Sunday, September 19, 2010

Researching in Greenville

It must be Beginner’s Luck. You know, those fated finds or serendipitous successes that get you hooked into something. This was my first real genealogy research trip. Just as I got addicted to genealogy starting with a couple of lucky early discoveries, on this first trip everything just came together and worked.

It started with my cousins, Paula and Carolyn. Paula and I met online just a few months ago through my Footnote Page for my great-great-grandfather William Spencer Moore. We had both, through separate paths, found the will of Spencer’s father Samuel Moore (also the father of Paula’s great-great-great grandfather Freeman Manson Moore) on the South Carolina Department of Archives and History website.

Within a week of first contact, Paula and I were planning a trip to Greenville. There was some preparation involved. We downloaded indices to microfilm of land and probate records from the Greenville County website and made lists of resources in Greenville. Greenville has a lot of documents, indices, and databases online, so we were able to reduce the volume of films we needed to look at and documents we needed to copy. I also e-mailed one of the librarians to ask for advice. Unfortunately, we didn’t even make it to the Greenville Historical Society or the Greenville History Museum. There were so many resources and we were finding so many things in the Hughes Main Library of Greenville that I couldn’t tear myself away. So they are on the list for the next trip – oh, yeah, my husband and I are planning another trip. Don’t know when, yet, but there will be plenty more to do and see.

We did take part of an afternoon to visit the Special Collections and Archives section at the James B. Duke Library at Furman University. Paula called ahead to request pulls for any material involving our Moore family as well as on the local churches. There were no materials on our family, but they did have some microfilm of church record minutes that we were interested in. One of the rolls was barely legible, and by the time we got to the second one it was getting late. We’ll probably use inter-library loan and/or a visit to the Anderson County Library to pursue these. We were still glad that we got to visit the campus of Furman University, which is absolutely beautiful.

View from the steps of the James B. Duke Library at Furman University

Paula and Carolyn left Greenville a day ahead of us, but we had two full days together in the Library. Being able to work with other researchers has a real multiplication effect, both in the effective division of labor and in the “multiplied energy.” Paula and I have somewhat different, but complementary approaches: she is a bit more name-oriented and I am a bit more location-oriented. It was very helpful for us to bounce ideas off one another. On the evening of the Sunday when we all arrived, we got together at our hotel, pulled out all of our Moore and Greenville materials, and made a plan of action. We also exchanged family pictures and genealogy program-generated reports on our respective families. Monday morning we dove in, pulling books, maps, and microfilm. Every time we made a big find, we had to run over to share it: “Greta, you’re going to have a heart attack when you see this!” “Paula, Carolyn – I’ve just stumbled onto a bombshell!”

When it was time for Paula and Carolyn to leave, we had an emotional parting – at the Library, of course; it was where my cousins knew they could find me. They brought me the last pile of Xerox copies of the materials we had printed out from the microfilm. The librarians had gotten to know us pretty well by this time and kindly offered to take pictures of us.

So, what did we gain from our trip? Quite a bit.

- We didn’t find the wife of our Samuel Moore, but we did find a number of new (and surprising) names of Moores, most of which are in all likelihood related to our Moores. Now we have to find out exactly how they were related and what happened to them. We found further information on a number of families descended from Samuel Moore who had reached a premature dead end for us. We found Freeman Manson Moore associated with Bud Mathis Moore in Greenville, and not just in Henry County, Georgia. We also found more information about associated families who may be related. These were on land deeds, in probate records, and in church minutes.

- We (actually I) learned a lot about research trips (Paula and Carolyn are pros at this): how long I can work without getting cross-eyed (about 11 hours), how to operate a microfilm machine (yes, I was a “noob”) and balance microfilm squinting time with less stressful-on-the-eyes resources, how to pack the most fun into breakfast/lunch/dinner/afterhours so that there is still an element of vacation, how to prioritize and organize research so that I am not jumping around too much (couldn’t help jumping around just a little bit – this was a sort of Genealogy Candy Store, after all), how to actually map out my day’s activities, and how to quickly scan documents for clues that might lead to other documents. Some other things I learned:

1. Bring more change. Lots more change. Even though I brought our very impressive (and heavy) collection of change from home, it wasn’t enough. Tuesday morning got three rolls of quarters at the bank. It wasn’t enough. (“Paula, remember that offer you made to give me some of your quarters and I said that was OK, I wouldn’t need them? Uh, I was wrong.”). Wednesday morning got four more rolls. Well, OK, I brought almost two full rolls home, but at least it’s real money.

