Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ROAD TRIP! The Things We Carry

Last week members of the APG members and TGF lists talked about what people take with them when researching at the repository or the cemetery. My fourteen-item list remains a work in progress and it reflects the fact that I straddle the physical/digital divide. Of course, it is possible to purchase, or to make do without almost everything on this list -- except the final two items. But "making do" takes precious time.

* Maintenance materials: water to drink, aspirin or equivalent, a snack depending on schedule, a book to read in case there's an unpredicted long wait.

* Shoulder bag to contain pretty much everything else listed below. Sometimes this will be my laptop bag, with the power cord and everything else crammed into it, sometimes another bag in addition or instead of that. This has a compartment for storing photocopies where (once labeled) they can lie flat, in order, and in peace during the trip.

* Laptop and power cord. I don't use it much on courthouse trips (often there's no space) but if I'm going to a library or other place with wi-fi I'll at least catch up on email.

* Blank spiral-bound notebook. For use where space is limited or when I don't have time to boot up the laptop. My computer notes are more legible and more easily uploaded to Dropbox, but sometimes the old way works best. Pages are perforated so that they can be removed and placed in binders by subject and thus promptly reunited with any photocopies or computer notes that belong with them.

* Pens -- and pencils, just in case. In my experience, archives that (wisely) require pencils also provide them.

* Calendar containing itinerary (and directions if needed).

* Relevant maps or directions. GPS is fine but I try not to be without the appropriate state atlas (we use DeLorme) because I usually want to have an overview, not just a path. If it's a county I've been to before I may have a really detailed local map in my map drawer!

* Thumb drive(s). Bring more than one if there's any possibility that you absent-mindedly filled up one! Digital images straight from microfilm (whether there's a charge or not) are a wonderful thing.

* Cell phone and charger. Sometimes the phone doesn't realize it's short of power until I actually try to make a call.

* Change purse packed with mainly dimes and quarters. My local library has good microfilm printers that ONLY accept dimes. Those at the Indiana State Library ONLY accept quarters. The copiers at Allen County Public Library ONLY accept special cards that are filled by using bills, not change. And sometimes I'm headed for a repository or a parking situation where I don't know the quirks.

* Digital camera with battery charger. Useful for documents in some situations, and it's rarely a mistake to take pictures of courthouses etc.

* Hat, coat, raincoat, umbrella as dictated by the weather. In my experience, extreme weather is much commoner in cemeteries than anywhere else.

* Most importantly, my "shopping list" of questions to be answered and relevant resources to be sought, organized first by repository and then by project. For places with good on-line catalogs this can get very specific.

* Of equal importance, as much information as possible to consult in case of surprises during the day -- such as names and dates of the research target's family members and other contextual information that suddenly turns out to be important. The best and most compact such companion may be the actual research report in progress and (hopefully) up to date. At less organized times it may have to be a couple of binders, or relevant files and images and emails downloaded to the laptop (in case of need when wi-fi isn't around).

What would you add or subtract?

Photo credit: darastar's photostream, http://www.flickr.com/photos/darastar/1253839973/ : accessed 7 October 2012, per Creative Commons.

Harold Henderson, "ROAD TRIP! The Things We Carry," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 9 October 2012 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Sue Greatbanks said...

Hi Harold,

We are making our first ever genealogical road trip from New Zealand to Canada East and New England late next year, so this is very useful.

The only thing I would add to your list is my Flip-pal mobile scanner. Very handy in all sorts of places.

Regards, Sue

Harold said...

Thanks, Sue. Your road trip exceeds any that I've ever taken -- I'm sure you'll have some more good additions to everyone's list by the time you've done it. Good luck!

Geolover said...

Nice list, Harold. I'd add a pair of powder-free thin latex-type gloves (or non-latex if you're allergic) and one dust mask, for delving in basement-type archives that have mold and mildew. I wished for these when looking at some tax lists in a Courthouse basement. And a small fold-out 10x, 14x or 20x magnifier (available cheap on internet auction site) for perusing faint small-writing elements where photography or scanning might not catch all detail.

For cemetery exploration a foldup broad-brim hat (keeps off sun and ticks out of hair), insect repellent, reflector (mylar or mirror) for shadows.

Harold said...

Good additions, Geo. There are a few times I could have wished for a whole alternative set of clothes, too!