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Epilogue

†††† Now that our fabulous journey is over it is time to think about what we accomplished.Some of our undertakings can be measured merely by statistical data such as the number of miles we actually traveled.Other endeavors may be more difficult to measure or describe such as†† the genealogy research skills we learned or enhanced.During the planning of our journey we compiled lists of equipment to take, and along the way we added more as we perceived a need.So what did we find that we did not really use or need?What equipment or resources did we find especially useful and important?††

†††† Over the course of our 30-day journey we traveled 8,200 miles through twenty-seven of the lower fort-eight states.Along the way we went through countless gallons of gasoline but are happy to say that we did not spend over $3.00 for any of those gallons save a quickly terminated mistake high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near the California Nevada border.Although we did figure our gas mileage between 11-15 miles per gallon, neither of us had any interest in calculating how much we spent on fuel and maintenance of the vehicle because the purpose of our trip was to enjoy the adventure and not worry about the cost. Along the way we stopped twice for oil changes and the repair of a punctured tire.†† Twenty-four of the thirty nights were spent sleeping in the van, which we found to be quite comfortable.Although a bit crowded in the mornings when we were putting things away for the days drive it didnít take long to develop a system that worked well for both of us.The six nights we were fortunate enough to sleep between sheets in a full-sized bed will not be forgotten.We will always maintain fond thoughts of the hospitality provided us by friends and relatives.Of the twenty-four nights we spent in the van, seven were when we were parked in the driveway of our hostís homes. Most of our evenings were spent in campgrounds, eight were government-run which included campsites in a national forest, as well as state and county parks.Four nights were spent camping in private campgrounds, and two nights in motels, and let us not forget our overnight at McLeodís Store in Palmyra, Virginia.

†††† Much of the planning of our trip involved what electronic hardware and accessories to take along.Probably the most essential items were the cell phone, laptop computer and digital cameras. Additional electronic equipment included a Magellan GPS, and a pair of two-way radios.To accessorize our equipment we packed a computer lock, portable laptop desk; notebook surge protector; USB port; universal power adapter; and a power inverter (12v to 110v).†† The computer was utilized for three major purposes: (1) as a repository for data concerning the locations of campgrounds, dump stations, and wi-fi access;(2) a place to download and maintain digital images acquired from daily research; (3) to run and view mapping software.Each of us brought a digital camera, although it seemed that we used the smaller one more often as it was easier to transport into research locations.Later we were to find that the images produced by the smaller camera were not of good quality and several important pieces of research information were either lost or open to interpretation because it was difficult to read the fuzzy documents.Thus the lesson we learned is that you should NOT skimp on your digital camera because you never know if youíre ever going to get back to that research site again. The GPS came in handy when we where looking for a location and knew the coordinates such as the Bethesda Church in South Carolina.We also got into the habit of registering the coordinates of new locations we found.The two-way radios were used mostly in cemeteries where we were searching for our ancestorís gravestones.We found the portable laptop desk and power inverter to be the most useful accessories.The desk served as a platform for maintaining and balancing the computer while sitting in the passenger seat, as well as a buffer from the heat of the computer on your lap.We plugged the inverter into the vanís twelve-volt outlet to provide power to run the computer.

†††† During the planning stages of the trip we did a lot of searching for books, software and other publications that we though would be of assistance during our journey.††† Our primary concerns were to have information at hand regarding where to find free or low-cost campsites as well as to be able to map the locations of the homes where we would be visiting friends and relatives.We also wanted to know how and where we could empty or gray and black water tanks, and access the Internet while on the road.

†††† Some of our assembled sources were in an electronic format and easily stowed within the hard drive of the laptop.Of these were electronic books on subjects such as camping at Fairgrounds, and casinos, in addition to a Wal-Mart no park list, and information regarding wi-fi sites that were downloaded from the Internet.As for mapping software we relied upon Rand McNally Street Finder & Trip Maker; and Topo USA from Delorme.Both worked well in establishing routes to where we wanted to go.In one instance when we called ahead to notify our hostsí of our pending arrival they spent a great deal of time on the telephone trying to give us directions to their home.This was unnecessary as we assured him we would have little problem locating it as we already had it located with our mapping software.We did find the Topo USA software very good when it came to looking for places that we were not sure of the location such as the Bishop family home site in Anderson County, South Carolina. Here we were able to utilize the topographic map feature to ascertain elevations and the locations of waterways near the roads we were traveling.††††

†††† Almost a dozen print publications found their way into the van during the day and a half we spent packing.These ranged from the two-inch thick, 1,172 page Frommerís Best RV & Tent Campgrounds in the U.S.A to the modest 176 page RVerís Guide to Dump Stations.Other books included National Forest Campground Directory, Wal-Mart Locator; Woodallís 2005 Tenting directory; Rest Areas & Welcome Centers; as well as a book entitled Camping with the Corps of Engineers.We never did camp with the Corps of Engineers although their campgrounds look interesting and well kept they were just to far off the inter-state highways for us to find after a long day of driving.This was also the case with National Forest locations with the exception of our night in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. Although parking the night at a Wal-Mart would be free of cost we did not take any opportunity basically because

