When you plan for an out-of-town research trip, there is more to do than book a hotel and fire up the GPS. Any successful genealogy trip requires some preparation. Two major areas to consider. Are the resources and locations going to be available while you are there? What are the rules for the archives– the dos and don’ts?
6-8 weeks before you go
First locate where the genealogical resources are in the county or city you plan to research. My upcoming trip is to Russellville, Kentucky, in Logan County. Start with the local genealogical society.
The first great find… volunteers to help with long-distance research! So, start making a list with each of these categories. Who do I need to find in “Marriages, 1792-1974″? It would help to know before you go if they have lookup and copy services available through the mail or by email. Your list of what you can do from home should help you refine your list of what to do on site. Look to see if the genealogical society has special collections. Locate the name, address, and hours of operation for the archive. Make sure you take note of any restrictions on accessing the archives. Some only allow paper and pencil. Some do not allow photography. If there are no restrictions posted, email or call to inquire. It’s worth looking up the special days that the archive is closed. It looks like the county has a listing of the officially recognized Logan County holidays.Their website lists each collection and how copies or scans can be obtained. While you are at the genealogical society site, look for information on membership. There are many benefits to membership. Most have nominal fees, but supply wonderful information, updates, and lists of new additions to their collections. If you have family that has been in a region for a generation, you might be surprised how much you will glean from the newsletters and emails from that region. In addition, joining the society might offer the ability to access sites and collections at a lower cost or for no fee. Join and support the local societies even if it is just in appreciation of their hard work and diligence.
Make sure to check the other online resources available. No need to make a trip out-of-town or out-of-state just to tread through sources you can look at at home. The State of Kentucky has online resources, so make sure you take note of their major collections. Check the website for the local chamber of commerce or tourism commission. Often times there is a short history of the county or town that will give a local flavor. Some of these sites have cemetery listings. Make sure to make a list of local cemetery locations, hours, and print/save the interment lists if they are available.
Finally, while at the local sites and state sites, order printed maps. State, county, township, and city maps are a valuable to addition to your research and files. The final pre-trip preparation is to look up the local or county library system. Just as with the archives, find the local hours of operation and address. It’s important, too, to make sure that you find the library services and restrictions. Can you scan? Can you take photos or bring your computer? How much does it cost to make copies? Are there other restrictions?
Check to see what is required to obtain a library card. Most libraries will grant a library card to residents of the state. I am always amazed at the library editions of databases or special services that are available on the web sites of some libraries. This will also allow you to take a book or two with you back to the hotel if you want to extend your research beyond the library hours.Now the beginnings of a research trip are underway. The next posting will delve more specifically into the research plan and how to stay organized and efficient when you are at a new site with so many new sources of information.