There’s an excellent article in the Broomfield Enterprise by Julie Miller—“Internet is resource, but not do-all genealogy tool.” She makes the argument that the internet is not the be all, end all genealogy resource, that if you only look at records online, you’ll miss the majority of your family history story. This point is all too easy to overlook in today’s online world.
There is so much more information available online today than there was even 10+ years ago when I started out. It’s so easy to focus only on what’s available online, because let’s face it you can learn a lot and the convenience is amazing! But as a family historian you need to also face up to two facts: 1) the information on the internet is only the tip of the iceberg and 2) much of what you find online is either incomplete or sometimes even wrong.
The offline world has probate records, deed records, tax records, town/county histories, church records, vital records, cemetery records, etc.—most of which you will not find online. If you skip these sources, you will miss out on a lot of information. Not to mention you’ll miss out on the thrill of the hunt and the absolute joy of finding that bit of information that puts your family history puzzle together!
Relying on GEDCOMs or family trees that others have put together online is also a mistake—especially if they don’t have sources or if their sources are only someone else’s work! Locating primary and secondary sources is the only way to verify someone else’s work and is absolutely necessary if it’s at all important to you to make the correct connections in your family tree. Mistakes are common, so do the work and think for yourself.
Take some time to visit genealogical and historical societies in the locale you’re researching. Visit courthouses, churches and cemeteries. And if you can’t get there in person, try something really old-fashioned—the mail. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn.