Are you planning a genealogy research trip? It is not uncommon for researchers to discover that they could have been a lot more prepared once they arrive. To avoid returning home from your journey empty handed, select a few stops below and follow the suggestions given for each so that you have a successful trip.
Homestead – Do you know where the family homestead is? Be sure to visit and take photographs.
Neighbors – Find out if any of the same families that lived near your ancestor are still living nearby. If so, contact them to see if they would be willing to be interviewed.
Church – Contact the church secretary to find out if there are any descendants of members who would have attended during the life of your ancestor. Time your visit so that you can visit the family church during an activity or service to meet them.
Cemetery – Use death records to identify the family cemetery. Visit the cemetery to see if any other family members are also buried there. See Sexton Records.
Funeral home – Contact the funeral home that appears on family death certificates to see if they have funeral home records for your family members. Funeral home records can tell you a lot more about a family member that what was shared on the death certificate. Here is a sample letter requesting genealogy records from a funeral home.
Courthouse – Plan to spend time researching in the courthouse. Find out what records they have which are not accessible online (deeds, wills, probate, vital records, etc.).
School/university – Contact the schools where your ancestor attended to find out how you can obtain school records or transcripts. College Records 101 (Family Tree Magazine) is a great resource for learning how to obtain you ancestor’s college or university record.
Library – Browse the local library website for genealogy and research resources. Visit the local history room of the library to talk to the experts on genealogy and local history. Find out if they know people researching your surname or if they have resources that document your family (vertical file, books, city directories, newspapers, etc.). Fairfield County Public Library has even published a brochure to help visitors find local genealogical resources.
Archives – Some archives have online catalogs. For example, the local records staff at The State Archives of North Carolina has compiled a list of records available by county, and the lists can be downloaded here: County Records Box Lists. Search through their list of resources to find records which were generated during the lifetime of your ancestor. Make a list of the collections that you will search when you visit. If it is not possible to travel to the archives in person, Genealogists.com has professional researchers who are able to retrieve the desired records on your behalf.
Museum – Follow the exhibits at the local museum. Plan to attend during an exhibit to learn more about people and events that took place in the area (military history, cotton mill workers, farm workers, etc.) Carroll County Historical Museum in Indiana has a genealogy department where thousands of resources are accessible to the public: Genealogy Library.
Chamber of commerce – You can learn about historic sites, businesses, and the local area from the chamber of commerce. The Hardeman County Chamber of Commerce helps direct visitors interested in genealogy research in addition to highlighting historical sites and events in the history of the southwest corner of Tennessee.
Genealogical society – It may be worth the effort to attend a local genealogical society to meet people researching in the area and to learn about projects they have going on (book published, cemetery inventories).
Nothing feels worse than taking a trip for the purpose of discovering more about your genealogy and coming away with no more information than you had when you arrived. Hopefully, this list of places and suggestions will lead you to helpful resources.