The Dusty Genealogist
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Genealogical Exploring! Enjoy the Best. Be prepared for the Worst.

Combining genealogy and travel is always exciting. Before your trip, please make a point of learning as much genealogical information on the web for that locality as possible. It will save you time and pinpoint where you really want to go, not just where you think your ancestor lived.

The US Gen Web Project at <> is a free website and offers a variety of information and links for specific locations in the US. Family Search Wiki at <> is also free and offers online information as well as local genealogical records access in the United States and 244 other countries.

Start with a good bound notebook that you can carry with you. Comfort and ease of use is more important than size. Make sure you have your own writing implements. Wasting time looking for materials takes time from your genealogical purpose. Smart phones are great for snapping pictures of documents or gravestones and relaying back to your computer. They can also serve as your computer when in the field. Make sure you have a power cord and adapter for a foreign country’s power outlets. I never recommend bringing your personal computer. Your computer, with all of the information on it, is too precious to lose or have stolen on a trip. At the very least, bring a portable camera.

A trip to a genealogical destination is always better with online research and planning. Make contact notes, phone numbers, email addresses, and note all that the location has to offer. Take that with you on your trip. These notes should be for local libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, genealogical societies, churches, and cemeteries in and surrounding the area of your travel interest.

Many cities, towns, and counties have expanded or split into new counties. The information you are researching may be in the county next door because the town belonged to one county and now it is part of a different county. Make sure you are clear as to where the records for your ancestor in that time would now be kept.

Be prepared to offer a small donation or regular admittance fee for your trips to these sites. These donations help to keep the lights on so that you can enjoy your research.

Now is probably the time to remind you that it is imperative that you stay well hydrated. A cup of coffee at dawn before you leave for the day is definitely NOT enough! Bring botted water. Sip it as you go during the day. As my grandmother always said, never pass up a bathroom when you come upon it. It may be a long time before you get access again.

If you have never traveled to your intended destination, please trust the experts. All of the contacts you made when doing online research or phone research can offer a wealth of information about where there is a good, safe place to stay and eat in that area. They live there and know the area. They will be happy to share the best their community has to offer.

There are a lot of travel tips available online. Please, please, please, read some of them. If you are traveling to a foreign country, check out the State Department’s website at <> for information and recommendations about your travel destination. The site is easy to use and offers a link ( which will send alerts to your phone if conditions in your location change.

Travel destinations throughout the US offer phone alert links for their area. Contact your local fire or police department to get connected to that link temporarily.

I understand the wonders of the smartphone and GPS along with many other forms of electronic communications when you travel. However, the basics include a paper map of your area of travel, foreign or domestic, packed with the research notes you take with you.

If you are traveling by car through anywhere in the US, please invest in a Walmart Rand McNally atlas. At the back of that specific atlas is a listing of every Walmart store in the US, the hours of operation, and what it has to offer. Having traveled throughout this country alone and with small children for enough miles to be considered a “road warrior,” I can attest to the fact that if you have a problem, the nearest Walmart is a handy place to go. Do not buy any atlas without the Walmart listings in the back. Leave it in your car.

Do not advertise to everyone when you are traveling or going away from home. Stop your mail and newspaper. Do not post your travel plans on social media. Post travel pictures after you return home. Use light timers at home so your house looks lived in.

Give a copy of your itinerary to family or a friend and check in with them often. With your itinerary, leave a clear color copy of your identification (driver’s license or passport), prescriptions, glasses prescriptions, name and email address of your doctors or hospital, where your records are located, and any other information you may need in a hard copy format that can be faxed anywhere in the word. It would be a good idea to leave a scanned copy of this information also so that an email can be sent immediately. In the event of a problem, the police will look at your most recent mobile phone calls for assistance.

Don’t wander around alone, especially at night. Use the buddy system if possible. If you are traveling alone, be aware of your surroundings.

Wear comfortable clothing and comfortable shoes that have already been broken in. Happy feet make for a happy trip.

I have never been accused of packing lightly! Whatever the term “packing lightly” means to you, go with it. Bring what you need. Make arrangements for what you need in order to make yourself comfortable. Be smart. Protect yourself and your belongings.

There are many general traveling tips available; make use of the ones that work for you. I was offered a general travel tip from a very reliable group who suggested considering carrying pepper spray or a personal safety alarm and to keep it easily accessible.

Let’s just consider that for a moment. If you have managed to get into enough trouble that you are worried about close combat situations, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to remain calm and keep your wits about you. These situations are always dangerous.

There are training courses for close combat situations. Whether self-defense, use of pepper spray, weapons training, and carry permits, they are all available. There are experts that offer reasonably priced courses for people of all ages and abilities. Senior centers, high schools, YM/WCA, colleges, and many other locations offer experts. Make use of them. Be knowledgeable. You will meet new people with similar interests of self-preservation.

Make your travel story about all of the information you located, all of the wonderful people you met, how helpful everyone was, and in what an odd but quaint hotel you stayed. Be the story with the happy ending!

Bio: I am a Certified Genealogist and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I believe that the hobby of genealogy is fun, exciting, and very satisfying. Through researching genealogy, you may add skills, meet new friends, and gain new respect for those who have gone before you. You may reach me via email at ‘’ with questions or comments. I thoroughly enjoy the hobby and hope that you will too. Print your photographs of family. Label your photos with a first and last name, an approximate date, and a possible location if known. Please look for a new book from this author to be released in 2018.


By Marjory Regan

A brief bio of Marjory Regan: I am a member of the Williams Mills Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and a “Certified Genealogist’ Thank you for your questions, comments, problems and successes. Email me at I think genealogy is a fascinating hobby; I hope you will, too. Get Started. Do something small every day, it all add up. Label the photos! First & Last names and approximate date of the photo. Do it for an hour while watching TV.