 

the thought of staying the night in a parking lot turned us off. Among the most useful of these publications was Don Wrightís Guide to Free Campgrounds, which has information about campgrounds that cost $12.00.The Eastern Edition covers twenty-nine states and Western Edition encompasses seventeen states.Another excellent resource is Explore The Next Exit Before you Exit.This is a complete guide of what is available at every Interstate Highway Exit from coast to coast and we believe a must for any traveler.When attempting to locate a campground for the night we believe that the most useful asset was the Campground & RV Park Guide and Atlas published by MapQuest.com, Inc.We liked this book because it highlighted State and National campgrounds so that we could easily consult the map and see what was nearby to our location on the road we were traveling.In general we found the State-run campgrounds to be the best place to camp for the money.They were picturesque, well maintained, with large campsites.We normally paid under $20.00 for the night.Most if not all of the aforementioned books can be purchased as the following websites: Free Campgrounds.com; RV Bookstore; Woodall's; and the Gypsy Journal Book Store.

†††† Although much of our previous research had been accomplished via the internet, both of us had only had limited opportunities to research and work with primary source records.Therefore we looked upon the trip as a great chance for us to further hone our research skills at locations away from our home computers.Needless to say prior planning and preparation to research your family history is a must.You can never do enough in this area because 90% of a good job is in the preparation.A good book to read before hitting the road is Searching on Location: Planning a Research Trip, by Anne Ross Balhuizen.†† By the end of our journey we had visited six libraries, four historical societies, two museums, six county courthouses, and countless cemeteries.

†††† When planning to research at a local historical society one must realize that most are open on irregular schedules therefore it is important to know what their hours of operation are before departing home.The historical societies we visited came in all sizes from the Fluvanna County organization with only a few shelves of research material to the Sequoia Genealogy Society in Tulare County that encompassed an entire wing of the county library.After these encounters we came to appreciate the efforts of the many helpful volunteers who are available to assist you in your endeavors. ††We always left a donation to the society, of at least ten dollars, after each visit.†††

††††† Prior to our journey neither of us had done any substantial research within a county courthouse.We understood that this would require us to interface with real people as opposed to our computers.As a result we learned much about how to approach and buildgood relationships with clerks in the county courthouses.We believe it is most important to make every effort to establish yourself as a serious researcher.For example arrive with the tools you will need.Asking clerks for a pencil and a piece of paper will not build a positive image.Be aware of office procedures as well as the hours of operation.Although most clerks will take the time to direct you to the types of records you are looking for they are not there to do your work for you.In essence take the time to familiarize yourself with how their records are arranged before asking for assistance and then only expect a brief explanation from the clerk.There are some times when none of this is really important such as when we visited the Tulare County Courthouse we found all of the records on microfilm in an area where there were no clerks at all.Any business or your questions had to be relayed through an opening in a glass partition!

†††† Libraries are usually open on a regular basis and the staff is there to assist you with your research.The Family History library in Salt Lake City was by far the most user friendly.The filing system there is easy to figure out and there are volunteers all around.Still one must attempt to work within the schedule of the librarian if you want or need any special assistance.Our experience in Hugoton, Kansas proved to be an excellent example.Although we had to wait for almost two hours to use a library room because of another activity we came away with some very good information on the death of our great-great grandmother Lydia Moreland.In addition we both got our hair cut, enjoyed a free cup of coffee, as well as getting to know some of the locals while we waited.

†††† Probably the most important research technique we improved involved the utilization of digital cameras to copy and record the information we collected along the way.†† Each research facility has itís own way of providing researchers with copying services.You may have to submit your book or documents to a staff person to be copied.A copy machine may be available where you make your own copies on an honor system and pay a clerk, put change into the machine for each copy, or you may have to purchase a copy card that can only be used with that facility.When you are visiting with relatives there probably will not be any copy machine available to you and as such your ability to share notes and pictures is seriously hampered. To surmount these types of copying problems some researchers purchase equipment such as ďcopy pensĒ, or small scanners that may still be bulky and require an electrical plug.We found that using a digital camera will more than overcome all of the above named methods.†† You can take an almost unlimited amount of digital images during a research session.Which means that you donít have to worry about whether the information will be useful later.At the end of the day merely download the images into your laptop computer, delete them from your camera and you are ready for your next research session.

†††† In conclusion one must realize that a systematic approach is critical to the success of any research trip.Without a rational, organized plan you will miss vital data, waste time, and overlook clues that you will not discover until you have returned home.The success of your trip depends on the preparation of your materials, your procedures, and yourself.With this in mind you can return home with a sense of accomplishment that you left well prepared, did your best, and will now use your research to bring your family a deeper understanding of their heritage.

 

 

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