Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Five Things I Learned On My Last Research Trip

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I took a couple of mental health days from work to do some much needed genealogy research. Monday, I was in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the Allen County Public Library.  Tuesday, I was able to visit the Indiana State Archives in Indianapolis.

Not only was I able to make some good finds, I learned a few things about planning my future trips:

1. The stomach matters: Packing a lunch or finding a place to eat nearby to where you are researching is important.  Sometimes I can get so engrossed in the genealogy "zone" that food doesn't seem important, until it is.  By that time, either I'm ready to pass out from hunger or have to cut my research short.  On Monday, I violated this rule and didn't pack a lunch, or leave the building to eat.  I started researching at 9 a.m., and by about 2:30 p.m., the hunger pains were beginning to overtake me.  On Tuesday, I had learned my lesson and packed a couple of sandwiches so I could go out to my car for lunch.

2. You cannot plan for every contingency: Copiers will jam, microfilm readers will be broken, roads will be under construction.  Dealing with these issues has more to do with handling my temper and frustration issues than anything else.

3. Staying focused is harder than it seems: Too often, I can easily get sidetracked from my plan of attack, especially when I'm at a new research location or it has been awhile since I've been there.  Walking past a stack of books, I catch myself reading the bindings, wondering "didn't I have some family in that locale?"  If I'm not careful, I'm soon down a rabbit hole, researching some collateral line that wasn't part of my main goal for the trip.

4. Eating an elephant takes many small bites: Trying to do marathon research sessions and gathering information on multiple lines in one trip isn't practical. Better to plan out what lines and what sources you are going to research before taking the trip.  Using my "to-do" list in my Rootsmagic software and online library catalogs really helped me handle this on my latest trip.

5. Sometimes the last second shot brings victory: Just when you're about to wrap it up for the day seems like the time when you check that one last source and make a great find!  On Monday, right as I was about to leave - I spotted a source on the stacks, played a hunch, and found information that I wouldn't have suspected to have been in the Fort Wayne library.

I'll be sharing some of my finds in upcoming posts, but here is a synopsis of what I found:

Monday, Allen County Public Library: Researched obituaries from microfilmed copies of the Evangelical Messenger and located over a dozen obituaries of paternal ancestors; located death notice of Fern Pierpont in Indiananapolis News; researched arrest of Harry Pierpont and Thaddeus Skeer in Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette issues of 1925; copied information from published genealogies on Eileen's Rinehart line and my Alderman/Luark connection

Tuesday, St. Joseph Cemetery, Indianapolis: Visited cemetery office and located plot map; photographed tombstones of Pierpont family

Tuesday, Indiana State Archives: Researched Dillinger gang files relating to Harry Pierpont and obtained copies; including correspondence from his mother to the warden, governor, etc. asking for his release.


Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

Great post. I second the suggestion that you need to take a food break. Just taking a little time to refuel allows you to refocus and have a better second half of the day at the archives.

Travis LeMaster said...

Thanks, Amy. I learned my lesson and will make sure to plan for refueling on my next trip.

Michelle Goodrum said...

I really agree with you on numbers 1 and 5.

Not only a lunch but some small snacks during the day really help my energy level.

I don't know what it is but it seems like they announce the library is closing and the BIG FIND suddenly appears. Then we scramble. LOL

Dawn said...

Enjoyed reading your research trip experience. Back in the day when I could, I took a weeklong trip to research at the VA state archives in Richmond. I only ate a package of peanut butter crackers for lunch every day. Managed to lose 10lbs that week. I could really use another research trip or two :)