Are You Missing Most of the Available Genealogy Information?

I recently received a message from a newsletter reader that disturbed me a bit. He wrote, “I have been doing genealogy research for 10-15 years but only through the Internet.” He then went on to describe some of the frustrations he has encountered trying to find information. In short, he was disappointed at how little information he has found online.

I read the entire message, but my eyes kept jumping back to the words in his first sentence: “… but only through the Internet.”

Doesn’t he realize that 95% of the information of interest to genealogists is not yet available on the Internet?

To be sure, many of the biggest and most valuable resources are now available online, including national census records, the Social Security Death Index, many military pension applications, draft cards, many passenger lists, land patent databases, and more.

The national databases were the “low hanging fruit” a few years ago as the providers of online information rushed to place large genealogy databases online. These huge collections benefited a lot of genealogists; these databases were the first to become indexed, digitized, and placed online. We all should be thankful that these databases are available today and are in common use.

As the national databases became available to all, the online providers moved on to digitize regional and statewide information. State censuses, birth records, marriage records, death records, naturalization records (which originally were recorded in many local and state courts), county histories, and much, much more are still being placed online.

Of course, this is great news for genealogists who cannot easily travel to the locations where the original records are kept. For many of us, this is even better than having information on microfilm. Most of us don’t have microfilm readers at home, but we do have computers.

Yet, I am guessing that 95% of the information of interest to genealogists has not yet been digitized. Why would anyone want to look for genealogy information “… only through the Internet?”

State censuses, birth records, marriage records, death records, naturalization records, county histories, and more are all “work in progress” projects. That is, they are not yet complete. In fact, I doubt if all of them will be available online for at least another decade or two! If you only look online, you are missing a lot.

In many cases, church parish records, local tax lists, school records, land records (other than Federal land grants), and many more records are not yet available online and probably won’t be available for years. If you are limiting yourself to “… only through the Internet,” you are missing 95% of the available information.

If you have the luxury of living near the places where your ancestors lived, I’d suggest you jump in an automobile and drive to the repositories where those records are kept. There is nothing that matches the feeling of holding original records in your hand. Make photocopies or scan them or take pictures of them or do whatever is possible to collect images of the original records.

If you do not enjoy the luxury of short distances, use microfilm. Luckily, that is easy to do although you will have to leave your home. Many (but not all) of these records have been microfilmed, and those films may be viewed at various libraries, archives, or at a local Family History Center near you. There are more than 4,600 of those local centers, so you probably can find one within a short distance of your home. The Family History Centers are free to use although you do have to pay a modest fee for postage when you rent a microfilm by mail. See https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Introduction_to_LDS_Family_History_Centers for details. You can also find your nearest Family History Center by starting at: https://familysearch.org/locations.

If you do not know where to start, I would suggest reading “Begin your genealogy quest” at https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Begin_your_genealogy_quest for some great “getting started” information.

Which option would you prefer: accessing 5% of the available records or 100% of the available records?

38 Comments

Even if you’re “only researching through the internet,” you’d have to have blinders on not to know about the sources that haven’t been digitized yet. There is yours and others “how to begin” articles, and if you post on fora or mailing lists, and ask others for help there, you can’t help but find out about other sources. If you ask for an obituary, someone has to go find it, even if it’s not you. You can do much asking for help through email now rather than snail mail. It may be difficult to find someone to look up deeds and probate records at the courthouse if you’re not willing to pay for their time, though. You can ask for copies of microfilmed records through email, or online at your local library, although you might have to go into a library to view them. So even though very few sources may be available through the internet, I think you can do more through the internet than what you’ve indicated.

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    I’m agree with Sue. From your computer you can do a heck of a lot. I disagree with what Dick has suggested in that you can be missing out on 95% of information by only using a computer. I dont live near my ancestors unfortunately but have organized a lot through my PC. Other than phoning and sending out a few mass snail mail letters the biggest driver is my computer. Its where I buy all my birth, marriage and death documents from around the world. Its where I organized an article to be placed in a newspaper overseas to trace a relative. Its where find original scans of census, electoral rolls, shipping documents, convict photos, newspaper scans, ww2 documents, forced labour documents, land ownership records, probates and naturalization and the list goes on and on. If it hasnt been scanned then ask for a copy (and i’m not talking about ancestry.com but government sites or shipping sites etc). My very own website which has been online for 5 years or something has brought in a good amount of photos and other documents from relatives that have found the site and been in contact. I have formed relationships with folks researching the same group of people, we help each other. We met online because we posted our family history stuff. Recently I needed a shipping document and it wasnt online. I contacted the UK archives and they made a copy. It couldnt be easier from a computer. Most places allow you to ask for copies of something. Email them.

