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Genealogy Research

How To Create Your OWN Genealogy Location Guide

Create your own genealogy location guide to save time, money and frustration on your next genealogy research trip.

Location. Location. Location.

It is important when buying a house. And it’s important when researching your ancestors.

Creating your own genealogy location guide for researching your ancestors ensures you do not overlook important repositories and their policies that you could be utilizing in your research.

A location guide for your genealogy research includes specific details about all of the repositories in a county or state as well as other places genealogy records are kept that you might need to utilize in your research.

When you include a location guide, as part of your genealogy research plan, you have quick access to that information and you can easily add information to it as you learn more.

Bonus: A good genealogy location guide will save you time and money!

Typically, for onsite research, I create a location guide based on the county, but you could create a research guide based on a particular city, a region, a state or even an ethnic group of people.

Map of Idaho and northwest states outlined in green.

What a Location Guide For a County Can Include

Location guides for researching genealogy will vary from location to location in the information you want to include. Just what would a genealogy researcher actually include in a county guide?

Let’s take a look at creating a location guide for county level research.

County History

Start by including a brief history of the county. This should be short, just one or two sentences that indicates when the county was formed, its parent counties and if there’s been any significant record loss in that county.

Online County Resources

Next up include online county resources that you could potentially use. This could include database of the local historical and genealogical society, and the county offices website. Some register of deeds offices have deeds available online.

Screenshot from Wake county NC Register of deeds records search page.
Screenshot of from Wake County, NC Register of Deeds Website

Also, include the local library and any online databases that might be available to to you as well.

Local Repositories

Include any repositories in the area that would have records that you could potentially use in your genealogy research. List out the repository, their hours of operation, their address, and their phone number.

You want to indicate any of their policies that you might need to be aware of. Are digital photos of the records allowed? Not every repository allows that. What are you allowed to take into the search room? Are lockers available for you to place your items in?

For example, creating a county location guide for my research interests in Halifax County, VA, I would include information about the courthouse policy that no digital photography of the records is allowed. I know up front to plan on extra time for note taking and to ensure I have enough cash for making copies.

These policies vary greatly from repository to repository. Know them ahead of time. Your day will go smoother, and you will have no unnecessary trips back to the car.

If a repository is known for a specific type of item, or a specific type of collection that you are particularly interested in, make a special note of that collection. If you have a contact at that repository, someone that you’ve talked with in the past, include their contact information, too.

Parking Options

Now here’s something else to add to a location guide. Make note of parking options and parking prices. Sometimes, depending on where you’re going, parking may be a little difficult to find. Make sure you know where to park. In some larger cities, parking can be quite expensive.

Even when traveling to smaller county courthouses, and repositories, I give a quick call to ask about parking.

Meal Options

Options for food and meals are another thing that to add to a location guide. Genealogists generally do not like to take a lot of time out of research to figure out where to eat. So if you haven’t brought your lunch or snacks with you (which I actually do quite a bit), plan ahead and know what is close. No need to feel “hangry” and scrambling to find a place to eat.

What Does A Location Guide Actually Look Like?

Creating your research guide is really quite simple. It doesn’t need to be complicated.

Ipad mock up with Location Guide for _____ document. Background is brick wall.

I typically create them using Google Docs and store them in my Google Drive. That way I can access them on any of my devices, and they really at my fingertips when needed. A Word document works just fine or however you prefer to do it is absolutely fine.

The nice thing about when you create a location guide for a specific location is the fact that you create it only once. If you find yourself researching in that area again, whether in person or virtually for a different you’ve already got that guide created and you are ready to go.

Learn more about what to include in a genealogy research plan in this video:

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  • Carol Thacker

    I happened upon your blogs and videos and started watching them. Thank you for all the wonderful information. I’ve been involved with genealogy for 45 years and still learn new ideas from you.

  • Donna Rostetter

    I was taking your ” make your own locality guide” and clicked to watch the video. It took me to “How to make a research guide”. I’ve already watched the research plan video and was looking forward to the locality guide video.

    Can you please check this out?


    Donna Rostetter
    [email protected]

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