Genealogy Tip: Don’t Always Follow the Path of Least Resistance
If you are into genealogy, then I am sure you have read the recent article in Dick Eastman’s newsletter titled “Are You Missing Most of the Available Genealogy Information?” If you missed it you can read it at http://blog.eogn.com/2014/07/27/are-you-missing-most-of-the-available-genealogy-information/.
In his article, Dick makes the statement “95% of the information of interest to genealogists is not yet available on the Internet.” While Dick does not attribute this fact to anything, even if it is only an estimate it is vital to note and incredibly true. To state it another way ‘you cannot do a quality, thorough, and comprehensive job on your genealogy on the Internet alone.’ You just can’t. Period. End of discussion.
While Dick wrote this article in response to a message he received, I, too have noted this belief as well as other trends in genealogy that are sad as well.
This trend to believe the genealogy world is 100% online is understandable. All the big dogs in the business tout their millions or billions of ‘records’ online. Ah, but what is a ‘record’? It is not, as many think, a single document. A single document may be counted as multiple records by these companies as a way of swelling their numbers. A single marriage license can be multiple ‘records’ with one record for the groom, one for the bride, one for the date, one for the city, one for the county, one for the state, one for the country, one for each of the parents, if listed, one for the home address of the groom, another for the home address of the bride, and on and on. But marketing is marketing and I am sure how sites count their ‘records’ will never change.
It is crucial for each of us to remember that, as Dick said, there are far, far more valuable resources available NOT online than online and that those that are online do not always tell the whole story we are seeking. Personally, I have found some incredibly precious pieces of our family history far from the Internet. While I may have found a hint or clue online, the information I needed were not. For instance, I found the only known image of my great grandfather in a book not found online. I have discovered entire journals that are complete with drawings of family ancestors in far away archives. In one instance I found four years of personal letters written by a Civil War soldier-ancestor to his family back home. Photographs of memorial plaques and markers have been located only after extensive searching in the churches and churchyards themselves. One particularly valuable one, from the 1712, turned out to be currently located in the janitor’s cupboard behind a Hoover and cleaning supplies, but held wonderful information. Plus as an added bonus I was able to get a rubbing of it.
Another unfortunate genealogy trends that irks me is some of the ways in which some folks are using social media in genealogy. While I am all for reaching out and making connections via social media, it certainly is NOT a replacement for learning how to do research yourself, learning where and what resources are available to you in your genealogy and family history, and getting involved in the answer you are seeking beyond asking someone else to do your work for you through a Facebook post.
Sure, I frequently ask questions on Facebook pages and read posts there, but the trend for people just to put their research requests up and ask others to do their work for them is a sad turn in genealogy in my opinion. One recent example I came across was a series of posting over several days of someone asking Facebook fans of a genealogy page to find records, go to libraries, order copies, and more for her because she needed the information for her client. The question immediately came to my mind “So this woman is getting paid, but doesn’t know what or where the documents are, how to access them, etc, wants others to do her work, and still has the chutzpah to collect her fees from some unsuspecting client who thinks they are getting good, quality genealogy work product from the person they’re paying.”
I am all for being collegial and helping out our fellow genealogists and family historians, but there is a difference between making suggestions, leading someone to the resources available, educating, etc. and simply asking others to do your work and then not even knowing what it is you might be getting in return from some unknown Facebook fan.
In the above case, I wonder if the final report this woman gives her client will contain the reference ‘unknown Facebook fans of page XXX’ as the source for her data? Somehow I doubt it.
In Genealogy You Have to Enjoy the Thrill of the Chase!
I often say that family history and genealogy are far more of a marathon than a 100 meter dash. Plus it is not a race to see who can finish first, nor who has the most names in their family tree, etc. To do a quality job on your genealogy you MUST enjoy the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction that comes with discoveries that YOU learn to make. Not simply accumulating as much as you can, as quickly or easily as you can.
So remember that to do your genealogy, family history, and ancestors justice you will need to roll up your sleeves, prepare to get a bit dirty (or at least dusty), put some miles on via a bus, your car, or shoe leather, and go beyond, far beyond, what’s on the slick marketers tell you and what the Internet has to offer.
Onward To Our Past®