Preparing Your Notebook
Taking a few small steps ahead of time to get organized will help you be more efficient when you go to a new archive or library to research. Start with a three-ring binder to keep track of the trip. I have notebooks that track my library visits (and future visits) to other states. Using a tab for each state and a plastic sleeve or page protector to hold maps, you will be ready to compile what you need for an out-of-town trip.
When you order maps for the local, county, and state regions, compile them all in one place in a plastic sleeve. I also look for a map that shows just the counties of the state where I am visiting. There are many places online where these county-only maps are available for no cost.
The first thing that I add to my notebook is a list of resources already available in my local library. I live near Columbus, Ohio, so I start with the Columbus Metropolitan Library. There is no reason to go out-of-state to another library and look at the same resources that your local library already has.
I searched the genealogy department to print out the list of Logan County, Kentucky, books and Russellville, Kentucky, books. I use this list for two purposes. If I have time before I go, I can look at these. And this printout gives me most of the information needed for citations. Search for surnames along with location to make sure you have exhausted their collection.
Then I search for google books– pdfs of any of the older county history books or family history books that are out-of-copyright. Again, there is no sense using valuable research time in a library with a book that you can use at home.If an ebook is available for free, download it. I usually move them to another device, such as a Kindle or Nook, but save the pdf while it’s there and while it’s free. Occasionally I have gone back to look for a book that is no longer available. Most of these older centennial books and county history books do not have indexes, so I generally add the page numbers to the file name so that I can find them later.
The next stop to building a notebook is to print some things from Rootsweb. Print out what is available from the state or county archives of the destination state. And also, find cemetery addresses, hours of operation, and interment lists (if available). If you only have time to go to one or two cemeteries, make it count!
Use information at Find-a-Grave to uncover new leads and print lists. Remember, Find-a-Grave rarely has a complete interment list. But you might be surprised that someone has uploaded an entire cemetery’s worth of inscriptions and photos. Search by county or search by surname with county.
The final item that I add to my notebook is a list of what the destination library has in their collection. In addition to having a checklist of what to look for and citations, I also can use these lists to prioritize what I am going to do first. I make a list of the books about the location. And I make a separate list for each major surname I plan to research as well. I have found some gems by searching library sites for surnames. It was not too productive here, but I was searching for Washer. You can imagine what kind of hits I get. And the second surname is Neal, so everything in their geNEALogy collection came up.
Use all of the available online sites to compile your lists and directions and possible sources at your local library and to prepare for the trip to your out-of-town library. The next installment of this series will be about preparing your family tree for the trip.