Tips for a short genealogy road trip

This Saturday, 5 November 2011, I will be speaking at the “Pennsylvania Family History Day” event sponsored by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania and Ancestry.com. This is a very exciting program, including the following lectures:

  • “Getting Started with Ancestry.com” with Juliana Smith
  • “Immigrant Cluster Communities” with Lisa Alzo
  • “Researching Pennsylvania Ancestors” with John Humphrey
  • “Dead Men Do Tell Tales” with Lou Szucs
  • “What Is a ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Search’?” with Michael Hait, CG
  • “Formation of the Pennsylvania Counties” with Susan Koelble
  • “Finding Your US Military Heroes on Ancestry.com” with Juliana Smith
  • “Visualizing the Past: Maps and Genealogy” with Shamele Jordon
  • “Pennsylvania’s Land Records” with John Humphrey
  • “Hidden Treasures at Ancestry.com” with Lou Szucs
  • “Mining the Motherlode: Using Periodical Literature for Genealogical Research” with Curt Witcher
  • “Using the Pennsylvania State Archives and Library” with Kathleen Hale and Aaron McWilliams

This will be a great program, and I am proud to be a part of it. For more information, visit the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania’s Events Calendar.

The conference will be held in Exton, Pennsylvania. According to Google Maps, this will be 91.6 miles–a 1 hour, 48 minute drive–from my house. So I have to prepare for my trip.

Here are a few tips for others making a short trip like this:

Print your directions. I used to have a GPS device in my car, but it died. Rather than buying a new one, I just use the “old” (as in pre-2005 or so) way of not getting lost. I print out the directions from Google Maps, especially if I am going to an area where I have never been before. I learned my lesson on a few earlier trips, when I printed only one-way directions then got lost trying to get home. Now I print directions for both ways, not just how to get there.

Leave early. If you have to be somewhere at a certain time, leave early. You never know when you might hit traffic. Even if you are not on a fixed schedule, you should still consider making the most of your trip. If the courthouse or archives opens at 9am, do you want to get there as soon as it opens, so that you have a full day? Or do you want to time your trip to avoid the rush hour gridlock near a major metropolitan area? You will want to find out about traffic patterns if you can. Living just outside Washington, D. C., for most of my life, I would time my research trips into the city to avoid rush hour. Rush hour traffic in the area could turn a twenty-minute trip into an ninety-minute trip very easily. And it could be far worse if there was an accident.

Keep cash on hand. I know, for example, that I will hit at least one toll while driving from Harrington, Delaware, to Exton, Pennsylvania. Three weeks ago, driving to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, I had to pay at three tolls each way. You may also need cash for parking fees, public transportation (if you can’t or don’t want to drive all the way to the building), entry fees for some repositories, or pay lockers. Many repositories now allow you to pay with a credit card, but there are still many that use coin-operated photocopiers. You might need cash for these as well.

Turn driving time into learning time. I will be driving for nearly two hours each way. This is four hours of my day not doing anything. Why not take advantage of that time? I can’t read or research while driving, because of course I need to keep my eyes on the road. But I can still use the time to learn. Most of the lectures presented at the national conferences, and some local conferences, have been recorded over the last few years. You can purchase these lectures on CD from JAMB, Inc. Pop a CD into your car’s CD player, and learn from expert genealogists like Elizabeth Shown Mills, Helen F. M. Leary, Thomas Jones, Craig Scott, Barbara Vines Little, J. Mark Lowe, or any number of the other nationally-recognized speakers.

Go before you leave. You don’t want to have to stop halfway through a two-hour drive. ‘Nuff said.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Michael,

    Will see you there !!!

    Safe travels.

    Russ

    Reply

  2. […] presented the Pennsylvania Family History Day. I mentioned this event last week in my post “Tips for a short genealogy road trip.” I was honored to be a part of this event, both as a lecturer and as a vendor. I presented […]

    Reply

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