You should always plan out your genealogy research trips, even if it’s just a quick stop in at the local library in town. Long-distance road trips aren’t the only outings that deserve some time, attention and planning. Working efficiently means you are more likely to be successful in your search, no matter what you’re looking for.
Pack what you need – Sure a quick trip may not need any supplies, but that’s why you’re planning ahead to make sure. For longer trips, you will want to have a supply of paper and pens, or whatever electronic device you use for taking notes. Add some post-it notes, paper clips, file folders and labels as well. If you are more technically minded, bring along your pocket scanner and digital camera too. Do not forget change for the photocopier or microfilm machine.
Plan your goal – Know precisely what you’re looking for and stick to it. It is so easy to get distracted in a library or archive that you can quickly lose track of time because you are off hunting for unexpected treasures. Take notes of other things you find for later research, but stay on task with your current goal for now. Think about what your destination is likely to offer you and decide what your aims are before you leave the house.
Check on Access – Double check that the materials you need are in fact there. Books and documents can be loaned out, archives can be relocated. This also means checking on the operating hours for the facility. Libraries, court houses, newspaper offices, church administrations and archive buildings do not always have typical operating hours. Some larger libraries may have a separate room for genealogical materials, and that can have different hours than the rest of the building. Before you leave, also see what kind of access there is for microfilm readers (and see if they are currently functioning).
One other aspect of checking on access is to check on what is permitted in the records room you will be using. Some place disallow cameras, water bottles, knapsacks or even laptop computers. Don’t put yourself in an awkward spot with some items that you aren’t supposed to have.
Record your sources – This is something you want to do while on your trip, rather than what you do beforehand. Do not get caught up in all your new discoveries that you lose track of where everything is coming from. Take all kinds of notes on books, documents, files, photos and where everything is sourced. Even the most obvious details. Five years in the future, you may need to find more information from a certain source and will have no clue where you found it in the first place.