On free lunches (or the lack of them)

My Google alert for genealogy turned up some alarm this past week about the dangers of relying too heavily on the Internet for genealogy research.

I’d just add that the belief in a Big Rock Candy Mountain of genealogy wonders predates the arrival of Ancestry.com. A lot of people love the idea that somewhere, somehow, all the genealogy records they need will be in a single place. If they evolve beyond a casual interest in genealogy, they soon find out that:

1. People generate all sorts of records in all sorts of places, some of which don’t share their records with big repositories, whether out of inertia or sheer desire to be annoying.

2. If you go back far enough, people didn’t generate much in the way of records, period. In which case no “central repository” is going to give you everything you need, anyway.

3. The way home to Kansas, Dorothy, is with your own two feet. You just gotta belieeeeveee.

When I first started my genealogy quest, Internet databases were practically nonexistent. But the Big Rock Candy Mountain idea was still out there.

I’d often talk to a relative about setting up an interview, only to be told that I simply HAD to journey to Salt Lake City (or order up a couple of FHL microfilms) and I’d find everything I needed to know. It was funny how people never saw themselves as my most important genealogy source. No, there had to be a Big Universal Official Source somewhere.

So I wouldn’t say the Internet caused this situation, although it certainly has intensified things. The problem is the myth of a one-stop solution, and it’s worth a good rant.

Because getting past this idea of the Universal Genealogy Bat Cave is so important. It’s such a barrier to creative thinking and problem solving. And once it drops by the wayside, a lot of supposedly impregnable brick walls can come tumbling down.

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2 Comments on “On free lunches (or the lack of them)”

  1. jo says:

    I sure hope ancestry.com will be around. cause that is where the majority of info is. I rely on it to be there. Gradually I will blog it and put it out there. I shamefacefully admit that my blog is not backed up.

    Just the other day, I was thinking that there are so many new sites available, which may hold information put there by those who do not wish to go to ancestry. And we can’t forget all those cd’ at family tree maker for forever. Many new sites have trials and free usage too.
    thanks for the reminder, I should be checking.

    By the way, I love google, but it is harder to work it now it seems. Many sources and documents are not being picked up by google either and we have to know the right thing to enter into search.


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