Historian’s backpack

BackpackWhat are the things that you shouldn’t leave home without?

These items have been contributed via the blog on Essential items or the Australian Genealogy Facebook page – feel free to use any of these options or the Contact page with more suggestions.  PDF Download link at bottom of page.

  • PHONE APP:
    Aussie Loos – especially when you’re in a new location and have no idea where this essential item might be – just love the “I’m Busting” button!
  • BACKPACK:
    for carrying all these extra important items
  • RESEARCHER’S VEST:
    Similar to those made for photographers or fishermen [and women!] to help keep important items close to hand.  Be aware that some archives may not welcome these items in their repositories.
  • SOCIETY and LIBRARY MEMBERSHIP CARDS:
    sometimes needed for ordering and collecting items.  Also invaluable, particularly overseas for making contacts
  • WISH LISTS:
    include items to find and places to look – nothing worse than not being able to access records or archives and you can’t remember where else you wanted to go and what you wanted to find.  Even better – you find what you wanted very quickly and have time to spare – make the most of it
  • BUSINESS CARDS:
    A good investment and very cheap these days – saves writing and/or spelling email addresses, snail mail addresses etc. when you meet someone you want to keep in touch with.  You may want to design ones with your Surnames of Interest or Places of Interest – you can order double-sided cards than can be great for this
  • TRAVEL / TRANSPORT CARDS:
    Make sure they’re topped up [i.e. MYKI card]
  • TRANSPORT:
    Train, tram and bus timetables – either printed or apps on your phone / device.  There are some excellent public transport apps and parking apps
  • LOOSE CHANGE:
    Copying machines, parking meters and all those items where you just can’t use a large note!
  • GPS or equivalent:
    We all get lost sometimes or just don’t know where we’re going
  • GOOGLE MAPS:
    great for looking at street view, aerial view and other options for your destination
  • MAPS:
    nothing wrong with old-fashioned paper maps – they can also be invaluable
  • PENCIL:
    particularly for use in archives where we should never use a pen or equivalent
  • PENCIL SHARPENER:
    a clutch pencil is an alternative but many prefer a real pencil
  • SPARE LEADS for your CLUTCH PENCIL:
    it’s Murphy’s Law that the lead you’re using is the LAST one in the pencil!  And of course it will break more often than normal – that’s the excitement of finding those amazing records you hoped to find!
  • CLEAR PENCIL CASE:
    especially if going into archives
  • RUBBER or ERASER:
    depending on where you live it will be called one or the other!
  • PAPER:
    a hard-backed notebook is always useful if you don’t have a flat surface to lean on
  • GENERAL STATIONERY ITEMS:
    highlighters, pens, folders, magnifiers, clips etc.
  • SAFETY PINS:
    for pinning locker key to your shirt
  • SMALL MAGNET:
    this can be placed on the outside of microfiche / microfilm cabinets – makes it easier to return the film to the right drawer and keep track of where you’re up to.  You can also write your name on the magnet.  Be careful to keep it away from items magnets can damage!
  • READING GLASSES:
    you’d be surprised how often these are forgotten – consider keeping an emergency / backup pair in your backpack
  • CAMERA:
    a separate camera to the one on your phone, as well as any special lighting you might need.  Remember to never use flashes in archives as they can damage precious records
  • TAPE MEASURE:
    you mightn’t need one very often but that one time you do it’s really handy to have in your backpack
  • PHOTO CHECKERBOARD RULER:
    a matchbox and a large building look the same size in a photo unless you have something to compare in the same image – a checkered ruler designed for use in photos is a great tool so you don’t need to remember the actual size of items you photograph
  • SMART PHONE:
    every day more Apps become available that are making a Smart Phone an essential tool for historians
  • FLIP-PAL SCANNER:
    a very popular and useful item for local and family historians – available in Australia.  There are also other types of hand-held scanners – Google for ideas.
  • RECORDIUM APP or RECORDING DEVICE:
    on your phone or as separate device – to record your thoughts or finds or interviewing a cousin or person you meet
  • USB or EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE:
    containing your family history book, electronic records, photos etc. – either for showing or sharing with others or in case of catastrophe at your home.  Multiple USBs are also essential for those records you discover and items offered by other family members.
  • POLICIES and PROCEDURES:
    you should always check in advance for the archive / repository / society you plan to visit – can you use cameras? can you use scanners? what are the policies and procedures that might affect your visit
  • NOTES:
    Who and what are you looking for – nothing worse than spending time chasing records you already have and missing the ones you really needed.  And don’t forget the “maybes” who could turn out to be “definitelies”!
