Preparation is the Key to a Successful Genealogy Vacation
by Bob Brooke
Combining a summer vacation with a genealogy research trip cannot only be rewarding
but fun for you and your family. Regardless of whether you travel 25 or 2,500 miles
to do research, there are many things you should do at home in preparation for your
Adequate preparation for any trip can prevent frustration and aggravation along the
way, as well as making it more productive. Deciding what branch of the family or
person to focus on is the first part of the planning process. Having a purpose in
mind for your trip will help to keep you focused and make the planning easier. The
more you plan, the better your trip will be.
Once you've decided which region you'd like to visit, make certain that
you become familiar with record sources there. The LDS Family History Library offers
research guides that provide excellent background information for most geographic
areas. And don't forget to take the
research guide along with you.
In addition, check your local library for books about the county or state to which
you're traveling. It may also be beneficial to check out city or county Web pages to
assist in travel preparations.
If you're planning to visit libraries, look and see if they have their
catalog available online. Searching it before your trip should provide information
about specific books, so you can spend your time in the library more efficiently.
Also, check out the Library of Congress Card Catalog to determine what books have
been published on the county or area you're planning to visit, so that you can look
them up in the local library you'll be visiting. Write the libraries that don't have
online information to find out about their genealogical collection and hours of
Don't forget to contact county courthouses, libraries, and other record repositories
you plan to visit to determine their office hours. There's nothing more frustrating
than to get to a destination and find it closed for whatever reason.
Are you planning on taking photographs of tombstones or making tombstone rubbings on
your trip? If you are, and you've never taken a photograph of a tombstone or made a
tombstone rubbing, practice on some local stones before you leave. The time to learn
isn't at a cemetery 2,000 miles from home, on the last day of your trip.
Be sure to check sources where you live. Does your local library have any
statewide indexes or published records for the area you're visiting? Searching these
indexes before you leave may provide microfilm roll numbers or book page numbers
which will cut down on research time while on your trip. Your local library may even
have a book or two that may be useful in your planning.
And don't just concentrate on libraries, courthouses, and cemeteries.
Frequently, genealogists ignore regional archives or regional libraries that may
contain useful records.
Also, take your genealogical charts with you, but leave your original
documents at home. Fill out the family group charts, pedigree charts, and research
logs as completely as you can. Traveling a distance to check a source you've already
checked is a waste of time.
Be sure you have all your genealogical and office supplies you need. There are some
courthouses, etc., that don't allow pens to be used, so bring pencils-either use a
mechanical one or bring a sharpener. You'll also need blank charts and forms for use
during your trip. Family group charts, pedigree charts, research logs, and abstract
and extract forms may prove useful. You'll probably not be able to find these on your
trip unless you're traveling to a major genealogical center.
You can take advantage of the American Automobile Association trip mapping service
or use one of several computer mapping programs-Rand McNally Trip Finder or DeLorme
Street Atlas--to plan your itinerary. Planning it should be an integral part of the
research process. It's one thing to have to take a detour because of road
construction. It's quite another to miss an important genealogical society's library
because they were closed for vacation.
Finally, plan something for the rest of the family to do while you're doing
research. Caroline Lewis Kardell, general historian for the Society of Mayflower
Descendants in Plymouth, Massachusetts, says a member of a family will often come to
the library to do genealogical research while the rest of the family tours the
Mayflower II, Pilgrim Hall and Plimoth Plantation, all local sights. Or get them to
join in on tombstone rubbing and picture taking.
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