Tips from the Pros: The Best Laid Plans… from Paula Stuart Warren

row of books.jpgYou finally have a day when you can do some research at an historical society or other library. You checked the repository hours and have your research plan laid out. You don’t know that when you get to the place, you will find that the person who usually retrieves the materials from the closed stacks called in sick. It might be a large repository where a fork-lift is needed to retrieve materials and that day the fork-lift is broken. The photocopier is jamming. And I don’t mean jamming to music. Maybe you forgot to ask if there were any large groups expected that day and arrive to find that all the microfilm readers are taken. You have already paid to park in the lot for the full day. Your day doesn’t have to be a total loss:

  • Check for a new books section and do some reading.
  • Check to see if there is a periodicals rack with the newer historical and genealogical publications. Do some more reading.
  • Are there finding aids on open shelves? Browse through these to learn more about different collections. You may find some new things to check. Begin a new future research list. Maybe you will receive a better understanding of the variety of records available for research.
  • What else is on open shelves? General reference books, local histories, a card index to some records–browse through these.
  • Check for bulletin boards and freebie racks and read what is there.

You may not find the family details you were seeking but you will add to your genealogical and historical knowledge. Keep your ears open too. While you’re reading you might overhear a conversation or two that also adds to your knowledge.
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One thought on “Tips from the Pros: The Best Laid Plans… from Paula Stuart Warren

  1. Here I thought I was being efficient – five months before my research trip I had located websites for several wonderful libraries that I wanted to visit, looked at all their online data, made lists of offline data to be sure to view during my visit, and made lists and lists and lists of “research to do”. And said to myself “I couldn’t be more prepared!”

    Five months later, I arrived at one particularly sought-after library, only to find that they were closed for a week of renovations! The website had been updated after I looked at it. Moral of the story is to take a quick look at your research trip’s pertinent websites right before you go, just to avoid any surprises.

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