Planning a Research Trip (US)

1.      Identify all ancestors who lived in the area.  Collect birth, marriage, and death dates and places.  The spreadsheet I made of this info was handy to take into research locations.
2.      Get a map of the area and mark county boundaries.
3.      Find as many records as you can online.  I researched as many ancestors as I could. Don’t use your valuable trip time on records you can find online.  Find the state digital archives.
4.      Decide which counties you will go to.
5.      Locate places you can visit: historical societies, genealogical libraries, public libraries, courthouses, county museums, churches, Family History Centers.  Google these institutions for each possible county.  Get contact info, open days and times, and rules you must follow.
6.      Find out which records and years are stored at the county and which are at the state archives. 
7.      Set achievable goals.  Two of my goals were 1) find out what the area was like when my grandmother lived there and 2) learn to plan and conduct a research trip.  Your goal may be to solve a certain brick wall.
8.      Make an itinerary.  Plan what you hope to accomplish at each stop and have the information you need handy.  It’s a plan but be flexible.  Finding cemeteries took a lot longer than I planned. 
9.      Determine the travel times between destinations using Google or Mapquest.
10.  Contact DNA cousins.  Do you live in the state or do you have relatives there?  Meeting these people might be the most fun you will have.
11.  Contact genealogists (usgenweb). Ask about local people who know about your family or cemeteries.
12.  Contact librarians, county records department, and museum directors.  Tell them when you will be coming and what you hope to accomplish.    Email detailed information about your family and follow up with a phone call.  Ask if there are local newspapers on microfilm.
13.  Consider whether you can go to the State Archives.  Their rules are especially important and you can find them online.
14.  Arrange for airline tickets, rental car, hotel, and possible restaurants.
15.  Decide what to take: PC, tablet, chargers, camera, GPS, scanner.  Practice using new technologies, especially if you will be using a microfilm reader.  Many locations will not allow computers.  Plan to do research with as little baggage as possible.  You may not have a place to sit down or leave things.
16.  Be prepared.  Professionals will be impressed and more willing to help you.
17.  A little extra time?  Go to lunch at the Senior Center.
18.  Have fun.

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