How do you get the most out of your “on the ground” research time?
I previously blogged about a trip Dee and I took to North Texas backtracking my Roberts, Byrd, Horn, Laningham and Ingram family lines. This was an aggressive agenda of five counties in five days. If you haven’t seen the post, you may want to read about the scope of our discoveries.
How does the genealogist/family historian get the most done in the least amount of time? In a word, it takes PREPARATION.
I love being able to research our family in my pajamas. The internet has made this possible. There’s nothing like the comfort of my easy chair and laptop for making new discoveries. But then, there’s nothing like walking the ground on which our ancestors walked. The fact is it takes both for us to do our “due diligence” in documenting our family histories. To do it right, you’ll have to get out of the house.
We’ll eventually have to (and want to) take to field in order to backtrack our family’s trail. Here are some tips to make this time more productive.
- Goals, Goals, Goals
- Have goals for your research trip. Review your work and know what information you’re missing.
- Know what you want to do on your trip. Be specific.
- Write it down. Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time.
- Plan, Plan, Plan
- Now that you know what you want to do, how will you accomplish these goals?
- What will be done and when will it be done in order to reach your goals?
- Where, at what physical location, can you complete each goal?
- What has to be done before I leave?
- If you’re not a planner, please invite someone to help you plan. Tell them what you want to accomplish in your research and let them help you.
- Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
- Research the resources. What family members need to be contacted? What interview questions do I want to ask? What courthouses will be visited? Cemeteries? Libraries? Research Centers? Have I made my appointments? Have I checked the open and closed hours? Will they be closed during lunch?
- If I’m going to a library, why? Do I know what’s available? Have I searched the online catalogs? What about their microfilm holdings? Have I written down the titles and call numbers of those resources?
- Have I planned my schedule? Do I know when I’m going where? Prepared my maps or GPS coordinates?
- Do I have my notebooks, maps, and cameras, contact information, etc? (I once prepared my camera equipment, had all of my batteries charged, extra memory cards and then left it all! Dee bailed me out with her IPhone.)
- Do I know what I want to accomplish at each stop? If I have a research partner, do we know what each other will do at each venue?
- Be flexible.
- Things rarely go exactly as you plan them. This is not a reason not to plan. It’s simply a realistic expectation.
- Plan and prepare. Work hard at making the things happen that you want to happen. When it doesn’t, go with it. It helps to have a partner to remind you of this outlook.
- Enjoy your time and space and especially the people in that space!
You can go on a trip and enjoy it without doing all of these things. But if you want to have a great family research trip, have goals, plan and prepare.