    Sometimes Ancestry.com, findmypast.com and so on have free weekends whereby they open up a selection of files to search – take advantage of that. Sometimes the same documents are available from more than one source. For example they maybe on ancestry.com but will be available elsewhere online or you may have to request a copy.

    Does the person that contacted Dick know how to use the internet for research?

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How I wish I’d been interested in genealogy when I lived in several Midwestern locations near where various ancestors lived. I now live in Seattle, where my families came in the 1930s, and, fortunately for me, my dad collected the records here.

I inherited some family records, including Bibles with vital records. And online lists have done lookups for me in records that are not online. But I haven’t ventured elsewhere myself. A family member happened on some great stuff by accident recently, though, that demonstrates your point (though it should be done via planning.)

A couple of weeks ago, a younger relative was visiting friends in MN, when she and her husband saw a sign to a town she thought sounded familiar. Calling home, she learned my aunt was born there. They went there, found a museum and historical society, and got copies of her birth certificate, my great grandparents’ obits, a great uncle’s obit, and a long write up from the county history on my great grandfather. NONE of this is online. I’m the family genealogist, and I’ve hunted and hunted. The county history piece fills in a lot I didn’t know on my g grandfather that should help me find his “missing” immigration data.

I’ve never gone to a Family History Center, as I don’t drive and it would require a cab ride. But you’re encouraging me to do it!

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A true genealogy can’t be considered completed unless the actual source documents have been consulted and perhaps copies can be provided as documentation. I remember waiting for vacation days and/or personal holidays from work, so that I could go to the county record offices (recorder of deed, probate, etc.) to look for the records of my ancestors, especially the immigrant ones. To only use the internet for research, is truly missing out on accurate, true information. I only use the internet for research as a secondary source of information. That information is used only to direct me toward the actual records, whether they be digitized, microfilmed, or the record offices. You have to remember, unless you are looking at an original digitized record, there can be transcription errors and typos on indexes. I love that more original records are appearing on the internet, but I am never going to restrict myself to that type of research alone.

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    I know I have a lot to learn about doing genealogy, which I’ve been doing only about 15 years. I also haven’t begun to exhaust what I know can be found online. And I work very hard to get images of the original records of what I find online, whether they be vital records or something else. Recently, for instance, thanks to one of Dick’s articles on newly entered FamilySearch data, I found two family birth registrations in Peru, clarifying some information I didn’t yet have documented. These were clear digitized copies of the originals, which I was copied, along with the proper citations. I don’t read Spanish, but a friend who lived in Latin America is translating them for me. The forms are simple enough, and we’ve got one figured out, but the handwriting is very weird in the other.

    Your point is very well taken, however. I’ve seen many transcription errors. Perhaps the worst was for my Norwegian g grandmother’s arrival in Boston. She showed up in an online index as “Reyno Tunestad,” but the image clearly read, matching the name on her departure from Norway, “Regine Farrestat.” Clinching it were the first names and ages of her four children traveling with her, correctly transcribed. Searching on the most unusual of their names found the family, and the image turned up the right mother.

    As an instance where I’m quite sure I’ll have to go beyond the computer, I have a question about the correct parents of a ggg grandfather. The names given in multiple Ancestry family trees seem to be wrong, according to the only secondary source I’ve found which is anywhere near to contemporary (an online town history). I’m going to have to find original documents, wills or deeds, perhaps, to find out who they really were. I joined NEHGS to search their online records, which I’ve only begun, with no luck yet. I may need to look at some microfilms to work on this question. I simply can’t get to Boston myself, let alone the other New England states where the people involved lived. Their “Ask a Genealogist” has suggested some directions to proceed, which I’m pursuing–all online, actually.

    As I think is fairly common, I first got interested in genealogy by hearing family stories, and reading the documents handed down to me. One ggg grandmother’s New Testament list of her children listed an “extra” first child not found in her husband’s Bible listing, with no surname. Researchers on an email list, certified genealogists with access to records I do not, found that this child was illegitimate, and the baptismal records proving that, listing the father’s name. Without my even asking, someone was interested enough to go through other original records to look for wills, marriage records, etc. mentioning her name. Not finding any, she concluded the child probably died young. She sent me copies of the baptismal records, but of course her conclusion about an early death is evidence based on a negative, which isn’t really proof, and that must remain an open question. It’s still interesting, and I’m grateful for the genealogist’s search.