2. Bring paper clips and sticky notes. (This was a real “duh” moment for me. Again, Paula and Carolyn saved the day.)

3. Don’t forget to eat! Luckily, Hughes Library has a little cafĂ© – inexpensive and good food. But still, lunch always ended up being at 2:00 or later.

4. Review, review, review your new materials to find hints on still more documents. I won’t say stick strictly to your research plan, but refer back to it and amend it as necessary as you proceed.

5. Take advantage of the many conversations you have with people in the area (well, I certainly ended up talking to lots of people) to mention why you are visiting; you may find a fellow genie, someone who is knowledgeable about the area’s resources and/or sights, or even a relative or someone who knows a relative (I didn’t find the last one, but you never know).

6. The “magic wand” (scanner) did get a workout, but it was all from books, particularly when there were extended sections of things like church minutes where taking notes didn’t capture enough information. I did learn that you have to make the surface as flat as possible, and if the inner margin is tight, that part may be distorted on the final scan. When the curve of the book is too great, the scanner interprets that as time to turn off; so I would place the book with one side flat, which I would scan from the outer margin to the inner margin, and the other half held perpendicular so as to reduce the curvature of the pages on the flat side.

7. It is particularly effective to have someone to whom you can describe your findings, hypotheses, and questions. I was lucky to have my cousins and husband along. If I had been traveling alone, I would have used my blog and e-mailed cousins and other interested researchers.

- And last, but certainly not least among the things gained: For my family line, there were two, possibly three, Great Big Bombshells. But more on that later.

Before this trip, I was addicted to genealogy. And now I am addicted to genealogy research trips.


  1. Your post has really gotten me excited for my next research trip, which unfortunately won't be until Spring. :(

    The "magic wand" sounds interesting - have you ever tried a digital camera? I've used the latter, but not the former. Always looking for something faster/easier/better.

    I put together a "Research Kit" in part of my laptop case. Pens, pencils, yellow stickies, little stapler, highlighters, paper clips, scratch paper, etc.

    Can't wait to hear about the bombshells!!

  2. Sounds like a beyond wonderful experience. So glad. I've never tried "group" research but it sounds amazing. Congrats.

  3. You make me want to leave tomorrow on a research trip.

    Glad the wand worked. I've wanted one since you 1st wrote about it and now I really have to have it.

    Cousin research trips are the best!

  4. Thanks for your post. I'm still trying / hoping to do a research trip sometime in the near future so the tips definitely help.

  5. Congrats,a great time, great research, great post, eagerly awaiting the "rest" of the story.

  6. You've inspired me to start planning my next research trip! So many places to research, which shall it be first?

  7. Good tip on the Magic Wand. I'll have to try it. I love mine as it really cuts down on the number of copies I make (and time spent at the copy machine-that means more research time).

    I can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

  8. I am in awe that you were able to find other family researchers to work with and that you all were able to get together. I wish I could locate some in my lines. Also must the name of the library....Hughes maiden name

  9. Great tips, Greta! I' glad you had such a successful trip.

  10. Thanks everyone, for the comments. Karen - well, at least you can have fun until the spring planning your trip. I'm less intimidated by doing this, now, so I'm going to plan some dream "research trips/vacations." I brought my camera with me to the library, but didn't take pictures as I should have to complement the scans. It can also work, and between the two, I would be most likely to capture all of the information.

    Lisa - I'd pick an area where you are really passionate about the family and where you know there are good resources available, with lots of things online to help you figure out where you want to go and what resources you can access.

    All - hope you are all able to take great research trips in the near future! I know I won't always have such ideal circumstances, but now I have more of an idea how to do it and more confidence.