I haven't packed my bags yet, but I am hard at work preparing for the Dublin Research Trip next month. Whether you're preparing for an extended genealogical research trip, or a trip to the county courthouse, the key is preparation. No matter where I'm researching, be it online, in Salt Lake City, or any other repository, I can easily get sidetracked. I try to make certain that I have time for browsing, but only after I've accomplished the tasks on my To Do list. Typically on my trips, I'm doing client work, so I must stay focused and on task as I am billing the time to my client. Prior to the trip, I will make out a detailed list of what needs to be accomplished, where the records are located and how much time has been allocated by the client. I typically use a spreadsheet for this with columns for the Date, Repository, Client (Time), Family, Task, Source and Notes. The reason I like a spreadsheet is that I can add the tasks as they come up, then sort it by any of the categories. Typically, I'll sort by repository, so all of the tasks I need to accomplish are there in front of me.
Next, if the repository has a catalog, I'll invest the time to find the call numbers of the documents or books I need for my research…that saves me time when I arrive. I'll write out the entire source citation from the catalog entry which again, saves me time later when I'm writing a re port. When I'm taking notes, I'll indicate the specifics such as page, if necessary.
As part of your preparation make sure you know the hours of the repository and any closings…there's nothing worse than getting to a location only to find that they are closed. Also note their other policies: do they have a digital copier; do they use copy cards or do you need change; will they allow the use of cameras or scanners; are they a closed stack library that has specific times when documents can be ordered; is there a limit to the number of copies you can obtain each day; is there public Internet access; what can you take into the research room; are there plugs for computers.
All of the situations above require planning strategies. For example, if orders are accepted for documents at 10, 12 and 2, and deliveries take an hour, what else can you work on after you've submitted your request so you aren't sitting around twiddling your thumbs for an hour or more. You don't want your To Do list and files all on your cloud drive if the facility doesn't have Internet access. If you are allowed a limited number of copies each day (yes, I'm referring to the GRO in Dublin) you need to set aside time on multiple days to visit (or round up some friends who don't need certificates to accompany you).
Most libraries and archives have room for your computer, but a county courthouse may not. Make sure you also have printed copies of your To Do list or a text file you can view on your smart phone.
So what do you pack for your trip? It will depend on whether it's a day trip to a courthouse or local library or a longer trip out of the country, but here's what I take.
I'm enough of a techie that I don't travel anywhere without my laptop. On a longer trip or overseas, I sometimes leave it in my hotel room and take only my tablet with me…it depends on the type of research I'm doing. I also have reference books as well as other books on my tablet. If you are going overseas, make certain you understand the power requirements and the type of adapter you need. Most computers and other gadgets have a switching power supply, meaning they can run on either 110 or 220, but you will need the right wall plug. Always double check to make sure. Also, when traveling overseas I put an international plan on my phone for one month. It's relatively inexpensive. If you plan to use your phone for data, try to limit it to when you have a Wi-Fi connection. Turn off data roaming (only turn it on when you need it) or you can get hit with a pretty high data bill.
Digital Camera - mine has a text mode
Scanner - handheld or Flip-Pal
USB Flash Drive
Pencils (no pens)
Security cable for laptop
Small bills and change (for copiers)
Paper clips or small stapler
One last note, dress in layers. You never know if the repository will be warm or cold. Also, wear clothes with pockets, wear a vest or carry a small waist pack. In some cases you will not be allowed to bring your briefcase, purse or other like items into the repository.
I'm leaving for Ireland on October 7 and will be blogging daily about the places I visit. I plan to spend a couple of days in Belfast prior to heading down to Dublin and the other researchers will be arriving on Sunday, October 13th. It's not too soon to be thinking about joining the 2014 Research Trip.
I still have some time available to accept commissions for this trip, so if you need some documents procured, contact me.