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I intend to visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. I know already that they allow Flip-Pal Scanners, so I will bring mine, plus my laptop which contains all of my genealogical research so far, and my cell phone which has a camera. The Family Search website suggests these Tips for Visiting the Library. I have never gone on a trip alone or in a group to hunt for genealogical information before... I want to bring as few items as possible, because I will need to walk back and forth from the hotel and it is some distance.

What do I need to do to make this trip as fruitful as possible?

Update: I have two full days set aside for research, plus any extra time that I can pull myself away from the annual RootsTech conference.
Update 2: I visited my local Family History centre and got the low-down on the types of microfilm they have onsite. A great suggestion that the volunteers gave me was to pick only one line to focus on during the trip so that I don't get scattered all over with rabbit trails. Someone else suggested that I try to glean as much as I can about my Scottish ancestors, since the website Scotland's People can be expensive to search online.

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How much time will you be able to spend at the library in Salt Lake on this trip? –  GeneJ Nov 23 '12 at 7:02
Two days doesn't seem like enough time. Answers typically breed more questions. –  Gene Golovchinsky Nov 23 '12 at 16:06
Five days total, as the conference is three days. Surely I can tackle something at the library in two days? ...if I'm organized? This is the point of this question. –  Canadian Girl Scout Nov 23 '12 at 17:07

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Thomas Macentee has covered this topic at some length in a blog post A Trip To Bountiful Genealogy Research available from http://www.archives.com.

Update: It is a lengthy and well-crafted piece of writing that deserves to be taken in full as the author intended.

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This is exactly what I was looking for :) Thx! –  Canadian Girl Scout Nov 24 '12 at 0:44
Can you summarize what he says here? This is mainly to prevent link rot, which would then make this answer useless. Thanks –  American Luke Nov 24 '12 at 14:57
Summarizing what he said would be called plagiarism. –  Fortiter Nov 25 '12 at 1:16
@Fortiter, not sure about that. Copying great chunks of his exact words would definitely be plagiarism. Saying that he talks about Plan, Prepare, Proceed, Procure, Process and Preserve and attributing it to him with a link wouldn't be plagiarism. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 25 '12 at 9:18
The link doesn't offend me; I was just explaining my different understanding of plagiarism. I've answered other questions myself with little more than relevant links. Can't speak for @jmort253 –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 25 '12 at 18:10

In my humble opinion, I would bring a digital camera and a couple extra batteries. I would also carry a tape recorder, that way you can do dictation of your research. A notebook is also handy as well as a plentiful supply of sharpened pencils (that way you can erase if need be). Something that's rarely mentioned is "Thank You" cards. I always keep a ready supply of these to hand out to the staff whenever I go record hunting. This establishes a rapport with the staff and puts a smile on most peoples face. It helps to have a plan of exactly what your looking for as far as a collection too.

I rarely bring my Laptop, and always keep my phone on silent mode. This is a personal preference of mine but it does lighten my carry load. My digital camera takes a higher resolution picture than my phone, that's why I use it instead of my phone. The tape recorder is nice for dictation, unless you have to be quiet.

I also see what their rules are for snacks and drinks. I don't like leaving till I'm done so I like to have a little something to munch on. : }, I hope this assist you, have a great day!

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+1 for the Thank You cards. I also send emails after my visit to thank people for their assistance. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 24 '12 at 14:19

It's best to have planned out areas of research given the resources you expect to find at your destination. For the Family History Library, you can do much planning using the online catalog of the FHL available on the FamilySearch.org site. Spending time beforehand looking for potentially relevant resources is time it won't be necessary to spend while at the site.

The FHL has many scarce print sources which, due to copyright laws, cannot be made available online or even through loans to local Family History Centers, so if you find such sources in the catalog, you'll probably want to note their call numbers before going and then look at them on your trip.

For microfilm collections, you may want to plan out use of sets of films which usually require successive access to multiple reels. For instance, probate or land records are often accessed first via films of a set of index records, which then point you to the main records (which are within a different set of film reels). Attacking these while at the FHL (particularly if you have previously familiarized yourself with their structure and noted initial film numbers from the online catalog) can get results faster compared to ordering films one at a time from a local center. If you're short on time, you could use just the index films while at the library to eliminate that step from the sequence, and use the resulting file numbers later for local ordering and access.

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I'd suggest that you take a flash drive to "print" information from microfilm records instead of actually printing out copies.

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Great idea. I don't usually carry one, but it would be easy to do :) –  Canadian Girl Scout Nov 28 '12 at 9:11

Are you looking to investigate specific lines/individuals, or are you just "data harvesting" (looking to grab as much information as you can that might be useful to you when you have time to analyse it and apply it to your tree)?

If you're harvesting, take the time to identify all the sources of possible interest — use the online FHL catalog to look at what might be relevant, most especially what isn't available online. Make a list in priority order of sources to capture and analyse later and stick to it, especially if you don't expect to return anytime soon (you will run out of time.)

If you have specific research goals, still take the time to identify relevant sources and prioritise the ones that aren't available online. You should generate a list of specific research goals in priority order ("Find the birth of X between mmmm and nnnn in possible location LLLL") and make sure you have all the information to hand that helped you formulate those queries.

If you don't already know, test the quality of images that your cell phone makes in advance, so you can change your plans and beg borrow or buy a digital camera instead (you'll kick yourself if you discover too late you've spent your time taking poor-quality photographs).

Whatever it is you're trying to achieve, don't discount asking for advice by phone before you go, and in person as soon as you arrive, and have all the information you require to hand if you change your research goals.

Request any microfilms you want in advance: https://familysearch.org/films/fhl to ensure they're available to you within your timeframe.

I never visit a repository without my netbook loaded with everything I know or need to know plus a digital camera. Yes, it increases the carry load — I've invested in a small backpack for that reason — but it allows me to be nimble when possibilities change.

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