Monday, March 24, 2008

We've Come a Long Ways

Remember when we used to spend hours looking through unindexed microfilm, such as census records?  Remember when we used to write letters, and wait impatiently for a response to our letter?  The large publication that put people in touch with others researching the same names or families was The Genealogical Helper.  It came out bimonthly and I had it read cover to cover within a matter of days.  

Thank goodness times have changed.  We have better means of communication.  Letters can still be written, but for the most part we communicate by e-mail or through mailing lists.  The Genealogical Helper is still being published with a new style and features, but still contains those queries we loved, including e-mail addresses.  There are other periodicals and magazines geared to teach us methods for improving our research.  Census records are indexed and images are being digitized and indexed.  When the year 2000 rolled around I wondered how we could top the new things that happened in the genealogy world the last decade of the 20th century, but we have and the progress continues.  

I want everything I can get.  That means taking the good along with the bad.  I need everything I can find on Internet.  That includes subscription databases as well as the free items.  Maybe it is because I have done genealogical research for so many years and have so many surnames that I research.  Or maybe it's because I'm impatient and greedy when it comes to obtaining information.  I use the information submitted to places like World Connect on RootsWeb. 
That information supplies me with clues.  The information may not be totally correct.  It's up to me to use it wisely and prove what is there.  That is not much different than we did years ago, except we can readily obtain the information from Internet.  

Just because you have to pay for genealogical information doesn't mean it is bad.  It might be bad on your check book or credit card though.  Perhaps the indexing is not as thorough as it should be.  That means you will have to put your thinking cap on and do some good sleuthing to find what you need.  The good and the bad "stuff" has always been out there.  The method we locate it has changed.  

If you don't like the indexing at subscriptions places such as Ancestry.com, try something else. A good deal of census has been indexed on HeritageQuest Online which is available at many libraries as well as Family History Centers (LDS).  Another source of indexing and images can be found at Family Search Labs. What doesn't work at one place, may at another for you.  These places will continue to get better as more records are digitized and indexed.  It's up to you to use them wisely.  

Not everybody has a budget for the subscription databases.  Go to your local or area Family History Center (LDS) and ask about databases they have on their computer.  These should include Footnote.com, Godfrey Memorial Library, Kindred Konnection and more.  It's time to make use of these resources.  These three will allow you to search for records, but not view the records on your own computer.  Do that on your home computer before you go to the Family History Center, then go prepared with what you want to check while there.  

Do you still enjoy writing letters (not e-mails)?  Do you enjoy going to the cemeteries and courthouses?  Not everything is on Internet.  There is that thrilling rush when you find a courthouse document that contains information on an ancestor.  There is an awesome feeling when you stand at an ancestor's grave.  Those cannot be replicated on Internet.  We have come a long ways, but there are many miles to go and the going is sweet!  

2 comments:

Professor Dru said...

I agree with your comments about the Internet. It is very convenient, but it cannot replace things such as visiting a courthouse or graveyard. Even though the Internet is great for finding new family, it cannot replace meeting them face-to-face and giving them a big hug.

Mark Hamm said...

Good comments. I have a desire to research but simply have lacked time to do it as much as I would like. I found what I thought was a great find of some ones work on one of the online collections of family histories but it simply was wrong.
Have to agree with Professor dru, visiting a small town court house and finding something new is exciting.
Thanks for your weblog.