Summertime means vacations and research trips. Are you one of the many hitting the courthouses this year? If so, there are a few things to remember before loading all your research into the car or van.
First: Exactly what courthouse do you need? Check books such as the Red Book, Everton’s Handy Book for Genealogists, or Family Tree’s Resource Book for Genealogists to find out if your courthouse even existed during your research timeframe. Yep, counties had parents too, so you may need to go to the parent courthouse. As an example, I was on a research trip to southern Ohio. Knowing that Ross County was formed before Madison and Franklin counties, helped me plan my trip as I wanted to go to the oldest of the counties first.
Second: What are the courthouse hours? Small counties may actually have restricted hours, so it’s wise to call ahead. Also find out if all the records are stored “onsite” or “offsite.” If the early records you need are stored “offsite” in an area closed to the public, you may need to request the items prior to the courthouse visit. Itâ€™s also a good idea to find out the photocopy costs.
Third: Plan your research. What records do you need to use? List the items you need to find in the courthouse. Don’t forget to allow time to visit the local genealogical society or historical society, as well as the library.
Fourth: Dress for the occasion. Whites are a no-no. Those early records aren’t dusted and you can become rather dirty just moving those old volumes. Dress nicely–no vacation clothes and flip-flops. Skirts and dress shoes aren’t needed as they can present a problem going up and down ladders.
Fifth: Don’t cart all you have in your research into the courthouse. Just take the needed items, preferably a list of items needed (along with the family names in the county). The courthouse staff is busy with the day-to-day running of the offices, so don’t go into major detail about your family. As Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Keep your questions brief, asking where the records for a specific timeframe are held.
It may seem like a lot, but now you are ready to get out there and research at the local courthouse. Have fun!
Share your courthouse stories and tips in the comments section below.