October is Family History Month! The second week of the month, my husband and I went on a combination vacation and research trip. A research trip was a fantastic way to celebrate the month.

During the first part of the trip I was able to find the cemetery for my great grandparents – all four of them are buried there. I had visited the cemetery a decade or so ago. We tried last year, but we couldn’t find it. As it turns out, we were in the correct location, we just didn’t climb far enough up the hill. This is a private, family cemetery, but I was able to confirm that state law permits access (and recent visitors had no problems).

It is a rather small cemetery, so this time I photographed all of the tombstones, and will update Find A Grave sometime soon.

These guys came to visit us while we were there.

At the end of the week, I visited the North Carolina State Archives and Library. Although I had a research plan, I didn’t have enough time to cover everything I wanted. I did realize, after the fact, that there is much more available online that I initially though. However, while in the archives I was able to handle some very old documents. The genealogy nerd in me was so excited!

A few tips for research trips:

Make a list of cemeteries you want to visit. Even though you may not find any new information, there is always a chance that you will make family connections based on the location of the graves. Consult state laws if your list includes a cemetery located on private land.

Visit local libraries. May local libraries have a decent genealogy section, including family files. Some libraries serve as the repository for local genealogy societies. Family files contain information on a specific surname. Generally this is information on a family line that someone has compiled and sent to the library. While the information may not include sources, you can often find hints on where to research a specific ancestor.

Visit state or local archives. When I went to North Carolina, the archives and library were on separate floors in the same building. Each division had its own staff and set of rules. I currently volunteer at my local historical society. The library and archives are separate; however, the library handles all requests for archival material.

Before you go, make sure to check the repository’s website and search for any finding aids that may help you locate the materials for your research. If none are found online, send an email. Librarians and archivists are generally willing to help, especially if you live out of the area.

Visit locations. Even though I only have a general idea of where some of my ancestors lived, visiting the area helped me to visualize how they may have lived. Areas in Tennessee and North Carolina where my great-great grandparents lived are mountainous. I can’t imagine walking those hills every single day!

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