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Shirley G. Hodges
Planning Your Research Trip
Published: 11 February 2012
By Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

It is time to start planning your summer research trip. I know that it seems early to start thinking about that but it takes time to really prepare properly. Before leaving on your research trip you need to review what you have already done, decide what you really want to find out and then decide how you can try and accomplish this. The planning that goes on prior to your trip is just as important as the journey itself if you want to have a successful experience.

The success of your trip many times is directly related to the amount of preparation you have made. You need to devise a plan before you start. If you use the shot gun approach and just dart from hither to yon when you arrive in your location to research you may be very disappointed with the results. Without proper planning you may end up with scattered data that is not tied and bound together in a concrete and coherent way. As a result you may discover that the trip was almost a waste of your time and resources.

You have to take into consideration all types of things when planning your trips. One of the things on my bucket list was a visit to the Cemetery at Jerome, AZ. I had been told that it was not wise to visit in the summer time because it was heavily infested with rattlesnakes. I decided that since I consider anything larger than an angleworm as a snake that I would go in the winter months. I would recommend that anyone going there would consider going with a 4 wheel drive vehicle. As we were contemplating the road out of the cemetery I was a little afraid that we might still be there in the summer.

Plan to avoid rattlesnakes at the cemetery in Jerome, Arizona

We need to always be imaginative and to remain flexible. Sometimes you have to create your own research facility. A few years ago we were rushing to get to a cemetery in Shiloh, Ohio when I spotted an Ice Cream Social at a church. I told my husband that we needed to stop. It was late afternoon and he said that we didn't have time. My reply was that we didn't have time not too. He thought I had gone over the proverbial bend but I told him that we were going to get something and find the oldest person we could and sit with them. We did, and we told them what we were doing in the area. Within about 15 minutes everyone in a two block area had heard about those crazy Michiganians. He actually found some shirt-tail relation, Hodges corners, the old homestead which was still standing, and, of course, a very smug wife.

Husband Clarence and the Society's docent checking out the considerable collection at Shiloh Historical Society

I can't stress to you how important it is to check things out in all the localities that you go to research. Size does not matter. Shiloh, Ohio is a small village in Ohio and it has one of the most wonderful little historical societies. My husband has found so much information about his family in this museum. If you are in an area where your ancestors lived go through their museum. You might be surprised at the wealth of information that you would find.

It is important while on your trip that you take time each evening to review your findings. By taking time to analyze your findings you can review your plans for the next day and decide if you need to make some adjustments to your schedule.

Always stay flexible and be creative while you are traveling. Follow up on your wildest thoughts. It might seem to be unusual or even a little outrageous but it might be just the thing that will lead you to the most important find of your trip. It might just give you the idea that will enable you to have success on your trip.

I hope that you will find the old home stead, your ancestor's final resting place, you grandmother's diary that had been in someone's attic or the blacksmith shop that your grandfather owned. Whatever you find it will bring them a little closer to you. Good luck on your trip!

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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