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Top 10 Out and About Genie Activities

5. Visit a family history society
Most towns and cities have a family history or genealogy society – find them first on Google. If you haven’t been before, perhaps ring up and ask when you can visit and learn about what they have available. Long before the internet days, society members were indexing all sorts of documents pertaining to family history. You’d be amazed by what’s tucked away among their holdings, and not all of it has been digitised. They also usually have great holdings of books and society magazines, not to mention fellow obsessives with a wealth of diverse knowledge.

Do they have seminars and training sessions which you can attend even if you pay a little more as a non member? Do they offer reciprocal membership with a society which may be closer to your region of interest?

These days we are able to do a lot of family history online and the computer has become our best research friend….The downside is that there can be a tendency to ignore a host of other opportunities for research, not to mention other opportunities for building up skills in different types of genealogy research.

6. Visit a Family History Centre of the Latter Day Saints church
Most family history researchers are aware of just how much the Latter Day Saints have benefited our research. But did you realise that only some of their holdings have been digitised (or indexed) on FamilySearch so far? All is not lost, you can order in microfilms of the others, for a pittance. Some family history societies have contracted with the church to also offer this service.

Family History Centres also offer in-library searching of various pay-to-view sites.

You can search for your local centre here. Not a church member? Neither am I, yet I’ve volunteered in the centre in Darwin and researched there often. I can’t tell you how much I’ve found out about my families thanks to these microfilms, not to mention the mysteries I’ve solved.

9. Visit an archive
Archives, like reference libraries, can be rather daunting at first. We’re used to the “what you see is what you get” aspect of conventional libraries. It takes a bit of wrapping your mind around the process of having to search catalogues to see what might be available as the documents are batched by originating organisation, not topic, then order and have them delivered to your desk.

Luckily these days archives have become much more focused on their “amateur” researchers and so they’ve introduced printed guides, some available online, and staff are more accustomed to helping people who may never have visited an archive before. Many archives are now offering indexes of names, within popular series of benefit to genies, and that points you straight to the document you need to see when you arrive. Do read the background on the series as well.

I personally find that with each archive there’s a time delay while you become familiar with its process, facilities and layout. Before you arrive, see what they have online to advise you on how they operate. This is why I’m suggesting you visit whichever archive is near you first. Even if it’s not relevant to your research it’s worth overcoming the anxiety factor while time is not pressing.

And don’t forget, archives come in all shapes and sizes: this is the Directory of Archives in Australia. Why not have a look and see what might be relevant to your research?

I’ve been particularly fortunate with church archives which can be a wonderful help. Once again this can vary so don’t be put off. Here’s a tempter, though not all have websites.

Do remember to pay your way via a donation or direct payment of their fee, and thank them for their assistance – after all, their primary business is maintaining their organisation’s records, not just helping family historians.

8. Visit a local heritage centre
Obviously this is more fun if it’s in the local area of your research, but even if it isn’t, why not go and see what they have available, just to see what they can offer you. Don’t forget they come in all shapes and sizes so don’t be turned off if you find one that isn’t great. I’ve found useful information about my families there, but I know others who’ve hit absolute goldmines. If nothing else you’ll likely get a better sense of what life was like “back in the day”.

Browsing the shelves, c.1950. Courtesy State Library of Victoria.
Browsing the shelves, c.1950. Courtesy State Library of Victoria.

9. Attend a class, seminar or conference
Yes, I know I said you wouldn’t be spending money… but these will be worth it. Check out what’s available nearby for these learning opportunities – remember the local societies, libraries and archives? State seniors’ months and National Family History Month are great opportunities to learn more.

And if you really can’t get away from the house, or your town, there are lots of genealogy webinars of Google+ hangouts available online free, or for a small payment.

10. Plan a research trip
There’s no harm in dreaming after all. You’ve done some preliminary footwork checking out the various possibilities and will be ready when the opportunity presents. Keep a running list of the research you’d like to do and the places you want to visit while on this trip, that way you’ll be good to go at the drop of a hat. Various people have written about planning for such a trip. Here’s just one from Geneabloggers guru, Thomas MacEntee, on the Flip Pal site.

Get out and about and have some genie fun!
I hope you find some of these tips useful and that they’ll expand your horizons beyond the computer screen we’re all so addicted to these days. It can be great fun seeing things in the real world and making research discoveries, especially the first time you hold a document signed by an ancestor – not as a copy or digital image, but the actual piece of paper!

What are your favourite “out and about” genie activities? What would you add to the list?

For more tips and insights, visit Pauleen Cass’ blog, Family History Across the Seas.

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