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Genealogy Research via Travel

Updated on March 10, 2018
Pamela99 profile image

I enjoy writing about personal experiences with my family. I am interested in traveling, any culture, ancestry relationships and animals.

Mayflower II

The Mayflower II is located in Plymouth, Massachusetts; a great historical site for the whole family.
The Mayflower II is located in Plymouth, Massachusetts; a great historical site for the whole family. | Source

How to Plan Your Genealogy Trip

If you are an avid genealogist a genealogy research trip might be exactly what you need to find the answers to those tough questions and can obtain older documents that can’t be found on the internet. The vast amount of information on the internet has certainly grown, but courthouse and libraries in areas where your forefathers lived will usually provide some older documents, making your trip well worthwhile.

Proper preparation before leaving home will result in a successful experience and you can pick a nice time of year to travel which enhances the whole experience.

Organization is the key to success. Decide on exactly what names you are going to research and take the family trees with your detailed information. You do not want to waste time looking up and copying information that you already own. It is easy to make that error when you already have dozens of names.

Don’t try to research too many names at once as it becomes confusing and you might not meet your goals. Make a to-do list for specific research goals, i.e. if you want proof of land ownership you know you will have to go to a courthouse.

Decide how long you can take for your vacation, and then, make a plan for each day. It is always my preference if I am traveling a long distance to pick a time of year where the weather is pleasant and the scenery at its loveliest. I usually prefer autumn. .

Berkshire County Courthouse

A place on back roads where we found many original documents to copy.
A place on back roads where we found many original documents to copy.

Locations for Your Search

Next, you will want to check the states, specific counties and citirs where you are traveling for these types of locations:

  • court houses
  • libraries
  • archives
  • county genealogy societies
  • NARA (National Archives and Record Administration in your travel area)
  • churches
  • cemeteries

Ancestors Graves Located in Plymouth

John Howland and family tombstones He came to America on the Mayflower.
John Howland and family tombstones He came to America on the Mayflower.

Get Information on Search Locations

Check the Internet for the locations to find out the days and hours of operation, make sure they are not closed for renovations, and try to find out what type of services they offer the genealogist. Make sure you verify the facility address by calling them before you leave home. Also, some libraries won’t let you take laptops inside, and I've even had to lock up my purse and just use a pencil.

Checking out a library catalog online at home may help you locate some books that will be helpful, so you can note the name and call number ahead of time. Don’t waste your time checking out censusor other documents that are easily accessible on the Internet.

County genealogy associations vary greatly. Some have no resources, and others have whole libraries. Ask about fees if you are not a member; you may have to pay a small fee. Do take a lot of dollar bills or change as almost anywhere you go you will pay at least a nominal fee to make copies.

2008 Research Trip

Ready to go

Packing for the Trip

These are some extra supplies I always load in my briefcase:

  • My laptop computer, which is not totally necessary but nice
  • My Garmin and Maps of the areas where I will be traveling
  • A camera for pictures is important if you search cemeteries or see ancestral homes
  • A magnifying glass (I can’t read the really small print that well anymore)
  • Extra pens, pencils and paper clips
  • My to-do list, with the copies of the family trees
  • A legal pad for notes
  • A couple of folders to keep things sorted
  • You can take a tape recorder in case you get a chance to interview a relative
  • Plenty of single dollar bills for copies

Utilize your time well in the libraries: concentrate on using indexes; manuscript collections; unpublished records; rare books and photographs. Be sure to check out the City Directories at the library as they have a wealth of information.

Court house documents are always a priority as you may not always get copies even through they mail some records. They have land records, birth, death, marriage, divorce, and many other goodies that you will relish.

Decide on the best location for sleeping to eliminate extra driving. I have a Garmin GPS and wouldn't leave home without it, but it isn't always perfect. The people in the libraries are usually very helpful, and sometimes you can get great information about the area from the local residents.

Happy planning and have a wonderful trip.

Book from late 1700's

County book listing couples and their children.
County book listing couples and their children. | Source

© 2010 Pamela Oglesby


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