Tuesday, April 19, 2011


A new meaning to are we there yet?

Sometimes researching has to take you beyond your states and the Internet. You are now interested in seeing where your ancestors came from. A trip to Europe, Asia, or Africa might be out of the question for some families, so they can only go to the places where their ancestors first settled-and that of course would be America, Canada or Mexico. For the majority of Americans a trip to the East Coast is an item on the itinerary. Once you settle down on where you want to go, have a game plan on what you plan on doing on the trip what sites you wan to see, what information you want to find, an estimate on how long you want to spend researching vs. the sites you want to see.

What to Bring

Over the years, a definite list has been developed by my family. When going on a trip, you can decide what you want to bring and what can fit in the car. These are just suggestions.

1) Photo ID - This has got to be the most important item on your list to bring, at least depending on where you go to. You might need this to research in the courthouse and the National Archives to do research.

2) Notebook and Pencil – This is a given, as the courthouse, genealogy rooms, and National Archives will only let you use pencil in their facilities.

3) Plenty of Spare Change – Plenty of spare change will help with parking meters and making copies.

4) Extra money – I keep this separate from the spare change because when you’re in the courthouse, it costs big bucks to purchase vital records. (Unfortunately, most of your money does not stay within the walls to maintain the records, but goes to the state.)

5) A laptop and scanner – This is a must on every trip we have gone on-a computer and a scanner that has a USB port. You can scan photos at a relative’s house or Church Minutes at a Presbyterian church.

6) Camera – This is a given, because you’re going to want to take lots of photos showing your experience.

7) Discoveries to Share- If you’re going to visit a relative and you have a binder with your latest discoveries, this also provides an opportunity to pick their brains!

What to Do

Now that you have the car packed up you are ready to go on your genealogy adventure! You have your game plan in hand. When you first arrive make sure you get a hotel, unless you are staying with relations, THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DO!!!!!!!!! This hotel will be your home base, where you will unwind from doing genealogy all day. I cannot emphasize how important this is, believe me you do not want to search for a hotel at 10:00 at night-having to settle for a cheap motel somewhere or having to settle at a place a few hours away from your intended destination! Get this done first.

Once you are checked in and have your luggage in the hotel room, now you can start on your research. When you start researching, be prepared to change your plans…wait scratch that…be willing to change your plans. You might be given a phone number of a cousin or you might find another place you need to go-so it helps to be flexible!

Wait! You have a member of the family member that has no interest in genealogy. Or you have young children with you. For older kids, get them involved in your research, but if that is not possible send them out to make copies or have them do the scanning. If you have young children, you’re going to have to limit your library time and spend more time in the field. At a cemetery, get them involved in looking for their ancestors headstones, turn it into a game. Or have them find the most interesting or most unusual headstones. With small children, you might have to choose the most important places to you and plan another trip in the future when they are a little older and can be more involved with getting research done.

I feel like I should address this here, what if you are treated rudely by a librarian. This happened once at the Bernardsville Public Library, Bernardsville, New Jersey, if I new the librarians name, I would post it here too. She was a real witch and was NOT helpful to us at all. First is a given, do not let your temper flair. Second, leave the library and if you made any copies leave them behind and say you did not make any copies. You can always go back the next day and pick them up or just make new copies when there is a nicer librarian. When you leave, always think that something good will come out of this. Go back to the library the next day, and get your research done. By now the librarians will have heard of this and will fall over backwards to help you, even though they will say “I wasn’t there.” My Literature and Young People professor told me this one – note the date and time of the incident and report it to the library director. They will know who was in the local history room and the librarian will deal with it. I wish my family had taken this step, but what is done is done. Something good did come out of this – we finally found an Engelmann Passenger List that listed the child that died at sea. The Germans to America had their names spelled differently, but it was them.

Best Libraries

I will present a list of some of the best libraries I have visited, some of their highlights and why I liked them. This list is in no particular order.

