)
  • Comfortable shoes (you may be walking quite a bit or standing at counters in court houses)

Out of Town Accommodations:

  • Do you have family in the area? A perfect time to catch up on family history.
  • If your research will require you to be out of town overnight, you might want to consider asking the local historical society for a recommendation of nearby hotels or motels.

Several years ago, I traveled to Grand Manan Island in an attempt to locate where my family had lived on the island, what year they arrived, and when they left to return to Maine. I contacted the local historical society/library and shared my goals with them as well as a summary of what I already knew. The ladies treated me like family. They did a great deal of research for me and made copies of many records not normally available on the island. So, I was able to find the lot where my ancestors had lived (totally overgrown at this time) and some information on their comings and goings. While it was not required, I gave a generous donation to the historical society in appreciation for their extra time & effort. Many of these societies & libraries work with exceedingly small budgets and depend heavily on volunteers.

While there my aunt and I enjoyed the beautiful scenery, delicious seafood. We watched stunning sunsets and whales off the upper end of the island. This was an unexpected bonus. Try traveling for research, it is utterly worth it.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to jamestowngazette.com and visit Janet’s own web page.