I just finished prepping for next week’s town hall research and wanted to share a few suggestions.
1) Know where you’re going! In Connecticut, land records are always held in the town clerk’s office. In most towns, vital records are held there as well. In five cities, you’ll need to visit the health department instead. If you need to visit multiple offices, plan accordingly.
2) Look at a map. In the age of GPS, we don’t usually look at a map before travelling. However… town offices aren’t always the easiest to spot. I’ve seen them in everything from modern complexes, to historic homes, to former schools. I missed the town hall (a historic home next to several others actually being used as houses) twice on my last research trip. Driving by the building isn’t going to save you time.
3) Check the hours. Most places are open 9 to 5, right? Not so fast! Town halls are usually open either 8:30-4:30 or, in smaller communities, 9 to 4. However, small towns often keep one late night – I was just prepping for a town that is open until 7 one day – and close early one day. They may also close for lunch. Always check the schedule!
4) Make sure you have what you need. A copy of a land record will cost you $1/page, a vital record $20/copy. Unless you want to be paying a steep “convenience” fee, make sure you have cash or check. Land records are open to everyone, but most town clerks will require a copy of your “blue card” (proof of membership in an approved genealogical society) before letting you see vital records books. Expect to pay for any photocopies, although handwritten notes are usually permitted.
5) Be nice! I’ve had clerks point out resources I didn’t know existed in an attempt to help. I’ve also had clerks attempt to hurry me out of their offices. Pleasant attitudes – and brownies – always help!
Any additional suggestions? Please let me know!