Planning a Research Trip

I'm hoping to go on a brief research trip to New York before the summer is over.  I'll be going with my genealogy buddy, otherwise known as my Dad.

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


  1. I don't have helpful suggestions but wanted nonetheless to say thank you. You brought back a great memory for me, that of going to Milford, Connecticut, with my Dad on a family history trip in 1990. He showed me his elementary school and his family home when he was a young kid. He also pointed out the homes of all his grandparents. My best to you and your Dad. Have a great trip!

  2. Thanks Barbara! I've been meaning to do the same thing with my Dad. He's from Providence, RI and I would really love to visit three generations worth of family homes and sites. I'll have to put that on my to-do list for this fall.

  3. The only thing I would add would be to email the repositories you're intending to visit to confirm their hours (small town + summer = flexible hours) and to alert them to your interests and intended visit. I've gotten great suggestions from archivists that have been real time savers.

  4. Great suggestion Susan! Thanks!

  5. Sounds a great trip and fantastic that your Dad will be with you!
    I would also suggest contacting the local libraries and historical societies in advance detailing your names and dates of interest as not everything is in the catalogues. Also they may have other suggestions about who to speak to in the local areas.

  6. Hi Marian, as you already may know, I have been working on the Schmidt/Smith lines in Columbia County for over 8 years. I believe Christina Smith, who married William Edwards is the daughter of Johannes (John) and Anna Barbara Kaufmann. You have Christina's baptism, I believe from 1770. There are so very few documents from pre 1800 for this area, which was still considered a frontier for the most part. Livingston Manor, where most people resided at the time was owned by the Livingston family and for the most part folks were living in a leasehold system, not really owning their own property. You may want to visit Clermont, which has a lease book from the time you seek I believe. Clermont was an estate of one of the grandsons of the original Lord of the Manor. Some of the lease books from the rest of the Manor are on microfilm at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, NY. The originals are in the New York Historical Society Collection in NYC, I believe. These records are sketchy, as they show only the financial transactions for each property, and no specific genealogical information, although you may find the Edward name in there ---or not. I would also recommend a trip to the State Library at Albany, that has a full collection of the transcribed Church books for churches that existed in Columbia Co at the time (7th floor). Also the Columbia Co Historical Society headquarters in Kinderhook may be worth a trip. The State Library at Albany has the original tax assessment lists for 1786-1788 and possibly 1799-1803 that may be helpful. Check out the DAR bible and lineage records on the 7th floor as well. Look for a Family genealogy onthat floor too. I believe William was from Wales, so not sure whether he had any family travel with him, or was a loner Edwards in the area. Hope this helps.

  7. Also, the Columbia County Historical Society in Kinderhook has many, many books of cemetery transcriptions and there is an index.

  8. Marian - have you checked the Biographical Index for Montgomery County, or wherever the children and grandchildren of William and Christina were living? It was the fashion in the late 1800's to write a biography about the family and have it published in a Biographical Index for the county you were living in. Virtually every county in New York and across the country has one, usually in the 1880's and 1890's. I have found these can be great leads and sometimes accurate, but there are errors in there too, as they were written by each family themselves and the material was not validated at all.

  9. Awesome! Thanks so much Sylvia! I'll probably contact you more offline. But yes I do have the family biography you are speaking of. Quite a bit is known about the family but very little is ever mentioned of William Edwards and Christina Smith. They really want to keep us guessing.

  10. From my last research trip I learned to figure out in advance where to get lunch near the libraries, historical repositories, etc. I would be visiting, mainly to save time - the library had a small lunch and snack bar, which was convenient. For a few of the places, it was best to bring one's own lunch. (I also learned that I can research straight through until about 2:30, then I run out of steam.)

  11. Fantastic post! I especially like the idea of making a chart for your research guide and the contact list to take along.

    Greta, you and I think alike - food! It hadn't occurred to me however to research eateries near where I would be researching. I've always relied on asking someone once I get there. Great idea.


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