Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lessons from a trip to a real live records repository

(other than the one I work at, that is)

On Monday, I visited the Records Room at the Kings County Surrogates Court. Besides the genealogical information, this is what I learned:

1. Leave early if you want to have a substantial period of time for research. There WILL be traffic on the FDR, because there WILL be 2 lanes closed at 11 in the morning, despite the signs assuring you that lane closures only occur between 1 and 5 am.

2. It is not as easy to find parking in downtown, business district Brooklyn as it is to find parking in Williamsburg, which is the only place in Brooklyn I've ever looked for parking. Factor the expense of a parking garage into your budget.

3. Although you may think that sitting at a desk reading old wills is a sedentary activity, wear comfortable shoes. The 4 block walk from the parking garage to the courthouse is less sedentary.

3a. That parking garage right across the street from the courthouse must have been very well-hidden 15 minutes ago.

5. You're not allowed to even bring digital cameras into the building. Security didn't make me give up my cell phone, though. Don't they know what cell phones can do these days?

6. All repositories are not created equal, and not everything looks like NARA. I did not have to put my bag in a locker, I did not have to sign in, I did not have to use pencil rather than pen (I did, of course), food appeared to be allowed. However, it was pleasant and comfortable, the staff were relatively helpful, records arrived quickly (sometimes in seconds)

7. $10.00-$12.00 in coins is not enough for all the copies you'll want to make.

8. You won't get everything done in one day. I left with a completed request slip for what I believe is the document granting Johanna Roche Madigan custody of her youngest step-daughter, Margaret, who at 20 years old was considered an "infant." It was too late in the day to have that record pulled for me that afternoon.

9. You may not have any major break-throughs, but you will add to your body of knowledge.

10. You WILL be mocked by your family when you get home.

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