Sunday, June 3, 2012

Offline vs Online Genealogy

A interesting question has been bouncing around in my head about Online resources vs offline resources.  Genealogist today are fortunate because of the abundant amount of records and lineages that are online, but it does not come without it's pitfalls.

One of he primary reasons for me getting professional work for clients is that they have reached a brick wall and they are unable to locate the records that they seek online.  For this reason they do not believe the records exist or do not know how to locate them.  Reality is that close to 95% of genealogy is not located online.  The records that you need to resolve your brick walls are still located in libraries, archives, court houses and historical societies.  Realizing this fact is key to doing your research and staying in the world of reality.

We are fortunate that so much is online and continues to be added to the internet, but the vast majority is not available.  This is why a research plan for each family group in your genealogy that includes both online and offline sources is so important.  There is so much information hidden away offline that provides the key to our brick walls.  I am convinced that it is out there we just have not looked in the correct place yet.

The lineage sites that are online can provide many pitfalls to our research.  First most of them are undocumented.  This we know is against Genealogical Proof Standards.  The major websites do not police or verify the accuracy of the genealogies posted on their sites.  We still need to verify everything and be suspicious of everything.  Until you document and meet the criteria of the Genealogical Proof Standard we are making a good book of fiction.  Just because hundreds of people say a lineage is right does not make it correct if they do not sight sources.  Someone who lived their whole life in the 1700's in Virginia does not have parents that share the surname that lived their whole lives in Massachusetts.  Be very careful.  Some websites that you can trace your lineage from you to King John in two hours.  Reality is it takes years.

For the sake of all future genealogist check all your resources both online and off.  You will soon find that the best resources are not online and will not be for a while.  Trust nothing until you locate proof.