5 Tips for a Genealogy Research Trip

23 Feb 2013

Genealogical research trips can be fun and exciting or nerve wracking and excruciating. The key is in preparation and planning. The more prepared you are, the better your chances for a successful trip. As part of my trip to London, will be spending a great deal of time researching after the Who Do You Think You Are Live! show is over.

1. Check the Catalogs

Whenever I go to the Family History Library to research, I check the catalog and make a list of films I would like to examine. A spreadsheet works great for this.

  • Film location
  • Film number
  • Film description
  • Surname
  • Place Name
  • Reason for looking at film (find birth record for specific person/s, with full first, middle, and last names)

I can then sort the list in different ways. Usually I have one list sorted by floor, and print it off. This makes it easy for me to locate the films at the library.


2. Blank Charts and Forms

Even though I use a computer for much of my work, I still use blank charts and forms when I am at a research repository. Blank family group sheets can easily be filled in with information as I find it, showing what information is missing. Pedigree charts quickly fill in with more generations. I often sketch out drop charts of descendancies to help me map out a family visually. It is much easier for me to carry pieces of paper into the stacks to look at books, computers, etc. than trying to carry my notebook computer all over the building.


3. Pack a Bag

I mean this literally. Baggage and weight limits on planes are getting more and more strict. When travelling, I often toss an extra bag into my luggage. When I arrive, I can use it as an extra book bag, to carry papers, books, and other research materials that don’t fit into my primary bag. At the end of the trip, you can use it as a second carry on to hold valuable photocopies, books, and other items you picked up on your trip.


4. Tools

There are a number of items you will need in a repository. Carrying these will help keep you organized and keep you from  running around looking for items.

  • File folders (to organize photocopies and other papers)
  • Multiple sets of rechargeable batteries (for camera, scanner, etc.; multiple sets allow you to use one while another is recharging)
  • Pencils (because pens are barred from many
  • Erasers
  • Paper clips
  • A magnifying glass
  • Post-it Notes (of varying sizes)
  • Binder Clips
  • Small stapler and staples

I have a pencil case that I use to carry a number of these items in one convenient place.


5. Clothing

You would be surprised what a difference your clothing can make in the success of your trip. Dress comfortably, but neatly. One needn’t wear a formal ball gown or black-tie. But even neat jeans and a professional casual shirt make a much better impression on the people who work at repositories than ripped jeans and faded sweatshirts. And dress in layers. One never knows what the temperature will be in a repository. The more layers you have on, the more you can take off to keep yourself appropriately comfortable, no matter how cool or warm the physical environment at the repository.