Are you taking your genealogy research on the road soon? Are you planning on researching original courthouse records?
Oh, I hope so! This is my favorite type of research. I’m sure it will be yours, too!
Researching in local courthouses can be some of your most successful research. Follow these tips ahead of time and increase your chances of success in your research.
Know what records exist for the county and time period you are researching.
Do the records you are looking for even exist? I realize this may seem rather obvious, but I have heard of wasted research trips because of this.
2. Know what records are kept at the local courthouse.
Just because the county’s records exist does not mean all of those records are kept at the courthouse. Courthouses may have retained all of their original records or may have moved various older records to a state archives/repository. You do not want to travel a long distance only to find the records you are seeking are not kept there. Note: If the courthouse does not have certain original records, often microfilmed copies are available.
3. Know if there is help available on site for researchers.
Beyond pointing out where the records are located, the answer here is usually “No”. Still, be sure to call ahead and ask. For example, on Thursdays and Fridays, the Halifax County, Virginia courthouse has a gentleman present who assists genealogists in their research. Besides, being a fantastic researcher himself, he knows where the records are and has an intimate knowledge of the county’s history and insight into how this history impacts genealogical research. Thursdays and Fridays are the only days I visit that particular courthouse.
4. Know ahead of time the courthouse’s policy on taking digital photographs and/or scans of documents.
Some courthouses do not allow digital copies or scans to be made. If not, be sure to take plenty of change for the copy/microfilm machine.
5. Know the food options close to the courthouse.
Pack a lunch and/or take snacks. Your ancestors won’t need the sustenance, but you will – especially if you are devoting long days to your research. Obviously, this tip depends on your location. Over time, my personal experience has found me at courthouses in very rural areas where eateries are few. (I did find a veggie burger in the only eatery in Boydton, Mecklenburg County, VA!) If you take a research assistant along like I do (Hi, Dad!), keep them nourished, too.
6. Know your parking options.
This probably only applies in larger cities, but knowing where to park ahead of time can save valuable research time. Don’t waste your research time circling the block hoping for a parking space.
Unplug your genealogy research. Step away from online research.
You have heard this before. Not everything you need to fully research your ancestors is online. Head out to your ancestor’s local courthouse (or the repository with the records) and research!
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