The following article by Gordon Johnson is one of the best I have read placing emphasis on library research vs the World Wide Web. His comments are accurate and to the point. This article is one which "everyone should read prior to doing research on the Internet."

One of the most important things you can do prior to beginning your research is to contact your local public library and county historical/genealogical society to inquire about some type of classes for genealogy research.


By Gordon Johnson

"The spread of the Internet, the WWW (worldwide web), e-mail, and newsgroups, has introduced millions of people to a new technology which they scarcely understand, and most have only a vague understanding of what can be achieved using this ever-expanding revolution in communication. Conversely, many have a false belief in the power of the medium, and have accordingly used it on the basis of what they imagine it to be, rather than what it is.

It is, and remains, primarily a means of communication. It is not a library, and while it has the potential to be used as a virtual library, at the present day it is no match for the real thing. Real libraries have masses of data that will take decades, if at all, to be made available on the Internet. Real libraries have the bonus of trained staff to help you find what you seek, unlike most search engines, which bombard you with unnecessary extra and unwanted or useless data that happened to fit the parameters you set. Despairingly, thousands think this new resource must be better than a library, and waste time and bandwidth on posting questions, or searching the web, for information which their nearest public library can produce in short order. Indeed, some of the information they seek could be in their own home, if they used the family's reference books properly. As I browse the newsgroups and mailing lists, I spot query after query asking where a place is, what a word means, appealing for some explanation of a subject, what happened at a particular battle, is a named town a port? Ever single one of these can be answered by using an atlas/gazetteer, a good dictionary, and any of a dozen encyclopaedias. Groups of reference books can even be purchased as a single cd-rom disc. For the price of computer game, and easy to use on your computer. The more unusual questions can often be solved by a phone call or visit to your public library. Instead of this simple approach to question solving, I am sometimes treated to the spectacle of the blind leading the blind, as arguments rage in the style of the ancient Greeks, over the correct answer to a problem. All that is often needed is to look up the appropriate book, and get the authoritative answer. So all I ask is that before you post a question to the Internet, ask yourself whether the answer is readily to hand, in that unpowered, but powerful, tool - a book!"


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Patricia Adams is a member of:
National Genealogy Society
HTML Guild Writers Guild