What’s in Your Genealogy Trip Toolkit? 1

Toolkits hold the essentials of a job. The things you need to do a job well. And in order to be successful during a genealogy trip, there are some things that you are going to want to make sure are in your Genealogy Trip Toolkit.

Up to date Family Tree

Make sure you are working with the most up to date version of your family tree. You should have it on your device as well in the cloud. Not all archives, genealogy centres or libraries are wifi friendly and this will make your research time frustrating if you can’t access your tree that is only on a website. If you can also access it from your device, your research time will be more successful. Make sure you take time to then update the cloud-based tree with the new information you uncover. This can always be done once your return home and doesn’t need to be scheduled into your genealogy trip.

Research Plan

Having a research plan is critical to success. A research plan will keep you focused in your research. List the documents you already have to avoid duplication and wasted research time. Write out a few (5 ish) questions you would like answered with your research. Then list the documents you will need to consult in order to answer those questions. Finally, check what archives or libraries will be most likely to have the documents you are seeking. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself. If you get through the five on your list, take an evening to update your research plan. If you don’t get through the five, start planning your next trip!

Government Issued ID

This is one that is often required by archives if you plan to do any research. In addition to the standard passport, many require a piece of ID that has your current home address. Generally speaking, a driver’s licence will suffice.

Travel Adapters

If you are traveling outside of your home country, this is an important one. I can’t tell you the number of times I have blown fuses and nearly fried electronics by not having the right travel adapter. These are available at most automobile clubs and often at electronics stores as well.


Some travelers find a laptop cumbersome. However, not all archives are wifi friendly so the only way to access your family history information may well be on your laptop or tablet.


This might be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You will want an actual DSLR camera. The resolution can’t be compared to the phone cameras. I take tons of photos when traveling, download once back at the hotel and use the pics to post on social media or blogs. I also upload to my Forever permanent storage account so I don’t have to worry about losing anything. I also use my phone camera for a quick snap to post to social media throughout the day.


Load a few apps to make your trip run smoother. Travel apps, local taxi apps, Google Maps and whatever else might make it easier for you while you are traveling. For travel apps, I tend to download the apps for the airline I am using, the hotels I am staying at and TripAdvisor to help me find things to do, places to eat or recommendations for things I might not have thought of. TripAdvisor is not my main travel app and is really only used while I am traveling. I load the apps for the local taxis – all of which use GPS locators and make pick up much easier. Most taxi apps allow me to keep track of the taxi once it has been dispatched. I use Google Maps when I am walking and not really sure where I am or how to get to where I am going. Rather than wandering endlessly, I spend a few minutes on Google maps and can get back on track quite quickly.


I have a separate phone that I use while in Scotland. I use a pay-as-you-go plan that includes plenty of wifi so that I can use apps, upload photos to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and connect to genealogy websites.


Not every service accepts debit or credit. Many do. But it is always helpful to have a small amount of cash on hand. Tips for taxis, coins for lockers at archives or libraries or even for hotel vending machines all require cash.


Make plans right from the get-go to journal your genealogy trip. Journal the places you go, the documents you consult, the stories you uncover and your emotions as you piece your family history together. You can journal in a book, through a blog or via an app. However you choose, make time each and every day to jot down the salient points. This will make reliving your trip so much richer when you return home. If you wait until you get back, the days and documents will blend together and the rawness of your emotions will wane significantly. Take advantage of the moments and document your journey as you go.

You may well have other “must have” items in your genealogy trip toolkit. Not all of the ones I listed are essential nor is this a comprehensive list. But having organized more than a dozen tours for nearly 200 participants, I have a good idea of what will be most helpful for the success of your genealogy research trip.

Best of luck in your research and safe travels to wherever your research may take you.

About Christine Woodcock

Scottish born, Canadian raised, Christine Woodcock is a genealogy educator with an expertise in the Scottish records. She enjoys sharing new resources to assist others in their quest to find and document their heritage. Christine is also a lecturer, author and blogger. She is the Director of Genealogy Tours of Scotland (www.genealogytoursofscotland.ca) and enjoys taking fellow Scots “home” to do onsite genealogy research and to discover their own Scottish heritage.

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One thought on “What’s in Your Genealogy Trip Toolkit?

  • Jennifer Kirkey

    This is such great advice! I’m going to be traveling in 2019 and I’m hoping to get some research time into my schedule. I’ll definitely be reviewing this checklist as I’m packing to make sure I’m prepared.