Not Everything Is Online, But So Much Is

Not Everything in Genealogy is Online But Much Is

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 and, 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 and utilize the free 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!”
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

2 thoughts on “Not Everything Is Online, But So Much Is

  1. It's pretty exciting all the records that are coming online so rapidly. Every time I check FamilySearch there is something new. I have also had pretty good luck using to find items—films or books—in faraway libraries and ordering them through inter-library loan to my local library at no cost.

  2. Everything will never be online – there are just too many documents, etc. to digitize and make available. However, there is a lot out there, especially with FamilySearch and Ancestry, as well as many other free and subscription services. I feel like you do – I know I should visit certain repositories, but I keep having pretty good success finding material online about family members.

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