First Genealogy Trip:
Adair, Ringgold and Decatur Counties Iowa
Surname Reunion in Nebraska
Guest Submitter: Genetripqueen
It was my first of many genealogy trips. I learned valuable lessons on this and every trip. Sometimes the lesson was about the place, the people, a new tool or technique, or finding something delightful. Mostly, it was about the right mix of planning and letting the days unfold as they would.
Queries and Fellow Researchers
With me were my 12 year old daughter and my second cousin twice removed, Kira. She and I had “met” online, and had corre- sponded for over a year. One of us had answered a query the other had posted about the Doan/Doane family in Decatur County, Iowa.
Corresponding with Kira had quickly brought home the adage, often told in genealogy circles, and definitely true, that surname spelling is irrelevant. My Grandmother had been very clear about several details as she told me family information and stories. One was that Doane was absolutely spelled with an “e”. She had gone so far as to assure me that this was how we knew which Doane’s were related to us and which ones were not. Kira had heard much the same thing. Yet, we were descendants from two brothers, my family as Doane and hers as Doan. She and I have long speculated that the “e”, no “e” debate is related to the Outlaw Doan’s of Bucks County, Pennsylvania in the Revolutionary War; but more on that another time.
When Kira and I found that our shared Doan/Doane surname had an active family association and that it was planning a reunion, we had decided to attend. Since then, Kira had found the name of the cemetery where our common ancestors were buried.
Ringgold County Courthouse
We also hoped to find some documents in the courthouses in Decatur, Ringgold and Adair counties. We were quite unprepared, but very excited about the prospects of doing research together.
Decatur County Courthouse
My daughter and I drove from our home in Minnesota to Kira’s in Iowa. It was wonderful to finally meet her. Very few people I knew had more than a passing interest in genealogy. It was great to be with someone who not only cared about family history, but cared about MY family history. Taking a trip with someone I’d never met had seemed a bit odd, but we quickly developed an easy and comfortable relationship. Soon after we picked her up, she had presented me with a one of my most valuable tools: a trip notebook. I had kept a trip journal for the first time on my recent trip to Ireland so that I could remember the details I knew would fade from memory over time.
This concept, though, of keeping research notes, a log, a journal and other details of a trip was new to me. I am grateful to Kira for this simple notebook and the ideas for what to include in it. I now have a stack of trip notebooks. These notebooks are what will allow me to recount multiple trips. As I look back at my trip notebook, though, I notice several rookie mistakes. This notebook is purple and holds information about two trips. There is no itinerary or log and only a partial journal, it also has only partial information about the people and places visited. Later notebooks are much more complete.
Color Coding Trip Notebooks
The contents of my trip notebooks have developed over time. The color of the notebook soon came to correspond with the color coding system I have for organizing my different family lines. My Doane color is orange, so an orange notebook would now be chosen for a Doane trip.
- The front is titled with the date, place, and family of focus as well as who is with me, if anyone.
- Inside the front cover is written the names, addresses, phone numbers and directions for all the people I planned to meet, as well as new contacts.
- Inside the back cover, I would write the names, hours and directions to cemeteries, courthouses, libraries, etc.
- The first page or two is for a simple itinerary with each date and what is planned.
- The next page is a list of research questions and goals.
- After that, a chronological research log including notes from research and conversations, drawings of placement of headstones in cemeteries, transcription of headstones, etc., as well as ideas for follow up research.
- The middle holds the trip journal with an accounting of how the days actually unfolded
- The last page is for a log of stops made and money spent.
I’ve found this especially helpful on road trips so I can plan to stop at or avoid a gas station, restaurant or hotel.
The trip notebook certainly makes it sound as though my trips are organized. This first trip was anything but organized. Each mistake has helped me to know the value of preplanning. Without planning, I have arrived to find libraries and courthouses closed; a library that was open but in the middle of renovation so that their entire collection was in storage; cemeteries I could not find; unexpected rules about what could be taken into a library, restricted access to records, high fees for copies or no copy machine, finding myself in a scary neighborhood a time or two, and nearly having to sleep in my car once. For these reasons and more I now do as much preplanning as possible.
As I plan a trip, I determine early on when and where I’ll go, with whom, and what research I will do. At the very least, printing directions and placing calls to destinations are both a must. I don’t often make reservations before a road trip at motels, but often do when I fly, stay several nights in one place when possible and start looking for a motel by about 5:00 pm if I’m driving from town to town.
(to be continued)
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