Whenever I hear “Not Everything in Genealogy is Online,” when people in family history circles criticize millennials or budding researchers, I want to feel a hefty dose of snarky rising up.
“Maybe so, but so much is!”
When I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa the hours for the Family History Center did not fit into my schedule. I would have needed to hire a babysitter or visit a night when my hubby was home. When my children were young, time away from them was nice but the grocery stores and running errands sans kiddos called my attention more than a Family History Center. Additionally, most of the resources I really need were in Ohio. With most of my family in other states, making a special research trip to Ohio, especially without little ones underfoot, was a fantasy. Without online genealogy, I would not be able to participate fully until my kids were grown and gone (as we homeschool the kids and the option to do genealogy when they were all in school is not possible).
With FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com, I can access documents whenever it’s convenient for me. If I’m up with a sick child in the middle of the night, I can search for records rather than play games. If my homeschooling schedule has downtime, I can quickly investigate more records. I don’t have to take time away from my family to research.
Additionally, online genealogy is relatively cheap compared to ordering microfiche, hiring a professional, or taking a research trip out of state. My husband and I made a commitment to become debt free including the house (which we have achieved!!), and that means our slush fund is fairly non-existence. The choice of ordering microfiche or purchasing an extra gallon of milk is a not a contest where ‘offline’ genealogy wins. Off-line genealogy is behind the luxuries I’ve sacrificed for myself including visits to the nail salon, having my hair colored, and buying new outfits when my clothes become threadbare. With online genealogy, I can budget an annual member to Ancestry.com and utilize the free FamilySearch.org website.
Sure, I need to recognize some offline research is vital. Most family photo collections are offline. Many probate and will records are offline. Not all newspapers are online. Church records are also primarily offline. But, census, birth, marriage, and death records, gravestone images, and city directories are heavily represented in internet accessible databases making this momma historian very happy.
So be careful when you tell a young adult that not everything in genealogy is online. You’re right, but you’re not creating peace. You’re likely to elicit some explanative from folks who talk like a New Yorker or a polite but enthusiastic, “You’re right. It currently is not online. But, I can’t wait for it to be!”