  • PEDIGREE CHARTS and FAMILY GROUP SHEETS:
    it’s so much easier to show these charts to family members or people at libraries, societies and archives – a clearer picture than you talking about gg-uncle John SMITH!
  • BLANK FORMS:
    Research logs, Family Group Sheets, bulk Records you’re transcribing – all will save errors and omissions in your research as well as speed up the process
  • ESSENTIAL WEB ADDRESSES / FAVOURITES / BOOKMARKS:
    on your phone, tablet, computer etc.  You must have web links for cemeteries as some have online maps to help you locate individual plots.  Also web links for archives help if you need to check location, opening hours or contact details.
  • PRESENTATIONS:
    If you’re giving one, don’t forget to have a copy on USB [preferably more than one] as well as a hard-copy in case Murphy strikes and there are no presentation facilities!  If you have handouts make sure you have sent them in advance or have sufficient copies with you.
  • ACCOUNTS and PASSWORDS:
    Make sure you have a printed copy in a safe place or can safely access them remotely without exposing them to the world.  Remember you might be able to log in using your home computer but can you access them from another computer?
  • ESSENTIAL CONTACT DETAILS:
    phone numbers, names, addresses etc. for contacts, relatives, repositories.  Don’t forget emergency numbers and locations for relevant items
  • BOOKING / REFERENCE NUMBER:
    whether you’re travelling or booking items, make sure you have all the relevant documents and numbers with you
  • ICE – In Case of Emergency:
    keep these details on you, including any medical alerts etc.
  • CHARGER and/or BATTERIES:
    for electronic items that have a habit of running out of puff just when you need them.  Consider investing in a car charger so you can recharge when moving from one location to another.  Chargers catering for multiple devices can also be extremely useful.  Also suggested as a good way to make friends!
  • GEDCOM or FAMILY TREE:
    on iPad / tablet / phone
  • HAT:
    you won’t enjoy your day if you end up with sunburn, sunstroke or worse!
  • SUNSCREEN:
    when you’re distracted it’s easy to forget how burnt you can get – especially if you’re doing a lot of driving with the sun coming through the window
  • INSECT REPELLENT:
    Cameras have been broken while swatting away flies or mozzies – avoid the hazards
  • FIRST AID KIT:
    you should keep one in your car anyway, but consider purchasing a good kit for your backpack
  • GOOD WALKING SHOES:
    don’t ignore the value of gum boots – especially good for protection
  • ALL WEATHER GEAR:
    umbrella, waterproof and windproof jacket, sunglasses etc. – remember, the weather won’t be the same when you leave home and when you get to where you’re going.
  • CHANGE OF CLOTHES:
    especially shoes and socks in case you get wet or covered with burrs etc.
  • WATER:
    for drinking but also for splashing on headstones to improve photo opportunities
  • HEALTHY SNACKS:
    you don’t want to stop your research to go and find a cafe or food outlet – pack healthy snacks and make use of small freezer packs to keep them fresh.  Of course you’re not going to keep researching in an archive while you’re eating but there is generally a suitable place to eat and then return to your research without having to travel and waste valuable time
  • ROLL of FOIL:
    great blog highlighted on The Australian Genealogists Daily on Reading hard-to-read gravestones – REMEMBER – there are NO approved cleaning kits for headstones.  No brushes, no shaving cream, no anything – they all damage the headstone!  A light spray of clean water or a sheet of alfoil with a soft sponge to get clear images.  The blog on reading hard-to-read gravestones shows the terrific results from this non-damaging process.
  • THANK YOU GIFTS:
    This depends on who you are visiting but be prepared with items / files you are prepared to hand over to a society for their collection as a thank you – this will also increase your chances of contacting other family researchers.  Something more personal or appropriate for relatives and include your contact details with all “gifts”.
  • FRIEND to help carry everything:
    this isn’t as frivolous as it sounds – a friend can not only help carry things but someone who can be a sounding board, a note-taker or transcriber, AND wipe the sweat from the brow!

DOWNLOAD this checklist in .pdf format

Suggestions have been pouring in and are bing updated on this list.  I may have to look at grouping things by activity?  We’ll see …

Thank you to these contributors: Carolyn Johnson; Helen Smith; Colleen Dwyer-Gray; Diane Donnon; Sandra Carol Tune; Susan Cook; Maureen Trotter; Karen Kearney; Jenni Ibrahim; Lyn Nunn; David Rowe; Heather Pound; Sylvia Murphy; Sharon Fritz; Thomas MacEntee; Karen Wolswinkel; Jo Grant;

4 thoughts on “Historian’s backpack”

  1. I have found it extremely useful to have a good topographical map, preferably contemporaneous with your ancestor’s timeline. Often smaller places are impossible to find without this level of detail.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s