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."
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):