    So thank you for your points. I’m always open to learning more about doing genealogy. It’s never finished, no matter how much I learn. It’s one reason I’m grateful for learning about Dick’s blog on one of the email lists I’m on.

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sally wasielewski July 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm

I agree completely that sitting in front of a computer is cheating yourself of valuable research, but how about a follow up article: when is it time to do the field work? and how do we prepare for it? I have a week of vacation coming up and I need to assess my chances in two possible areas: central Illinois or several Ohio counties..I want to make the best use of my time because its a really tough brickwall with a very common surname.

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    As they say in real estate… location, location, location. Are there local historical societies / museums and libraries in the areas where you are planning to research? Many local historical societies and libraries have an online website. Check for hours when they are open. If the historical society has limited hours, see if you can find a way to contact an individual associated with the facility. They may be willing to open up just for you. Don’t feel bad about it – they may have limited volunteers who want to help but don’t have the time to sit and wait for unknown people to come in. Talk to the volunteers. They know the community and may be able to provide other ideas on where to look or who to talk to for more information. While you’re at the local historical society/museum, take time to look at what they have. Most items are donated and may be tagged with who donated it. There may be something that belonged to a relative. Leave a donation. Local historical societies and museums (especially the small town ones) can sometimes stretch a dollar farther than I thought possible, but they need financial support. Local libraries often have a shelf of local history books or microfilm of the local newspaper. Happy travels and good luck.

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As Sue Wilson mentioned, in my 12-15 years of research, the library has been a big help. Even a library in another state was so helpful by sending me info through the mail. And this info is still not online. I always look at the websites for the library in any town I find in connection with a family member to see if they have family history info. And don’t forget college libraries. If you can travel and visit places for research…there’s nothing like it. I’ve actually by accident met people who have led me to family gravesites that I never would have found on my own. Seeing those original documents, visiting gravesites and old homesteads…seems to bring me closer to my family history.

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    alarm alert – oregon state library is closing access to public the end of the month – hurry as fast as you can – if you can

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A lot of the interest of family history is going to different sources to get a wider picture than you find on any one internet website. Blogs such as Dick’s have alerted me to obscure images of old newspapers, and Family History Centre films of original documents have been invaluable in filling in gaps where transcribers struggled to read difficult handwriting But there’s nothing like handling an original letter, kept in the family for generations, for really getting to know your ancestors and giving you leads to look further.

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Now that my traveling days are fewer, I use the internet a lot for researching at the moment I am using familysearch’s NY Marriages records 1908-1935, these are actual images of records. It takes time to do this, when I go back in today I will start on image 101 of 541. My point is that most people I talk to will not take the time to do this. I am going to look at every image.
Also, research is done with the help of other people, I found some probate information in Delaware County NY , wrote down the information and called my cousin, she is going to the county seat and look up the information. I have been there before and they will spend all the time you need helping you. Not everyone is that kind, we ran into that problem in other counties, where no one would take the time to help, even if that was their job (tax payer money at work)?
Thank you for the link to Shorpy, I was able to connect with a family member and get some photo’s and information. I also joined.
Nan Whitcomb

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It was just this past weekend at a birthday celebration someone talked about her new found hobby. She and her husband wanted to know other URLs to find information for things mentioned in Eastman’s newsletter. They were literally expecting everything to be available online! I suggested they begin to volunteer uploading information for such organizations as family search etc. so as to grasp the arduous tasks that so many have already done so we might enjoy what is currently available online sans the expense of travel and time! The response was “Ohhh”

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I did a lot of my early research on the internet, but quickly exhausted most of the databases. Its greatest value was connecting me with other researchers doing research on the same family. By combining our research and sharing our sources, we all obtained much more information than any one of us would have alone. I would never have even known about many of the family branches, or been able to find the local sources by myself.

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It’s great to do first hand research, but living overseas makes it prohibitive. And for years, US FHL microfilms weren’t available to us. I haven’t checked recently, though. Writing to county courthouses, etc has been about the only way prior to the internet – and that gets costly when you have to pay for copying, mailing etc. So, for me, the internet is my main source these days – as long as I can get images of the documents. I will copy someone else’s translations but hold the info in my ‘pending’ file until I can see the image.

