The first time I went to the library to research I remember all I took with me was a copy of my family tree and a pencil that was it, no money, no paper, and no plan. That’s a far cry from what I take with me now. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to the public library, the state archives, the national archives, or other types of research center. It doesn’t matter if I’m going down the street to the University of Arkansas library or traveling to a genealogy conference. I take my backpack with me every time I go visit my father in Newport, my brother in Little Rock, and I’ve taken it to interview relatives as well. I take the same backpack filled with what I feel are essential genealogy research supplies.
So what’s inside of my genealogy backpack…These items are always in my backpack.
- My portable scanner is always in my backpack for those times when a funeral program, a photo, or some sort of family document will present itself.
- I keep a notebook, pencil, and pen in my backpack. Some libraries do not allow pens.
- I keep post-it notes for those moments when I need to flag a page in a book for copying while at the library.
- I keep a voice recorder with extra batteries for when I do interviews, and you never know when relatives will have memories and get extra talkative while I’m visiting
- I have a portable charger for my phone and an extra phone cord
- I have Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. I’m a bit of a germaphobe
- I keep a bottle of water and a snack, at the moment I have a Kind bar and a pack of peanut butter crackers. Although you can’t take food or drinks in most libraries, there is usually an area around the lobby where you can. Sometimes after a few hours of looking at microfilm or going through old books, I need a break.
- I keep a few dollars and some coins in a Ziploc bag in case I find something that I want to copy.
- I have my most updated family tree
- I have a small first aid kit, one time I got a paper cut and didn’t have a Band-Aid.
- I keep a small makeup bag with Advil, allergy medicine, eye-glass cleaner wipes, facial tissues, lip gloss, and more hand sanitizer.
- I keep a USB drive because depending on the library some of the newer microfilm readers have a computer hard drive that will allow you to save the image instead of printing
These items I usually have to put in my backpack the day I’m going to the library
- My laptop, I need it to be able to use my scanner.
- My wallet, sometimes I have to show my ID, and that way I don’t have to carry a purse and my backpack
- My cell phone
- I have my research plan in a folder
- A light jacket or sweater, libraries are usually on the cold side and I’m cold natured
My backpack has become like a security blanket for me. Places my backpack has been include New York to the National Archives, to Chicago to visit and interview my oldest living relative, to Memphis to my family reunion, and to Washington DC to a genealogy conference. My backpack has accompanied to local libraries in Northwest Arkansas, to the Arkansas state archives, to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and to the homes of many relatives and friends.
These past two years I have been able to research close to home and across the country. I like to always be prepared for anything and my research is no exception. The more I learn about my family and ancestors, the more places I plan to go. Just a few of places I want to research in the future include St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; the national archives in Washington DC; Limestone County, Alabama; and Hartsville, Tennessee. I don’t know when I will be going to any of these places. But once I get my plan together I know my genealogy bag will be ready. And this is why my journey continues…
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