Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Planning a Research Trip
I have a lot of work to do before I can set foot in the car. One of the places we'll be stopping is Germantown, New York. In order to make the trip worthwhile I need to figure out what records are available before I leave home.
For Germantown, my target time frame is 1780 to 1800. I will be chasing down every person with the Edwards surname in that town during that time frame.
Here's what I need to do as part of my planning:
1. Create a Research Guide
In order to effectively search for records I need to know what is available in Germantown. I need to create a research guide that provides information on vital records, probate, military, church, land and every other kind of record that I can think of. I will likely create an easy-to-read chart that separates the items by types of records and dates. While my main focus will be on the 1780 - 1800 time period I will likely include more than that in my research guide. I will start by looking in Ancestry's Red Book at the New York chapter. Then I will hunt out a New York specific research guide. I'll check FamilySearch too, to see if they have a research guide on New York. Of course, I'll have to check out the FamilySearch Wiki as well.
2. Conduct a Literature Search
Next I'll want to check what has already been published about Germantown, New York. To accomplish this I'll do a Persi search. I will also do a search of Worden's Index to the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record. This should give me a good idea about the types of things that have been published about the town.
3. Get Local - From a Distance
Next I'll need to survey the catalogs of the local library, historical society and museums so I can get a good idea of what they have available. I'll particularly keep my eye open for special genealogical or local history collections. I'll make note of any that I feel will be helpful in my research.
4. The Hunt for Manuscripts
While I won't physically be going to other locations I will want to check the catalog of the New York State Library at Albany. They may have relevant items that could help in my research. And if they have more items than appear available in Germantown, I may need to rethink my research strategy. Other catalogs I'll check will include the New York Public Library, The New York Historical Society and the Library of Congress.
5. Make a Research Plan
After doing all this background research I'll need to create a research plan. The plan will outline specifically what records I want to check and where they are located. The plan will include blank space for me to include notes about my findings.
6. Prepare a Contact List
The last thing I'll want to do is create a contact list. You can see a sample here that I created previously (scroll to the bottom of the page to find the pdf sample). I like to create a contact list with the names of the repository or archive that I'll be visiting along with their physical location, hours, phone and any restrictions, fees or pertinent information. That allows me to see at a glance when they are open and lets me shift gears quickly if I need to alter my plans.
This is only my second research trip to New York state. If you have any suggestions that would make my trip more productive please share them with me. I could use all the help I can get.
Photo Credit: photo by basykes used under the creative commons license