Have you ever planned something to do, and when you were in the middle doing it you remembered something you should have had on your list and thought, “Oh! I wish I’d thought of that before!”???
I have. It’s no fun when it happens in the middle of a research project. In fact, it takes up precious time to regroup.
Here’s what happened to me:
Last year I had a research trip planned for Upstate New York. I thought I had done all my homework. I found archives, courthouses, and libraries where I wanted to conduct some research. I had examined their catalogs and knew what records they had. I even made appointments with those archives that required them. I thought I was ready.
When the time came, I traveled to New York and began my research. While at one of the first archives, I found an inhouse database taken from an 1806 unpublished census for the area. It listed head of household, some hash marks by ages, the lot number they lived on, number of acres, cows, horses, sheep, houses, etc.
My family arrived in the area in 1804, and by 1807 both father and his adult son had died, so the 1806 census was extremely valuable to me!
I asked around about the database. No one knew where to find the original, but I discovered a little museum that wasn’t even on my radar! It has a collection of things others would think are inconsequential but are valuable to solving brick wall problems.
I went to the museum to see if I could examine their records. They told me the museum was not open to the public because the archivist had retired and, because of budget cuts, the state would not hire a replacement!
IT WAS CLOSED!
I was devastated. I was right there and couldn’t get in.
In a last chance phone call, I finally got hold of the retired archivist. She said she was not available to let me in, and she’s the only one who could, but in a few weeks she would go to the collection and send me some photocopies of the things I needed.
After several weeks back home, the archivist sent me the copies. On examining them, however, I had more questions and needed copies of more pages.
After several months of back and forth by mail, I realized that to be able to glean all I could from those records, I needed to examine the collection for myself.
I asked the retired archivist if she would be willing to open the collection for me if I could get back to New York.
She said she would!!! We set the date, almost a year to the date that I had been there before.
Just about a month ago, my husband and I traveled back to New York and met her at the archives. She showed us around the collection, gave instructions how to access it, and then let us at it!!!!
As Bruce was rummaging around the cabinets, he came across an 1806 census!!!! THAT was the one I had been looking for on my prior visit. It was the original!!!
We were able to have great success and were able to examine the 1806 census, old store ledgers, land records, and all kinds of treasured documents.
Are you drooling yet? I wouldn’t be surprised. IT WAS AN AMAZING FIND. [If you’re curious where this was, I can’t tell you yet, because I’m trying to arrange to have the collection preserved and need to protect their privacy. I’ll let you know where it is when I can.]
In hindsight, had I known about the collection before I went to New York the first time, I may have saved myself a year waiting to get in.
Now, I don’t want that to happen to you with this wonderful research plan you just created.
SO, put it on the “back burner” so to speak. Let it sit there and stew. In fact, you can make a real pot of stew and stew on your plan while it stews!
At the end of the week, read it again with fresh eyes and ask yourself if you’ve covered all you want it to cover, asked all the questions you want to ask, and inquired with locals about their collections.
This is your chance to make it right! No regrets.