Are you Ready? Over the past three months I’ve taken you through the process of preparing for a research trip. My specific focus was on Ireland and partially directed at those who are joining me for a research trip this year either in May or October. The methodology, if not the specific repositories, is the same for preparing for any research trip.
I’ve written before about My First Research Trip to Ireland. Was I prepared? No way! It was a great trip with my daughter, and we did find a few things, but for the most part it was more of a tour than a research trip. And that fine. If you don’t know the specific locality of your ancestor, sometimes a tour is the best way to become familiar with the area. Most of what we have from that trip are pictures of my daughter next to signs...maybe we had ancestors here?
Do you want escorted trip or are you more of an “on your own” traveler. From a familiarization standpoint, escorted is likely the way to go. On that first trip with my daughter, I was driving (on the left side of the road from the right side of the car) and by the way, it was a standard shift. I was so focused on staying on the road that I didn’t see much as we were driving. At the end of our week, I put my daughter on a fight back to New York where she was met by my husband and niece (who took her home), and my husband joined me for a President’s Club Trip of Ireland (a trip for Apple’s top sales people). Sitting in the comfort of an air conditioned bus with an experienced tour guide explaining what we were seeing was great. Although I had driven through some of the same areas, I had no idea what I missed! If, on one of these tours you plan to do research, check out what free time is available to you. Unless your ancestor lived in one of the major cities on your tour, your not likely to see the specific area where your ancestor lived or have much of an opportunity for research.
If you are looking primarily to do research, make sure that is the focus of the trip. I describe my trip as a research trip, not a tour. My focus is on research in the repositories and I encourage participants to go out to the area where their ancestor lived after the trip. Research trips can be to repositories such as the Family History Library, the National Archives or to localities where your ancestors lived. If you’re searching online for genealogy focused trips, it’s always good if they can spell the word.😀 I just might forego this one.
With an escorted research trip you don’t have to worry about the details. Once you get yourself to the location, the coordinator will have taken care of things like hotels, repositories, orientations…basically the agenda for the trip. And, they are there to answer your questions or connect you with someone who can. One of the comments that I hear most frequently on my follow-up survey is that on their first trip the attendee got more done than they could have on their own because they were better prepared. You can check out some of their comments on the bottom of the Research Trip page. Many participants feel comfortable after their first trip to go back on their own to continue their research. Other like the camaraderie of having others with whom they can share meals and stories and have returned multiple times with me.
You are not going to be able to complete your research in one trip (or maybe 100). As I discussed in my first two blogs of this series back in December, Focus and create a Research Plan. Re-read everything in your files and create a timeline. I frequently mention in my blogs the importance of writing. Write a report on what you know. If you use a genealogy software package, you can create a report, then edit it, adding in notes about missing information or what you want to find. As you are doing this, create your To Do list. I like to use a spreadsheet for this so I can sort it by repository.
Have you researched everything you can from home? You don’t want to spend time in a repository pulling down records from online databases you could have accessed from home.
Do you know the history of the locality you will be visiting? If that locality is Ireland, there is a great deal to know. The life of your ancestor experienced will depend on their religion, social status and occupation. Now you can read a history book that will provide you with the dates of specific events for both the Country and the County. But you can also read historical fiction, that not only provides you with the dates and events, but it puts the characters into context with the historical events. You can choose which way to go…I read a lot of historical fiction. In many cases I’m not necessarily interested in the specific date (although I can look that up) but what was happening to the people who were living there at the time. For Ireland, my favorite is The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd. It is two (very large) books…the first The Princes of Ireland takes you from the Druids to Cromwell (1641–1653) and the second book, The Rebels of Ireland from Cromwell to the Irish Civil War (1922-1923). If you only have time to read one, the second one covers a genealogical time frame. You can find these historical novels for most countries. Rutherfurd has written a number of them (London, New York, Paris, China). Prior to my trip to the Baltic and Russia, I read his novel Russka and for the first time my DNA ethnicities made sense. My grandfather was born in what is now the Ukraine (and hopefully will be in the future) and Rutherfurd’s explanation of the area around the Black Sea as a major trading hub explained the bits of my Italian, Greek, Balkan, Jewish and at one point, Mongolian ethnicities.
A few weeks ago in my blog about Researching Outside of Dublin and Belfast, I mentioned the importance of looking for local histories as well. You can go to my Links and Resources page to find links to Historical Novels and Genealogical Mysteries as well as other categories.
Finally as part of getting ready, make sure you’ve researched the specific locality. So much of this information can now be accessed online. Check out the Tourist Board and what resources they can provide. Obtain maps. Even though you can use Google or Apple Maps (and they can definitely come in handy) paper maps or books are also helpful. Check out Facebook pages and Genealogical Societies where you’re researching.
Next week I’ll discuss the second part…getting Set and finally, Go.
No matter where you’re planning to research, I hope this has been helpful to you. If you have other ideas please leave a comment below or let me know. If you’ve been on one of my trips, let others know as well what you learned or experienced.
One final thing. I have recently experienced a large number of fake subscriptions and SPAM to my website by people who have no interest in genealogy. I have modified the Subscribe login in an attempt to block these subscriptions. If you discover you have been blocked but have a legitimate interest in Irish research please email me with the specifics of what and where in Ireland you are researching and I will unblock you. I apologize in advance if this has happened to you but it appears that this is life in the digital world.
You only have until March 31st to take advantage of RootsIreland's annual subscription sale.