Well, my adventure to New England is over and as the saying goes, even with the best planning it can all still go wrong. Okay, maybe not all wrong but enough to know that if I had not pre-planned, I would have been way up that creek without a paddle!
Before I left, I did all of the recommended things for each town or area I would be visited. I looked for libraries, hours and locations and when possible I searched their on-line catalogs to see what materials or books I wanted to review at that location. I did the same for Town Clerk Offices and archives. I even printed off driving maps from one place to the next.
In addition, for several months prior to my trip, I contacted each of the libraries, Town Clerk Offices, archives, etc. that I planned to visit. Many were very responsive, professional and helpful. However, there were one or two that I never received any reply.
Also, I contacted local researchers in the area to get advice on where to go, what to look / ask for and what I needed to get ready to do research in their area. I met several helpful individuals who gave great advice.
When I arrived at one local public library that had never responded to my letters or e-mails, the staff member pulled out my letter from last July and showed it me. I presume to show me they at least received my letter but never bothered to reply. This librarian insisted on a $5 non-resident fee to use their library, which I paid.
After paying the fee, the librarian promptly told me he did not have any books on local history or genealogy. I knew that one of the family members I was seeking was buried in the Old Cemetery which was behind the library and entry was only though the library. When I requested to go back into the cemetery and photograph the grave, the librarian stated that he was too busy and refused.
In another town, I had written the library via e-mail a few days before I left Houston and confirmed my visit, however, the staff, as well as the librarys website, failed to inform that all of its local history and genealogy collection had been boxed up in August 2004 and shipped it off to Boston for long-term storage while the prepared to move for renovation and expansion of the library with construction to begin in January 2005.
However, at some locations, especially the New Hampshire State Library, Mr. Holden, the staff genealogist, could not have been more helpful.
Another nightmare experience was the Boston Public Library! I went to the newspaper microfilm desk to ask about what newspapers were available for a certain town and time-period. The staff member would not answer my question without a Boston library card. I spent the next 25-minutes searching for where and how to get a library card and was issued a day visitors guest pass.
When I returned with the library card, the staff member said no they did not have the newspapers I was seeking! Gee, I just could have screamed! I wasted 25-minutes getting a library card just to get one question answered!
Did I find everything I hoped to find? No.
Did I find material I did not expect to find? Yes.
Was the trip worth the time and effort? Yes.
How could I have been better prepared? That is a very hard question to answer. I felt like I was as prepared and organized as I could have been. Next time, I will make sure I receive a reply to my letters and e-mails.
The next few weeks, I will be going through the copies I made and waiting for the mail to bring more copies of material that could only be ordered in person and later copied by staff members.
I found this to be a very interesting feature at some libraries and archives. You go through the files, books, material and flag / make lists of items you want to photocopy and pay for the copies that are mailed to you.
The morale of this story is prepare - prepare - prepare for your research trip and be prepared that your are not prepared!
In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.
Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: email@example.com
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