1) Basking Ridge Library: Basking Ridge, New Jersey – This library has a separate genealogy room, but when we were there the genealogy room was closed. Despite this the librarian was very friendly and brought items out to us. I liked the pleasant atmosphere of the library and the librarians were plenty helpful with us. If you are into Breese’s come here.

2) Evans Library: Vandalia, Illinois – For Hoffman genealogy this is the place for you. The local history and genealogy section is part of the library and is not a separate room even though it seems like it. There are shelves and shelves of books, and guess what-they have their obituaries indexed!!! I liked that the tables were big, the nice microfilm readers and that their obituaries were indexed!!!!!!!!! (Even though I still do not if that is a picture of my great-great-great grandpa….)

3) Farnsworth Library: Oconto, Wisconsin-This library might have a small local history/genealogy section, but you would be surprised at what you can find. The downside to this library is the fact they only have one microfilm reader and it’s a hand crank. Due to this, it might be rare, but you do not really have to give up your spot to do research on microfilm. I go here for Reinhold Genealogy.

4) Brown County Library: Green Bay, Wisconsin – This is the place for Brown County Genealogy and Local History. Mary Jane Herber, the mistress is helpful in providing advice, someone to bounce ideas off of, or providing her own ideas on what the researcher can do. Local History and genealogy is contained in one room and the censuses are kept in a little area outside the room. Even if the genealogy room is closed, you can still get your research done, which is a plus. I usually go here for Green Bay Press Gazette Obituaries.

5) Stephenson Library: Marinette, Wisconsin – The Local History and Genealogy Room is quiet and isolated and brand spanking new! It is the perfect place to research, granted that the printer does not always work; you can usually get what you need from this library. This is the place for Kobus, Meyers and sometimes Hoffman research.

The Coolest Places

I’m going to have to limit this to five, but there are plenty of cool places genealogy research has taken me.

1) The German Prairie, Illinois – When the Hoffman family moved from Buffalo, New York, they settled in a place 18 miles north of Vandalia, Illinois, near Vera, Illinois. They worked for the Illinois Central Railroad and established a church, a school and their farms. Much of the land is still farmed by Hoffman relations, but the church and the school and the railroad are gone. It can be an adventure bouncing up and down the old roads, especially after a rainstorm!

2) The Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, Basking Ridge, New Jersey – A 600 year old Oak tree is the well known feature of this church. There are many people buried around the church and under the oak tree. The Church has just restored all the tombstones or installed new ones that have the old ones near by. Also the church as a pavilion with a map showing where every grave is located.

3) Page, North Dakota – This town is off the beaten path. The people are friendly and helpful with their history. For the 150 year anniversary they published a book about their town and the history. Abandoned buildings line Main Street, but there are new buildings, and a theater in Page. Page is surrounded by farm fields.

4) Princeville Heritage Museum, Princeville, Illinois – Another town in the middle of nowhere, Princeville is proud of its history. The Princeville Heritage Museum touts the history of Princeville and nearby has an old one room school house that stood in near by Akron. This is the place where you can go and do your genealogy research and there is a board where you can post the names your looking up to see if any local researcher can help.

5) The National Archive, Washington DC – the archivists are very helpful, it’s almost too over whelming. It is a nice and large environment and everything is well organized. You can find passenger lists, population censuses, occupational censuses, and military records. It is a genealogist’s dream.

Well, now you have a bit of advice and a little knowledge about genea-trips. I hope that this blog is helpful and perhaps it gave you ideas on what to do, what not to do. Or I gave you ideas for trips you can take that don’t have to do with genealogy. I am out until next week and a new article!

Tags: Marinette, Wisconsin - Oconto, Wisconsin - Basking Ridge, New Jersey Morristown, New Jersey Bernardsville, New Jersey-Mary Jane Herber-Brown County Library-Stephenson Library-Evans Library-Basking Ridge Library-Farnsworth Library-German Prairie – Basking Ridge, New Jersey-Page, North Dakota-Princeville, Illinois-The National Archives – Washington, DC