Be Efficient at the Archives

When you get to the remote researching site, introduce yourself to the staff. At the Logan County Genealogical Society in Russellville, Kentucky, we met Lee and Denise. Both work at the archives as clerks, so they were able to locate and retrieve and copy any documents from the courthouse. I wish more courthouses offered this resource to genealogists!

Usually the workers or volunteers at site will offer a tour. Take the tour! It will save you some time when you try to locate items. And give the workers a chance to show off their collections and their hard work. Logan County has converted an old jail facility into their archives.  The original bars on the windows add some flair. This archive was an interesting place! It was apparent that the workers and volunteers had spent countless hours organizing and protecting papers and information for the future.

While at the archive, I write down each source, and whatever I find in each source. Hit your top three reasons for being there, and then attempt to systematically go through their local stacks and featured items that you will not find elsewhere. Make sure you refer to your list of what is already available at your local library. No need for duplicating what you can do at home. If you decide to make copies, track that in your notes. Write the source information on each copied page. I also track the photograph numbers on my notepad as well. I want a smooth transition when I get back home. I’ll have a ready-made list of items to transfer to my software and to file.

Remember as you leave the archives, give a donation. If you make copies, round up and give more. Consider donating for scans, even if the archives have a policy of not charging for scans. These local genealogical societies will make good use of your money and it’s important to help them keep the doors open.

Preparing your family tree for the trip

For a genealogy trip to a specific location, one important thing to do is make time to clean up the place names on your family tree. If you use Family Tree Maker, this task is easy, but can be time consuming. In order to show all of your family in the same location, each person needs to have the same format for the location of their birth, death, marriage, and other vital records. Otherwise, Logan County, Kentucky; Logan, Kentucky; Logan, KY will each have different lists of people.

In the green  next to “Places” look for “Resolve all”. A list will appear of the place names that need resolved. Choose your naming convention  so that all names match. I generally use City, Township, County, State, USA. FTM gives you alternate places to choose from as defaults in the list, but you can also go to another menu to make another choice. Resolving place names is something you should do at regular intervals.  Since my upcoming trip is to Logan County, Kentucky, I have decided to look at just the listings for Logan County. When I choose Logan County, Kentucky, a list of people appears on the right side.

But notice if I choose the standard naming convention: Logan, Kentucky, USA, I will actually find the majority of my  names. If you don’t have time to resolve your place names before your trip, do this process for each location.

 Now expand your list on the right hand side to show all of the details of what events happened in that location. In order to print the list of this one location, click on “Print” in the upper right corner and choose to “Print Place Usage Report for This Place”.

 A window will come up with the Place Usage Report.

If you would rather not print, but would like a pdf instead, click on the share button in the upper right hand corner and choose: “Export Place Usage Report”.

If you haven’t resolved your place names, don’t forget to repeat this process for other locations. This list is helpful when you are researching in a new library or location. All of the people in the area and how they are linked to the area will be at your fingertips.

The next installment of this blog will be How to be Efficient in the Distant Library.