Creating A Travel Research Plan

Travels With Terri
a monthly column by Terri O'Connell

Last month we talked a bit about creating a travel research plan; this month we will create one based on current research. This travel plan can be created for travel in state or out of state. I usually pick up and go once I find something new that I want to see. Thanks to a recent visit with fellow IDG writer, Pat Biallas, I am looking at this a bit differently today. Hopefully with the following tips on creating a Travel Research Plan, you will be able to spend your time more productively.


Creating Folders

As you research your family and start coming across places that you need to research, create a hanging folder for that location. Once the folder is created, insert a photocopy of the index or a piece of paper that will tell you what you are looking for and make sure to add your source information. Every time you come across something new that you should be able to find at this certain location, you will do the same thing, even if it is for a different family.


Every once in a while, take a look into each folder to see what research needs to be completed. Once you feel there is enough research to be completed, it is time to start planning a trip.


For myself, some folders I could create for in state research would be:


  • Newberry Library
  • IRAD - Northeasten University
  • Cook County Archives
  • Morton Grove Historical Society
  • Naperville FHC


For the places that are not too far of a drive for me, I might go with the goal of finding two - three different things. For a place such as the County Archives, I might make sure to have a list of least ten records to look up. This is a trip into downtown Chicago, which I will make via public transportation. With this specific repository, my first visit will be to look through microfilm - to see if they have anything that I am looking for. I will then have to request everything to be pulled and plan a return trip when the documents are available to go through.


Creating Spreadsheets 

As a visual person, I love spreadsheets! Unfortunately, I started using them late in my research. I have so many details that I missed from when I first started researching my family history.


Use your favorite spreadsheet program. If it is personal research, I use Numbers (Mac’s version of Excel). If it is something that I know I have to share and collaborate with someone else, I will then use Google Docs and create a spreadsheet there. Understanding who is going to need access to the document is just as important as creating it.


Depending on where you will be going and what you will be researching is going to depend on what you will put into your spreadsheet. I err on the side of caution and try to add too much information. This way, I should have everything I need for the family in question.


If you are traveling out of town, create a second spreadsheet with information on the repositories you will be visiting. It is important to include the name of each repository, address, phone number, hours of operation, contact, and if you have made contact. Also, find out if they need to know what you are looking for before hand. If they need to pull the information from off site, it is best to get the request in before you travel. Add this to your spreadsheet with when you made the request, who it was with and how you made it (phone, fax or email...).


Learn From Others

I know it seems like this is tedious prep work for each location you plan to visit. If you are not prepared it is likely that you might leave some information behind.


When I first started researching at different locations, I would bring my computer and figured that was enough preparation because I had all my information with me. What a mistake indeed. Yes, everything was with me; but if I prepared for the visit with the above steps, I would have more time to find information. I would not have spent the time on my computer deciding what I should be looking into. In the past, when I made a find I was so excited about it that I would stop research for the day. Now, I can continue researching my next big find.


Pulling The Travel Plan Together

For the destinations that are not close to home and you have filled your folders for a certain location. Go to and plug in each and every last address you need to visit. Once you have completed that this step, click on the icon for lodging and pick the category that you would like to stay in. MapQuest will then insert the different hotels into the map. If you want to look for restaurants ahead of time, you can search for these on MapQuest as well.


Once these places are on your map, you can click on each location to get the specifics to make the reservation you would like. I try to stay in close or in the middle of the places I am visiting, that way I am close to everything I need to see.


As I make these reservations, I add all the pertinent information to a spreadsheet that is specific to my travel plans. It will contain the name, phone number, address, and reservation number for each place. This way, I have everything together in one place to use as a reference if needed.



Packing For The Trip

No matter how far you are traveling, it is important for you to check with the repository to see what they will allow you to bring in. Usually, this information can be found on their website; or a phone call can also answer this question for you.


Some things you will want to know ahead of time:


  • Do they allow you to scan?
  • Are there any stipulations to scanning? (some will not allow photo’s, yet they will allow scans from an Ipad / tablet)
  • Can you use the Flip-Pal?
  • Can you use the wand scanner? (some places are specific to which they will allow)
  • How much do copies cost?
  • Can you bring a computer in?
  • Are bags allowed? (some places will not allow even a purse inside and offer lockers to house your belongings)
  • Are there certain times that they pull information or is it just when you fill out a form?


Obviously, there can be more questions that you might need to have answered. This is an example of a list to get you thinking before you go to a repository.


If you use any of the tips provided in this article on a future trip, please come back and share with our readers how the tips assisted you.


© Terri O'Connell 2012

Terri O'Connell is the Managing Editor for The In-Depth Genealogist. She can also be found at Finding Our Ancestors where she blogs about her family’s history or Wanderlust and A Camera where she blogs about her families travels.