Preparation can make all the difference on a family history field trip.
Talk to someone who is familiar with doing family history in the area where you will be going. Find out if the vital records, the probate records, and land records are kept by the town, county or state, and where the repositories that hold them are kept.
If possible, get maps—street maps of the town and area showing the locations of town hall, library, county court houses and cemeteries.
Call ahead to the town’s historical society and make an appointment with them. Ask them for any suggestions they might have for you. If the town doesn’t have a historical society, see if any of the towns around them or the county does.
Find out the days and times the library and other buildings you might need to visit are open. Find out if there is any specialist that could help you and when she is available.
Go through the information you have on your ancestor’s in the area. Organize it—nearly memorize it. List all the surnames--direct line and spouses—that you have in the area. Make a list either alphabetical or chronological (or both) so you have the information on the tips of your fingers for anyone who may be helping you as well as yourself.
Summarize the information you want to get and prioritize the items.
Consider where you will be able to get the information and what order you should visit places. It is good to go to the historical society or library first because they are often able to supply you with useful information about other places you want to go. The library may already have a copy of names in specific cemeteries along with inscriptions saving you time searching in cemeteries where there are none of your surnames. They may also be able to direct you to sources of which you are not aware.
Plan your schedule. After talking to the librarian or historical society, use your map to schedule out your visits.
Make plans for lodging and food. I have found that taking a lunch with me is helpful since I am seldom near a restaurant or fast food place while I am researching and find it very inconvenient to have to stop and find food. A previously prepared lunch gives the option of going to the car for a quick lunch rather than having to leave your search area.
Consider all those little details like comfortable clothing, shoes to wear in a
muddy cemetery, etc.
Plan for some time to sit down and go through and organize any material you get. I photocopy any significant material so I don’t waste time making handwritten copies. Include a copy of the cover page for sources.
Plan for some breaks and some fun.
Pray, pray, pray. I pray at each place I visit that if there is information that I
can or need to find in that place that I’ll be inspired to find it. I often pray again as I am about to leave that if there is more that I can find that I’ll be led to it.