My Essential kit for a Research Trip

My Research KitAs part of a nostalgia season we’re having in the bureau this month, I thought I’d revisit some of my more meaningful blog posts. I hope you enjoy them:

I’m off on a research trip tomorrow. I’m hoping to glean lots of information from the documents that my client’s gathered, so I can start his family history. It occurred to me that you might be interested to see what I take with me on outings like this, as some of you may also want to visit your elderly or distant relatives on a fact-finding mission.

Here’s my checklist of essentials:

Research sheets

You can download a copy of the research sheet we use at Family Detective here: Research Sheet. It’s so important to record all the information you glean in a methodical and ordered way. See my blog post ‘Getting Organised’ for more.

Extra paper, pens, pencils and erasers

Use pencil for information that is hearsay or unconfirmed and pen for details you are sure of. Also, draw out a sketchy family tree on paper as you go along – this can help you visualise each generation as you find it.

Video/audio recorder

Will you be taking down stories and memoirs from your relative? It might be much easier to record them and transcribe your interview afterwards. You can use a dictaphone, phone with a message-recording feature, iPad or video camera. I use my iPhone’s recording app. It works like a charm. See ‘How to interview your relatives – Part 1’ for more. Don’t forget to charge everything before you set off. Or take spare batteries.

Scanner, camera or scanner app

This time I will mainly be copying documents, so I am taking an iPad with the Evernote Scannable app installed. This is so quick and simple to use – you only have to point it at the document, on a contrasting background, and the app will grab an image and clean it up on the spot. It’s also free, which makes it all the more amazing!

If not, a camera would do just as well, as long as you look out for flash glare from photographs.

Post-it notes

These are very handy if you are taking copies of photographs. Simply write a number or name on the post-it and attach it to the corner of the photo, or place it at the bottom, like a caption. Write a key with a full description of the photo including who, when and where. Don’t forget to follow the rules by using proper names for people and maiden names for women. See ‘Golden Rules before you start your Family History’ for more.


If you are conducting an interview, don’t forget to take along a list of questions that will be helpful in guiding the session. See ‘How to interview your relatives – Part III’ for more.

Right, well, that’s me all packed and sorted for my research trip. I’ll let you know how it goes when I get back!

Discussion: Any other tips you’ve got for when you’re off on a research trip? Drop them in the comments below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.