Friday, October 29, 2010

Genealogy Lesson 18 - Travel kit for Genealogists

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. 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.  I might add them to this lesson for future readers!
  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 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.  (As a side note...rub with caution!  Take the condition of the stone into consideration and give it the proper respect.  Only rub stones when you must and never use shaving cream or chalk to make the letters or numbers stand out for photographs.  Also, consult local and state laws about tombstone rubbings.  It is actually illegal in some areas.)
  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 traveling 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 cemetery...in the woods. I am sure most people never gave this a thought but better safe than sorry!
  8. Quarters, dimes and dollars. Always have a few quarters, dimes 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 flashlight...no 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!  Baby wipes can also help clean things up and do not forget to include bug repellent.
  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 blank computer disk or CD, maybe a flash/jump drive. 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.
  16. A light snack, any medication and some water should round out your kit.  There is always the chance you could get lost for a few hours, maybe longer.  If nothing else, you can use the water to wash your hands or a dirty grave marker.
I am running out of thoughts at this point. I am however going to actually put this kit together for my next genealogy outing. Hopefully I can avoid getting on site, at some far-off place, and having to regret that I left something critical at home.

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