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02 July 2010

Planning a Genealogical Research Trip: Flexibility

The first rule of planning a genealogical research trip is to have a definite plan. The first law of Murphy is that the plans you have so meticulously made may ALL change.
Time to regress - in all my years of living in Joliet, Illinois, I listened to family members tell me there is nothing to be known about our family and definitely nothing of interest. After I moved from Illinois to Georgia, genealogical research proved this statement false. Now, I plan at least one research trip to Illinois each year. After spending many hours with books, emails, and phone calls, my to-do list had been completed. The surnames, objectives, and repository names had been combined. Within the first week in Illinois, all of my research plans turned upside down.

In genealogical research, flexibility is the key. Make plans and be ready for change. What follows explains how my research plans changed and the many new and unexpected research details that were uncovered.

My original plan was to research repositories indoors. After twenty -plus years living in the South, the brightness of the fall colors enticed me to spend as much time as possible outdoors. The golden yellow, the bright red and the vivid brown leaves begged for my eyes' attention in reverence and majesty. With camera in hand, the grave markers at Lockport South (St. Dennis) cemetery and Lockport City cemetery competed with the trees for attention. The sun and the angle of light brightened many otherwise unreadable markers. After about 700 digital photographs, it was time to download to www.FindAGrave.com.

Another original plan was to research tax records for Will County in the 1850-1900 era. Earlier trips to Joliet revealed the tax records were on microfiche. These records were in the county building known as the old Sears building. Then I discovered the tax records were no longer accessible or at this location. Where were the early tax records? Many of them were published in the newspapers in the early 1900’s, offering an alternative source. Also, early newspapers are full of personal information. Through them, I learned that in 1900 Nettie Couch, my maternal grandmother, had a severe case of poison ivy. Another newspaper announced the quarantine of the home of William Schuler, my maternal grandfather, for whooping cough in the summer of 1914.

A third original plan was to spend days and days searching for obituaries on microfilm newspapers at either the Lockport or Joliet Public Libraries. A few days of research offered questions such as what type of cases are covered by the Will County Chancery Court. A family name appeared on the Chancery Court docket above one of the probate announcements. A telephone call revealed that the Will County Court has an archive in Joliet. The helpful staff at this facility researched my Chancery Court case and printed me a transcript. Also, the county probate record books are indexed and open to researchers. I acquired probate records for John Kampe, my paternal great-grandfather. In the probate record is a list of all of the immediate family members with their addresses.

A to-do list is necessary to offer structure and guidance. But! The researcher must be flexible.

• Don’t miss opportunities. The vividness of the colors and the serenity of the season fade only too fast.

• The records may have been relocated, so search for alternate lists.

• In the newspapers, read more than birth and death announcements.

• Get acquainted with the staff at the facilities you visit. People offer a wealth of assistance and alternative ideas.

Take pleasure in a changed genealogical schedule. The friendships and records are worth the adjustment.

photo: Schuler Texaco Station, 9th street, Lockport, Illinois