Researching on location, how do you prepare?

AJC file
AJC file

Last week, this column guided your at-home search for finding information about your family, so let’s think about the next step once you’ve gathered data from online resources. You may want to visit where your ancestors once lived. But, before you go, you should prepare.

Start by making a local visit to places where you can find even more information. Check cemetery websites, or call anyone you can at a cemetery office, a church, and the local library’s genealogy or local history room. Also, consider the genealogical or historical society to find out what they will share, or how they can help with the next leg of your research journey. Knowing the operating hours and days for a place you will go to research is central in planning your trip. The public library’s genealogy or local history room is a must visit, if they have one, but even if not, it could still store resources that are useful.

Libraries often have good vertical files on families and other information not found elsewhere. The library collection could contain books only available there, either due to a small press run, or to being loose leaf and not actually published. Learning who is the local expert can be helpful. Download navigational apps, such as Waze, for dependable a map, and purchase any guide books that might be useful later, and pay for photocopies if needed. Since everyone’s time on such a trip is limited, it’s best to leave with names of people who might be helpful for any follow-up information or further research. A visit to an ancestral home area can be eye-opening, since seeing the terrain, the county boundaries, as well as places you may have encountered only in the census, can help you better understand the time your ancestors spent there.


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Find the closest library

To find genealogy books related to your topic, go to and search for the subject, add the keyword "genealogy" to narrow the search, and refine it further to the type of records, say wills or deeds, if need be. Once you put in your zip code, the results will show you the closest libraries that have the book. Some libraries, such as the Georgia Archives, are not in the system, and won't show up. In that case, check a particular library's online catalog to verify what is there.

Nicknames can be deceiving

When recording family nicknames, be careful since many are not the standard nickname for a proper name. Always ask what the real first name is. One man called Pete was really named William, and a man known as Rick not for Richard, but for his initials, with his actual name being Ralph. Recently I met Jack whose name was Joseph, but the family had too many Josephs, so he was called Jack.

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Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O.Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or