Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Genealogy Travel Kit - What should be included?

It feels like ages since I published a real post here. I have been so tied up with buying and selling houses, plus launching my new site...USA Family Tree. I wanted to sit down tonight and give you something of value, at least start a discussion of value.

I have been thinking a lot lately about my genealogy travel kit. I do not actually have a kit but I have always intended on putting one together. I cannot stand when I drive a hundred miles to a cemetery and realize that I cannot read a tombstone. At that point, I would pay twenty dollars for a pencil and piece of paper to make a rubbing! With that in mind, I want you to help me "design" the perfect genealogy travel kit. It should be light-weight and inexpensive yet have everything that we need. If you have thoughts on the subject, write me an email or comment below this post.
  1. I always take a camera with me, preferably a digital one. Digital cameras are great because they save money by not needing to buy film or pay to develop them. You can instantly see what the picture looks like so there is no chance of missing a shot or taking a bad one. You can also upload the photos directly to your computer and prevent the extra step of having to scan them in. The downside of a digital camera is that I tend to take too many pictures, since there is no film cost to hold me back. I then have too many photos to process when get home so things get piled up more than usual.
  2. You must have extra batteries or a charger for your camera. Do not forget film if you are using a standard camera.
  3. I like to take a small, digital tape recorder with me. You never know when the opportunity will arise for an interview.
  4. Paper and pencils are a must! I prefer large sheets of paper, legal size will work, in case I need to rub a tombstone. It is helpful to have an artists pencil or something with a broad tip that can easily rub over the engraving. A sharp pencil does not work well in this situation. You can also use the pencils and paper to jot down other notes of interest.
  5. A GPS unit is a little expensive but it has revolutionized the world of cemetery mapping. Instead of providing detailed directions such as..."walk south down by the old creek, go fifteen feet and cross over where the big tree fell down"...I can give someone exact longitude and latitude coordinates so they can find the site within a few feet. Many cell phones have this feature built in so it might not cost you anything extra.
  6. A recent copy of the line I am currently researching. If I am travelling to an area where the Lett family is from, I would take copies of my Lett family tree. You never know when you might need to share that information with someone else.
  7. An orange hat!!! This is extremely important during hunting season. You need a blaze orange hat on if you are going to romp around in an old the woods. I am sure most people never gave this a thought but better safe than sorry!
  8. Quarters and dollars. Always have a few quarters and a few dollar bills for the copy machine.
  9. A map of the local area. I always have a Virginia and North Carolina map with me at all times. If I am going to a specific county, I try to bring along a map of that area.
  10. Business cards. Even if you do not have a business, you should get some cards printed with your contact information. Too many times we meet people and do not have a proper way to exchange contact information. Handing them a card with your contact info will increase the likelihood that they actually call you back.
  11. A explanation needed.
  12. A basic first-aid kit. There are thousands of ways to cut yourself in an old cemetery, especially one in the middle of a blackberry patch!
  13. A cell phone or you must at least tell someone about the trip you are going on. Even a cell phone will not help if you get lost or hurt in some areas. I always have trouble with my phone in Mecklenburg County. I make sure to tell my wife or my parents where I am going, especially if I am going alone.
  14. A to-do list. You should always map out your plan for the particular trip. You will be pretty ticked off once you realize that you forgot to take that picture of uncle Sid's grave at Shiloh Baptist Church, the one that is a hundred miles away!
  15. A black computer disk or CD. You might run into someone that has old photos or information saved on their laptop. The easier and cheaper you can make it for them to share, the more likely they will be to do it.
I am running out of thoughts at this point. I am however going to actually put this kit together for my next genealogy outing. If I can think of anything else to add, I will let you know. Please write to me if you can think of anything to add to the list. Hopefully I can avoid getting on site, at some far-off place, and having to regret that I left something critical at home.


Judith Richards Shubert said...

Thanks, Glen, for this great list! I especially like the business card suggestion. I'm going to be visiting my daughter in Durham the first part of August and have thought that I need to have a way to do some research while there. If I don't take a copy of some of the family lines I'm researching with me when I leave Texas, I know I'll kick myself. My brain is too clogged with family info to actually pull any of it out on command! Great list. I'll definitely work on my "Genealogy Travel Kit" before I go.

Becky said...

I always carry a USB "thumb" drive with me - pretty much everywhere I go, regardless if I'm on a research trip or not. Most computers, even the older ones, have a USB port and thumb drives are much easier to carry around than CD or DVD discs.

Buck-The-Crafty-Guy said...

This is a great list, but I would change the floppy disk or CD to a flash drive. Holds more info and you can add it to your keychain.

annemarie said...

I take chalk (for rubbings), gloves (sometimes bushes with thorns), small
hand size gardening rake (pull dirt away from cemetery markers and also
sometimes can use as short probe, antibacterial wipes or baby wipes (make
clean up on those hot summer days a must).

If I'm fairly local to home, I may also take a longer probe with me. there
are a few cemeteries that I've been to were the markers were low to the
ground and flat thus becoming covered by grass over the years.

Thanks for a great site

Joan said...

Also, take clothing appropr. to avoid ticks, slip on galoshes for muddy cemeteries, snake bite remedy or kit , wipe on mosquito pads that come in foil tear packets which are flat & very easy to pack. Gallons of water & rags to wash away mud from flat stones for photo taking. Had to do this myself.

Christie Simmons said...

thanks Glen, for this great idea. i always need the one thing i forget to take. keeping a kit together should make my frequent trips much easier. i do have a suggestion for the toombstones. use "blue paper" b/c rubbings and chalk can damage the stones. it is the material funeral directors use to match fonts for making new markers for old plots or for adding death dates to existing stones. Mom & I bought our stones last month and witnessed they guy using that paper to match our fonts to my brother's marker. it comes in a roll like wrapping paper so you can tear off the size you need. it is not very expensive and the guy said they would be happy to sell a roll to me for cost.

feel free to edit this b/f you post. i dont have a google account, am old school, no blogs etc... but my email is:
i am from the northern neck of virginia and do quite a bit of research down here. i am at several courthouses, libraries or cemeteries every week.
thanks, christie

Kevin Lett said...

I will have to check into the "blue paper" as I have never heard of learn something new every day.