Genealogy & Local History in Buffalo, NY

Research Trips & Skills: A Suggested Checklist

By Cynthia Van Ness, © 2001

Eventually, anyone really interested in finding those elusive ancestors plans a trip to a distant research facility, whether in Salt Lake City or in the ancestral hometown. With the Boy Scout motto in mind, I propose that you have the following skills under your belt before hitting the road.

[ ] Ability to load a microfilm and/or microfiche machine

[ ] Ability to distinguish between an index (to a passenger list, for example) and the real record

[ ] Familiarity with basic census searching procedures--using indexes, the Soundex, and ward, district, and/or ED maps

[ ] Familiarity with other basic categories of items with genealogical value: city directories, church records, passenger lists,
immigration & naturalization records, vital records, etc.

[ ] Ability to exhaust sources that can be searched at home (using the LDS, for example) before going out of town

[ ] Ability to record a full citation for anything you make copies of or draw facts from (author, title, census district, year, journal
name, date, etc.)

[ ] Ability to recognize and use a Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress call number to find a book or other item on a shelf

[ ] Ability to use a card catalog or computerized equivalent to search basic categories of author, title, and subject, and to interpret
the results of a search, which leads to...

[ ] Ability to interpret a bibliographic record found on a card or computer screen (e.g. is this a book? microfilm? what's the title?
is it an article in a journal? what volume & page numbers? etc.)

[ ] Ability to read the introduction or explanation when you encounter unfamiliar abbreviations or codes in a book (especially various
indexes designed for genealogists)

Is this a tall order for the typical layperson? What did I leave out? Comments welcome.

Originally posted to soc.genealogy.methods on 11 November 1998, reprinted by permission in some genealogical newsletters by permission, and converted to HTML in June 2001.  Updated 18 March 2010.