11 June 2017

Before You Visit the Courthouse, the Special Collection, the Historical Society, etc.

More and more people are interested in uncovering their family history - and some of them will travel to places far and near in search of that elusive ancestor. Nothing is more depressing than to arrive at a Research Room expecting to find it open but instead find that it is closed - or what you want to see is stored off-site - or that the person who knows the most about the topic you've come to research is on vacation, etc. You get the idea I'm sure.

BDC Research Room

Great advice from John Michael Neill who writes the Genealogy Tip of the Day blog: Before You Visit the Courthouse

Before making a trip to a courthouse (or any records facility), plan ahead and find out the following things:
  • days/time of operation
  • copy charges and policies
  • can cameras and cell phones be used in the facility?
  • what about laptops or other electronic devices?
  • what can be taken in the facility (paper and pencil only, no personal items, etc.)?
  • are any records closed?
If all you “information” needed to look up things is in your phone and you cannot take it in, that’s something you need to know beforehand.

Similar advice is given by Carolyn Barkley in her post "Get Thee to the Courthouse - Why Visiting in Person is Still Necessary" that I reposted back in 2013.

I would add that the same preparation process should proceed any visit to other holders of historical and genealogical information. Most cultural heritage agencies are conscientious and take great pains to post hours of operation and adjustments to those usual and customary hours of operation on social media and webpages as well as in and around their facility. But the bottom line is this: It behooves the would-be researcher to check before traveling.  And of course, with so many cultural and historical agencies staffed with so few, things can happen at the last minute and the schedule may change.

One of the best pieces of advice that any researcher can take to heart is: "Contact the Research Facility ahead of time to make arrangements and to confirm that it will be open the days and times you'd like to do your work."

In other words, don't leave home without first checking with the Research Facility about access to the collections on the dates and times you have in mind to do the research. 

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