The Best Made Plans

written February 8, 2015

Although it seems like it is still winter(and really it is). But we can fool ourselves into thinking otherwise and actually accomplish something quite necessary.

Just like in the last installment, I urged everyone to utilize the cold winter months by recording all the data that they had received during their season of visiting libraries and cemeteries-- it is now time to look to the other spectrum of research. And probably one that is more arduous then the logging of data found.


Blueprints you say?? Well, grab that same cup of tea, coffee or hot cocoa and start spreading out those papers and databases.

The supplies are simple-- or I guess can be rather complicated if you let them.

As I start this process, I like to begin with a brand new spiral notebook that I have entitled "IN SEARCH OF". In this notebook, I make various pages of either the different counties I look in (such as Morgan, Owen and Putnam) OR page after page of the various TYPES of documents such as "DEATH CERTIFICATES", "OBITUARIES", "MARRIAGE RECORDS", "LAND RECORDS". Just basically any category that my data comes under. This could include "MILITARY RECORDS" or maybe "CHURCH RECORDS" or "CEMETERIES"..just about anything. Now as I enter my data I can readily see what information I don't have and still need to acquire. I find that since I am just sitting there and already have the page pulled up on this or that person, it only makes sense to make note of what I still need.

I take the spiral notebook and simply record a person's name under the appropriate page for the data. In the end I have made huge strides in my lists for next spring and summer. When the time comes for the library or cemetery visits, I simply grab my spiral notebook and go.

I also have a page that is entitled "QUESTIONS"...this is a page that I use to jot down some inane question that I have regarding this or that person. I use this to remind me when I am surfing that web that I want to look this or that up. This comes in handy more then you would think.

The great thing about using this spiral notebook is that you can just set it aside and pick it up next time and by the time that spring should have a pretty good idea of what you need.

I find if I start this now, it serves a number of purposes...

(1) I can take my time and be very thorough in my listings.

(2) It makes me remember and enjoy all those nice HOT, SUNNY days from last summer and it makes this coming summer seem that much closer.

(3) It gives me plenty of time for additional questions.

It might be that you find that the better notebook is a binder type; one of those that are about 1 1/2 inch thick. That way you can add pages as you need them. Also remember to cross off the items as you obtain them.

I am sure that some of you are wondering, "well, why not just do this on a laptop?"-- the answer (for me at least) is simple-- the notebook is easier to carry-- the notebook doesn't require any batteries--if my batteries ARE low, I don't have to worry about a plug in point at the library for it--I don't have to worry about a computer crash-- while the new technology is nice, there ARE some drawbacks-- sometimes out there in the cemeteries, the sunlight makes viewing that computer screen not as easy.

Another piece of research paraphenalia that I like to use is-- a pretty good collection of blank 3x5 index cards. I like to take these and make one for each of the categories like --death certificates/obituaries/birth certificates/marriage records/land records/census records/ military records/church records/burials. I list persons on these cards in a very simple way, just the name and a date. I put a rubber band around them and when the time comes, I pop it in my purse and it is an easy reminder set.

Perhaps, just ONE MORE LISTING-- Cemetery Photos. This listing/database tends to take a bit more time and planning. I find I must list not just the cemetery, but sometimes the location in the cemetery. Of course, there are the directions to the cemeteries and this process allows you plenty of time to make those plans/arrangements.

I hate to admit it, but when I get out there in the cemeteries (and sometimes, it is for the first time there) I am like a kid in a candy store...SOOOOO, this listing/planning helps me stay a bit focused and I tend not to miss my photo opportunities. These cemetery notes should be VERY might not get another chance out there. LIST ANY AND ALL POSSIBLE PHOTOS YOU WANT.

It also doesn't hurt to make a personal listing of things you might need for your researching trips and make sure you have them as well as an easy way to transport them. My listing goes something like this-----

(1) digital camera (2) batteries for camera (3) pencils/pens (4) notepaper (5) sunglasses (6) something to create shadow (for photo taking) (7) BUG SPRAY (I cannot stress this enough) (8) Also, if you are like I am and allergic to bees, make certain you have an epipen with you. (9) Bottled Water (10) non-perishable snacks like crackers (11) laptop and necessary items like flashdrives for library (12) umbrella (it always rains) (13) small trowel/shovel (this is handy in cemeteries) (14) large white paper and a crayon (this is handy for doing etchings of stones) (15)maps/directions (16) FEW DOLLARS IN CHANGE (for copies at library, they don't always take bills.)(17) Your notebook/index cards (18) Your cell phone (19) pair of old shoes that can get filthy (20)garden gloves. You might think of other things, but that is why you start working on this now so you have time to be thorough.

I may sound very old fashioned in my planning and things I use, however through the years ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING that can break or otherwise not work on command ----HAS DONE SO. I try to keep my permanent records on computer at home and also backups on my CD's.


I mentioned something above that bears further explaining--ETCHINGS (maybe not technical term but I call it that). ETCHINGS are very simple and don't harm the gravestones at all. Many people will use various astringents that damage the stones, this does not.

Sometimes you have the occassion that given the condition of the gravestones -- a photo is just not possible or it doesn't turn out write--or you just cannot read the data.(1) With the Etchings, you take the large piece of white paper(enough to cover data on stone) I normally just hold mine, but you can place a rock on it or whatever. (2) Take a crayon, (I prefer black or brown) and go other the ENTIRE area of data with slight pressure on the paper. If done properly and if you are lucky you will get a transfer of the lettering on the paper. You might need to repeat with more pressure. Sometimes you only need it for a date or one word. This takes practice, but is does work.