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I figure any way you can get it is good. I’m not applying for a membership in the Mayflower Society, but I could. I’m not applying for membership in DAR, but I could. That piece of paper means nothing to me. I doubt there is one person in my county who even knows what those societies are. The 99.9% of research I’ve done is through the internet. Even if I had the means to travel to 20 states and 6 or so foreign countries, I wouldn’t do it. This is my hobby. None of my family cares. I cite and I research carefully but in the end, what doesn’t survive on ancestry.com will end up in the dumpster when I die. Considering what I have learned in the past 4 or 5 years, I am light years ahead of where my family history started. I say, start wherever you can. Use what ever you can. Do what you can. Be accurate. And if you don’t measure up to blog standards, read a different blog.

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    Please don’t let all of your work end up in a dumpster. There is likely a genealogical society in your area that would love to receive this in your will.

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    Mary Ann Thurmond July 29, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Please don’t let any of your hard work end up in the dumpster! I will leave a great deal of hard work and solid conclusions behind, but my family will know where I want my work to go if they don’t want to keep it. Leave behind instructions for whoever will deal with your precious materials after you have left it behind. I’m preparing copies for some things now and sending it to organizations who have said they would like to have the information.

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    Living in Peru, I have had to do all my research online (plus one important book). In less than 3 years I have filled in most of my father’s line back to 1631. This is not just one line back, but 4 lines and multiple sidelines. The trick is to know how to ask questions in Google and to be dogged about it. Also valuable is archive.org which has more online texts than you would imagine. Then there are the helpful people at several online genealogical groups like New York Genealogical Network and the New Amsterdam one (forget the exact name). Through the web I have even found an extended, no a super-extended, relative that I will be meeting soon. Getting further documentation (as in paper or digital certificates) will be the work of the generation behind me. I have also never paid one cent to any association, such as Ancestry.com. I believe that all information on ancestors ought to be free and that the government should provide free services (this is beginning to happen). It appalls me that Ancestry has the rights to our ancestors’ information.

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    I have volunteered at our local “historical society”. They don’t want anything I have. Actually, they don’t want anything. There isn’t “enough room” for anything else. Well, there is enough room but unless you are a member of the elite society in that town, you don’t count. Yup. that’s how it works. My family has been in this area since 1864. We are not rich enough or high enough in the societal order to qualify for historical society space. My father was a member of the 459th Twin Dragon unit in WWII. They didn’t want any of it so it’s now hosted on an internet web page. http://www.talkingproud.us/Military/459th/459thIntro.html
    They are so short on space the public library has the town histories, county histories and family genealogy crammed into a corner 4x4x8ft. No one takes care of it. There is a microfilm cabinet that so far is intact. Within the past 5 years the historical society has turned its focus to a house that was donated to the society and all the money and fund raising has been funneled into that house. I grew up less than 2 blocks from that house and it NEVER looked like it looks now. It’s not a restoration. I don’t know what the idea is. And the historical society is a building filled with miscellaneous “stuff”. They have a 10 ft long replica of a ship commanded by Admiral Leahy. His claim to town was he was born there and moved away by the time he was 8 years old. But his display gets a huge amount of space. The genealogy area has the rescued books taken from a burn pile in the 1970 Courthouse remodel, some bound old newspapers and a few cabinets of school yearbooks. One wall is a complete set of palimpsest that I bet no one has looked at since they were put there. There are boxes and boxes of courthouse documents that were never inventoried or even gone through to know what was in them. They are “stored”. Anything donated this past two years is still in the box it came it. I don’t go as often as I used to but in the past some of the other volunteers would sometimes alert me to a newly arrived box and I was able to go through it looking for any reference to my family. I understand that volunteers only have so much time but when the powers that be want to pick and choose what gets shown and the rest refused I won’t spend my time there raising the participants on the Society Page to idol status. Other people were involved in making that town what it is. Vent over for now.

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    Please reconsider not joining lineage societies that you are eligible for. By documenting your lineage it is available to future family members to use, and all your documentation work is saved for posterity. I hope my future generations will be interested in their lineage, and the easier the information is to find, the more they will learn and know.

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I dream and scheme for a genealogy trip to do additional research! Until then, it can only be the internet and books I find to research the history!

