Three Tips for a Successful Research Trip
Last month I wrote about about genealogy research trips. Today I am including some other tips, and some links that may be helpful to you.
1. Develop a Research Plan.
I am continually amazed at the number of people who show up at a repository that haven’t looked at their research in months . . . or even years. It will be difficult for staff at a repository to assist you if you are confused about what you are trying to accomplish. Start preparing by reviewing your research so you are familiar with what you have already done.
Once you have reviewed your research, create research goals. You can have multiple goals for a single individual, or a single goal for many individuals. Take into account the amount of time you have at the repository, and what you can realistically accomplish in that time. That said, always bring more items to research then you think you will need. Suppose you find the answer in the first ten minutes? Do you want to waste your precious limited time there coming up with something else to research? Having multiple research goals will also allow you to quickly shift gears if you feel like you are stuck and getting nowhere.
2. Check Your Logistics in Advance.
Because you will often travel a great distance to do research, you may try to cram in multiple repositories for your research. One thing many people fail to do is to look at a map beforehand. People often map out repositories a far distance away, but don’t look at the ones that may be closer. You still want to know:
- Where are they located in relation to each other?
- What are the hours of operation?
- Are there any further access restrictions within those hours of operation (e.g., certain collections available for only limited hours)?
- Do you need to research at one repository to have the proper information to research in another repository?
- Where are your accomodations in relation to relation to each of the places you wish to visit?
With today’s economic times, hours of operation often change quickly, sometimes taking a while before the hours are changed on the website. A quick call or email in advance of your visit will minimize disappointments. Having all of this information can help you form the proper itinerary. Kimberly Powell has a great post to help you, 10 Questions to Ask a Research Facility Before You Visit.
3. Be Flexible!
No matter how much you prepare, things will still go wrong. There will be thunderstorms on the day you plan to go to the cemetery. Hours changed and you weren’t aware. A big problem currently is reproduction policies. Cameras, telephones, scanners, and more are providing challenges to repository staff. In addition to providing access, their mission is to preserve materials. And technology is creating all kinds of problems for them in trying to maintain balance between the two missions.
Please be patient. I promise you that no staff person is intentionally trying to make your visit unpleasant. They are often overworked, underpaid, and used to dealing with cranky people who have nothing nice to say to them. A little sugar goes a long way. You might be surprised!
Here are some tips from friends of mine about research trips that you also might find helpful:
Thomas MacEntee: A Trip to Bountiful Genealogy Research
Kimberly Powell: Genealogy Research At the Courthouse, Archives, or Library