The most important thing I can tell you from the very start is to always keep your notes organized, as it will save you an incredible amount of time when you are ready to compile your information! If you can afford to purchase genealogy software set up to organize your information, you will be amazed at how easy these programs make your pursuit! In fact, they will generate reports to print out, making your family research easy to read. Many have the capability to include photos and/or video now which is a great feature. Putting a face to a name makes everything more personal. The following is a list of items to take with you on your researching jaunts:
List of Items to Take on Genealogy Research Trips:
a.) I have already listed software programs to start looking at, they are broken down into PC compatible, Mac compatible and Mac & PC Software. If you have a laptop, you'll want to bring it along with you as it will, at the very least, keep your facts in front of you as you search for long lost family members! You can also just add the information you found for the day right into your database, that is if you aren't exhausted from your trek!
b.) Remember, even with these programs you will still need pen/pencil and paper. You cannot take a computer everywhere you go, so sometimes you need to rely on the 'old-fashioned' way! A pencil and paper can also come in handy if you want to try and decipher illegible inscriptions on tombstones! Again, I'll get into that in detail at a future date!
c.) Keeping a large notebook with sections is a cheap and easy way to keep surname information organized. If you get one with pockets, you can keep your census records there and birth certificates, etc. This is also an alternative for those who cannot afford to purchase genealogy software.
d.) I have a great "sister" researcher, Claudette, who is probably one of the most organized individuals I know. She brought me "treasures" from her research and she had it already filed for me in a portable filing tote! What a fantastic idea! You can take the tote with you to the library or other research facilities, or while you are doing cemetery research!
e.) Also get yourself a good detailed current map of the area you are researching and a copy of any atlas from the time period you are researching in that area. County lines were often changed more than once over the years and if you aren't aware of the changes, you could easily miss very important leads. I'll be explaining where you can find these resources at a later date.
f.) Tape Recorders are great if you don't want to waste time writing and would rather transcribe the information later! Plus if you come across additional resources that you don't have time to pursue at the moment, you can make note and you won't forget to come back to it at a later time.
g.) A good digital camera will be a great asset to your research, so if you don't already have one, keep your eyes open for a good sale. Of course, you can always use a disposable camera, or any camera you already have such as your cell phone camera, but keep in mind that the better the resolution of the camera, the better your photos will capture detail on tombstones. [Plus with a digital camera, you simply download your photos to your desktop or folder...less money involved than in developing charges for film.] Capturing detail is extremely important when you are photographing tombstones, as it saves you time from writing down all those inscriptions if you are able to transcribe it from your photos once you return home. With a digital camera, you can tell immediately if you can see the detail clearly. And you will be spending a LOT of time in cemeteries, they will become your best researching friend--so make it easy on yourself!
h.) You can also use video cameras if you prefer, but you will want stills to save in your files, and capturing stills from video isn't always easy.
i.) A good tote bag to carry all your paraphernalia is very important also! You don't want to get home after a day of research and find that you left something of importance somewhere! ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE! Keep your research tools organized so that your 'leg work jaunts' will be stress free!
NOW YOU'RE READY TO START!