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.
©THE WEB VERSUS
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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