Tips from the Pros: Genealogical Trip Savings, from Michael John Neill

Summer is travel time and genealogists are no exception. Keeping in mind that what works for one person may not work for another, here are a few quick ideas for stretching your genealogical travel dollar.

Can you take the train? The next time I go to downtown Chicago to do research, I plan on taking Amtrak. While not everyone lives close to an Amtrak station, for me this is an easier option and gets me downtown without the hassles of driving.
Is gas mileage the problem? If one day of research will do you, consider getting a weekend car rental. I have rented a car before on Thursday afternoon, returning it on Sunday. This works well for facilities that are open on Saturday as well as during the week. Many times this qualifies me for a much cheaper rate and I usually get a car that gets better mileage than mine. An added benefit is that if I have car trouble a distance from home, the rental company has to deal with it–not me.
Make digital copies. I love taking digital pictures of records, or using digital scanners (where available) to make copies from microfilm. On recent trips to Salt Lake and Ft. Wayne, I did not make one microfilm or photocopy the entire time. While not all facilities support digitally scanning microfilm, some do, and those who are adept at using their digital camera may even have success photographing microfilmed images. I would suggest that this technique be practiced at home before your trip.
Get advice from the locals. If you will be traveling a distance to perform research in your ancestral hometown, post a question about local accommodations and other info to the message boards at Ancestry. Residents in the area may be able to give you suggestions on the best inexpensive motel, inexpensive activities to occupy spouses and children, and maybe even ideas on how to save money at the courthouse. Network with other researchers at your local genealogical society and with friends in your destination area to get additional ideas.
Are there other locations where you get the same record for less? Does the Family History Library or a state archives have the same record the county has? Do they charge a different fee than the local records office? A vital records clerk is not going to tell you that someone else has the same information or document at half the cost.

How are you saving money on your genealogical travels this summer? Feel free to post more suggestions in the comments section of this blog post.

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6 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Genealogical Trip Savings, from Michael John Neill

  1. Often times it’s much cheaper and less time to hire someone local to do the work for you. Some people may find it’s not as fun to do this, but if you’re in it for the information, hiring someone can be a good use of your time and money. A local who is familiar with the local resource center can also be more efficient than you in most cases.

  2. Something I always do to save myself time and effort on legwork (doing it at home before I leave, and thereby being able to concentrate on the important stuff) is contacting the CVB for the area I’m traveling before I go.

    Usually they can send you booklets full of lodgings (hotels, inns, B & Bs and campgrounds), restaurants, local shops and antique stores (for downtime, dontcha know!) and a detailed area map.

    For larger cities, you can buy maps at places like Barnes and Noble, but for smaller ones (such as Janesville, Wisconsin), this is the way to go.

    Happy hunting, ya’ll!

  3. You can save both time and money if you make the public library your first stop. Many have a local history or genealogy section. I have found newspaper clipping files, card files of headstone inscriptions, historic photos and maps, newspaper microfilms, etc, all for free, and no one objects to digital photography. Check online and by phone for hours and to ask which library in the county has the best collection. Reference librarians answer phone and email questions, too.

  4. CVB = Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. Also try Chamber of Commerce for local information.

  5. I agree about finding someone to do the lookup locally. Most genealogical societies used to have this kind of service, but with so many genealogical societies having problems attracting people and volunteers you might have a problem finding the local genealogical society.


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