Going to a Research Center During COVID-19

It’s been a while since I have written a blog post. To say that the world and life kind of got in the way would be an understatement. I was still riding high from my trip to RootsTech 2020, where I was an ambassador, when the world shut down mid March due to COVID-19. Everything closed or just stopped including the Family History Library, Disney World, March Madness, NBA, and schools. Remote learning, virtual, online, socially distanced, and quarantine were now the most used words in everyone’s vocabulary. We all had to learn how to stay connected with each other. My family started having Zoom meetings just so we could see each others faces. We hosted socially distanced Memorial Day, Labor Day, and birthday celebrations in our front yard all staying 6 feet a part with masks on. Our world and lives were changing like they never had before.

Would COVID-19 affect my research along with everything else? Yes it would. Unlike most people, I haven’t had the opportunity to work from home remotely. I work in a medical lab on a college campus. Although the university switched to online learning in March, our clinic has stayed open for business. I figured with students not being on campus we would be slow. That has not been the case. Our clinic has surprisingly been busy for the last six months of COVID-19. So I really haven’t had the time to research. Since I haven’t done any research since I left Salt Lake City for RootsTech back in February, I thought it was time. So I planned a trip to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in Little Rock. This repository holds one of my favorite collections, the James Logan Morgan Collection. Mr. Morgan was a resident of Newport, Arkansas and was a member of my church. This collection is full of documents, photos, obituaries, funeral programs, church records, and cemetery records from Jackson county Arkansas.

So I went online to see what their reduced hours were and was quickly discouraged to find that they were only open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9am-12pm (for seniors only) and 1pm-4pm for the general public. Appointments are only made for two hour increments. Since I had already planned to take a couple of days off around Labor Day, I thought that would be a good time to go. I called Butler Center to make my appointment and was told that I would have to go through the entire James Morgan Collection Finding Aid, make a list of what I wanted to review, and email it to them within the next two days to finalize my appointment. So I spent the next two days going through the finding aid and writing down what I wanted to review. I made my list by priority of what I wanted to see and not in chronological order of the collection. That way I knew I would have time to see the most important items first since I was only working with a two hour block of time. I sent my review list by email then I called the next day just make sure they had received it. After this four day process, I finally had my appointment. But I had also done all of my prep work for my visit, so it all worked out in the end.

So I made the three hour drive to Little Rock and arrived at the Butler Center a little early for my appointment. I had to call from outside to let them know I had arrived. Once I was inside I had to show my photo ID, sign in, wash my hands, get my temperature taken/COVID-19 screening, and agree that I would wear my face covering the entire time I was in the building. Then I was escorted to the elevator to go to the second floor to the research room. Once I was in the research room, I had to sign in, show my photo ID, and wash my hands again. I was handed a research box that contained everything that I had requested in my email earlier that week. I was able to take the entire box to a reserved table to go through at my own pace. That was exciting for me because usually I have to give them my list upon arrival and then they hand me one folder at a time to review at my reserved table. I felt like I was on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are.

During my research time I was able to find records on my 3X great grandfather (Robert Hatchett), my Granny (Gladys Denson Mays), my home church (St. Paul AME, Newport Arkansas), and l looked through some photos in the collection as well. It felt good to be back in an actual repository researching. Other than me having to wear a mask the entire time and required to wash my hands twice before I entered the research room, this research trip wasn’t all that different in the grand scheme of COVID19. There aren’t usually that many people in the research room, so in some regards I have been socially distancing at the Butler Center every time I’ve ever been there. This research trip was a gentle reminder that my research and this genealogy journey I am on isn’t just about me. This journey I’m on is much bigger than Trisha Mays-Cummings. This research trip reminded me of why I started this blog which was to share my family stories, my research stories, share my passion for family history, and to inspire people. And this is why my journey continues…

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Brenda says:

    I’m glad you journey continues. Thank you for taking us along with you on your research trip. I bet you got a lot more accomplished using their COVID-19 planned research methods. The last time I was in Little Rock, I didn’t plan ahead and spent a large amount of wasted time trying to figure out what I wanted to research. I was just happy to be in my parent’s home state and wanted to do any sort of research that I could. Stay say and happy hunting.


    1. Trisha says:

      Hi Brenda
      This trip to the Butler Center was both interesting and rewarding. And it let me know that I can do some research outside of my home and I hope you are doing well. Thanks so much for all of your continued support. Stay safe.


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