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I started doing genealogy when I was 15. There was no internet, no personal computers, no cell phones, no wireless, not even hand held calculators!!! So I sat at my State Library and looked at rolls and rolls of un-indexed microfilm of census records, guessing at where in the city my ancestors lived, and hoping I guessed right!! If I laid the rolls of microfilm I’ve looked at in my lifetime end to end, I’m sure it would at least stretch across the US!! But what a feeling of accomplishment when I did indeed guess right, and there they were!! And the help I got from county Historical Societies was invaluable. I’m now the Registrar for my DAR Chapter and just gave a genealogy workshop for my Chapter members. Yes, I talked about the internet and helpful links, and it’s wonderful what you can find in your PJ’s at 11PM from the comfort of home. But I also talked for 15 minutes about the Family History Library, how to search their catalog and how to order film of the records they hold. And I talked at length about “brick and mortar” locations for research…the State Library, county courthouses and archives, and Historical and Genealogical Societies. There is no substitute for “boots on the ground” research!!!

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In the mid 1970s, my parents had 24 hrs in the co. in central IL where his family originated. No planning. The county historical society happened to be open, their 4 weekly hours! Dad wanted photos of “just one ancestor.” The volunteer knew which person in town would know, “and I know she’s home now.” She gave directions, and soon my dad was meeting a relative he didn’t know existed, and her husband, one author of an old family history he didn’t know about either. They took my parents to the old family graveyard. He came home with a copy of the family history, and a bunch of pictures of ancestors. Back in town, he took a picture of a street sign with the family name, and a passerby told him the park on that corner was the site of a 19th c. private high school run by another branch of the family. All this was serendipity! Imagine what he’d have found had he called/written ahead. This info is online now, but his experience was priceless in itself.

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I’m trying to stay with internet only as most of the people I assist are “housebound” due to age or medical conditions. I know it is restrictive and makes for shallow digging, but they have fewer options. While mail can help in some instances, age is also a factor limiting “time”. It isn’t ideal, but what with companies opting for demand before production, we have to use what we can to glean what we can. Their stories are important and anything that can be done to bring those stories to light is important, but somewhat limited for many. Thanks for your column…you have helped our group a lot.

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A few years ago, one of the archivists at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland took me back into one of the many record repository areas. There were literally tens of thousands of paper documents filed IN THAT AREA ALONE. When I asked him about digitizing this material, he laughed and said, “Look around you, We are NEVER going to digitize all of this stuff.”

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I found so much stuff online, mainly digitized records from Polish parishes…and indexes/listings of parish records accumulated on various sites, including on Facebook groups. Years ago, it took weeks and weeks to write to a parish, ask for a scan, send money, and hope the money isn’t lost and that the church gets back to you. That being said, the Family History Centers were also equally helpful, because, a large % of records have not been digitized. In particular for going back to the Old World, one needs to utilize those records.

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No one has mentioned Inter-Libray loan. If microfilms are available in a any state or local library you can ask your local library to order the films and use them in your own library (make sure they actually have a microfilm reader first). I learned the hard way that my local library did not have a reader (yet the person ordered a microfilm for me). Also so many foreign records are becoming available on-line through the Family History Library. Recently I have used Italian, French and Mexican vital records, looking at the original records, from home. That said, there is NOTHING like
visiting your ancestors’ home town and talking to locals. I have actually been able to locate the home my 4th great-grandfather built in 1814 simply by talking to locals and the small town hall employees. Get on the road and look for those gems that are not, nor will they likely ever be, digitized!! If you only use computer accessible records you are missing half the joy of the search!!

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I second other Marci’s comments. For a few of us, computer records, and the kindness of strangers, are realistically our best source. I am retired near Guadalajara Mexico. I am very active in our local genealogy society and we spend a fair amount of time trying to find alternative resources. Most of us are retired and on tight budgets. We don’t return to the US or Canada all that often, and genealogy research trips are just too costly.

Our local genealogy society has tried repeatedly to access the local LDS Family History Centers. We have finally determined (through several LDS members) that the local center doesn’t keep regular hours due to a lack of interest among their membership.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but we don’t have inter-library loan. Some libraries and local genealogy societies have been wonderfully helpful, others not so much or not at all.

We frequently discuss potential resources that could be tapped. For example the loss of GenForums is a real heart breaker. Your columns discussing outside-the-box ideas are always greatly appreciated.

