Last year I took a trip to Raleigh to visit Kodie while she was in town. It may be hard to believe (especially since I’m a North Carolina native), but it was my very first trip to the state capitol. It was a wonderful experience! What genealogist doesn’t love a historically relevant city full of rare records? Of course, poor Kodie wasn’t as interested in the history or the records as I was – but she’s still a kid (and I’m hoping that my enthusiasm will rub off eventually). I took Kodie to the North Carolina Museum of History, the North Carolina State Archives, and to Crabtree Mall – which was, sadly, her favorite place. My favorite place was definitely the North Carolina State Archives – even if I was completely unprepared and found nothing that was of any sort of importance.
Luckily, I was able to look past Kodie’s crankiness at being dragged into a quiet little room full of records and past my failure at recovering anything worth while at the NC State Archives. This first trip was merely a learning lesson for me and I came up with a few tips to make future trips more productive:
- Check the MARS Catalog – Before you go to the archives check the MARS catalog and compile a list of records that you would like to see and may need copies of.
- Call Ahead – By calling ahead you can get directions, times, and make sure that the archives will be open when you arrive.
- Research the Surrounding Area – Before arriving at the archives it helps to know where the closest parking lot is located (be ready to pay for parking), where the closest restaurant is located (in case you are starving when you leave), and if you’re a smoker it definitely helps to know where the closest smoking area is located.
- Pack an Archives Bag – Pack a camera, pencils, notepads, the information you found about the surrounding area, and the list you compiled from the MARS catalog. If you are planning on using an electronic device for your notes – don’t forget to pack it and ensure that it is fully charged.
- Eat Before Arriving – Make sure that you have a full tummy before arriving, because if you are anything like me… you’ll probably be in this tiny room for a few hours and working on an empty tummy is likely to incite a nice case of the cranky genealogist.
- Bring Help – If you have limited time the extra hands and eyes will be a big help! In my case – I forced my poor and unwilling little sister to help me (don’t worry, she survived and she’s more than use to it). I’ve learned that bribery usually works when I need help and Kodie was rewarded with a shiny new copy of one of the The Hunger Games books.
- Take Plenty of Notes – I’m personally a fan of making copies of EVERYTHING, so when I say take notes – I actually mean keep track of what you’ve looked at, so you don’t waste your time looking at the same thing on your next trip. Also keep track of where your copies came from, so you can recall or share that information later if you need to.
- Skip Out on the Pocket Change – The archivists will be making copies for you, so there is no need to bring an over stuffed pocket full of change. You will be charged for your copies as you leave and the archivists will be more than happy to make change for you.
- Look for the Unique – Don’t waste your time going after records that are readily available on microfilm at the public library or for copy at the local register of deeds. You should be looking for records at the Archives that are unavailable else where.
- Make Time for New Memories – Don’t forget to take a little time out to enjoy the new city you’ve found yourself in. It’s full of interesting places, people, and things. Instead of being completely absorbed in the lives of your ancestors – you should try to make some new memories of your own.
Even if I totally failed at finding a tiny scrap of information that was useful to my research – I had a great time. I got to explore a new city, visit an old friend (Jess – I love your face!!), and spent some great quality time with my baby sister. Hopefully, next time I find myself in Raleigh I will take my own advice and end up finding some spectacular scraps of information that will enhance my family tree.