I have come to really cringe when I read/hear the term "Internet genealogy" simply because I know that it does not really exist. The term is often used in a context that makes "Internet genealogy" appear to be something apart and separate from what some people must think of as "that other kind of genealogy" - (remember the kind using original records on microfilm or in books?). We can use the Internet for genealogical research, but in the end our passion is a unified one, defined by a single word: genealogy. Therefore, the discussion should really be about how we "use the Internet for genealogy."
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Genealogy has many possible sources for data, for learning and for sharing. The Internet is only one of those possible sources. See the list of numerous other tools below.
- We don't refer to "library genealogy" or "archives genealogy" or "FHC genealogy," so why would we refer to "Internet genealogy?"
- The Internet is just one of many tools in the genealogical researcher's toolbox. I believe it is the most powerful tool we have because it saves us time and money and helps us spend our research time in a more productive manner.
- A genealogist cannot use just one research tool and hope for reliable or complete results.
- Genealogists are only successful when they combine the use of all of their tools and make the most of all available resources -- online and offline together.
Remember these things:
- The Internet is not your only starting point for genealogical research.
(See: Beginners, Education, How To, How To: Tutorials & Guides)
- The Internet is not the place to end your genealogical research.
(Trust me here...your research will never be finished.)
- You will not find everything you need on the Internet.
- Not everything that you are looking for can be found on the Internet.
- There is not a web site or an online database for everything you need in your research.
- Just because you assume your research materials will be online, doesn't mean they will be online.
- Just because you want your research materials to be available online, doesn't mean they will be online.
- Finding data online does not mean that it is correct, thoroughly researched or well-documented.
(See: Citing Sources, Genealogy Standards & Guidelines)
- The Internet is not the cause of poor genealogical research or undocumented data. False pedigrees, family myths and research errors were a part of genealogy long before the Internet. The difference is that these things are more easily found and duplicated online, so the Internet is the recent target for criticism.
(See: Citing Sources, Genealogy Standards & Guidelines, Myths, Hoaxes & Scams)
- Finding data online does not mean that you are "finished" with your research.
(See: Citing Sources, Primary Sources)
The Internet is the latest, most powerful tool in our research toolbox, giving us:
The tools in our research toolbox include the following (to name a few, and not necessarily in this order):