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    Marci,
    Are you aware that volunteers at a Family History Society do not need to be members of the
    LDS church? In fact, from what I have read there are a lot of nonmember volunteers. There should at least be a member assigned to head up the library who could train your members. Since you got your info from LDS members, I suggest you get the name and telephone numbers for the stake presidency or presidencies from them. Someone in the presidency is most likely to be in charge.
    Good luck

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    Hi Charlotte, Yes, I do a lot of transcription for FHL and I try to concentrate on records from Australia. And no, I’m not LDS. But the local FHL isn’t able to get loan microfilm from Salt Lake City, which is the point I was making. Nor can Australian Libraries borrow books from American libraries. So writing to courthouses and using the internet are my main sources of information. PLUS using the free weekends at the various ‘pay for’ genealogy sites, which thankfully Dick keeps us appraised of !!!

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I REALIZE that the world of genealogy revolves around the United States of America, but for goodness sakes, can’t you even recognize in your correspondence that there are other parts of the world involved in genealogy!

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Only one other commentator has touched on the issue of physical limitations in doing on-site genealogy. For those with mobility issues, the home computer is the only hands-on resource available to them. Before jumping to conclusions perhaps a more charitable approach could be taken. Hobby genealogists are largely self-taught however sincere their efforts. And yet, as more and more records are digitized, and as more and more archives are dumped to make room for something else, it behooves practicing genealogists everywhere to take the time to explain, without a condescending attitude, what is expected in good genealogical research and why.

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We’ll said Sue.

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I have done my research “only on the internet” because I have MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I have an asthmatic reaction to all kinds of things – perfumes, other fumes, mold, cleaners, etc. Basically – if I can smell it I react.
So there are some of us who are limited – just plain limited – not by our own choice.

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It would be difficult for each of us to imagine what researching through the internet, since most of us have done a lot before the current amount of information was available on the internet. I can’t forget what I’ve already done.

I started before the internet, getting names and any dates and places available from living relatives. I had information back to great-great grandparents with all of their children. I then verified the years at least by using the censuses, and the limited databases available. There was the IGI and the Ancestral File. I learned to recognize the IGI records that were transcriptions rather than just a member assertion. When the SSDI became available, I verified some more. My dad viewed the FHL microfilm for more records, and looked up birth and death certificates and obituaries at the State Library, plus marriages and other county records. We used some published genealogies for New England ancestry, often borrowed through ILL. I also borrowed county histories through ILL.

I spent several days looking up obituaries at one local libraray, and that was after they added the ability to save to a thumb drive, and another day at another location making paper copies. I found about 150 family obits in those 3 days, and about 30 in the other location. Even today it would be difficult to obtain those obits without going to the library. It would be cost-prohibitive and time-prohibitive to borrow those microfilms one at a time, or to pay for each lookup. I went to a different state library and looked up a lot of BMD and deed and probate records, and borrowed the state microfilm to look up more. We’ve stopped at cemeteries and photographed stones. I’ve made phone calls to other locations to obtain information

Today, there’s a wealth of information on the internet, although I know it’s clearly not “everything.” And I’ve tried to add the transcriptions of information I’ve found so that it’s available to others. Another advantage is meeting cousins online. That provides opportunity to exchange information. And online phone books and other listings direct us to other sources so that we can more easily contact them. I’ve looked up newspapers, cemeteries, funeral homes, and local libraries. I’m sure I haven’t remembered everything.

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The primary reason for the existence of Genealogists.com and their 650+ researchers worldwide is to make the offline records available to everyone everywhere. Of course you could travel to every place yourself (wouldn’t that be fun), but consider the cost and time required. Plus even once you arrived, would you have the expertise needed to make sure you looked in the best collections?

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Sadly, we are all becoming “Searchers” and not “Researchers.” More and more, patrons are coming into our library who have brick walls. It is because, most do not know the basics, or what is behind the material they find on the Internet. I feel so fortunate, that when I see records online, I understand what the original book looked like, how it was bound, how the clerk organized it, and where I can find it if I need to because the online record is blurred or missing a page. The key is knowing and understanding what you are looking at and that is where we are getting lazy and failing in our research skills. The Internet has speeded up my research, but it has not improved it because the real meat on the bones is in the place where my ancestors lived.

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Margaret Rutledge August 1, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Local libraries and historical societies are excellent resources as their volunteers know their collections well and are almost always helpful. I always send them a donation after they have helped me. ALWAYS. Even if it is only a few dollars. They are all grateful for the funds. We pay fees to access information through Ancestry and other for-profit sites. We should support the non-profit ones in the same way, either through a monetary donation or volunteering our time.

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