This is where the computer screen ends and shoes hit the street.
It doesn’t take long to realize there comes a point when computers reach the limits of their capabilities in genealogy research. If someone hasn’t digitized, abstracted, or electronically captured an image and put it on the Internet, put it on a CD, or sent it to you in an email, you are going to have to conduct field research, and you will need to leave the house.
It has been my experience that most of the documentation I need doesn’t exist on the Internet, and of course, that is changing daily. I need to get out and spend time in libraries and archives at the local, state, and national level.
When I conduct field research, I most often use genealogical and historical societies and local and university libraries and archives. Most of the documentation you’ll need is not on the Inter¬net, but at libraries and archives. State and local libraries have genealogy guides, local history books, and newspaper archives that are unavailable anywhere else.
To my delight and amazement, I have found books, records, and documents, from the late and early 1900s that helped to clear up and extend our family history.
As I visited the land of my family and saw firsthand what they may have experienced, I understood better why they may have made decisions to live one place versus another. Field research helps me build a mental picture that brings clarity to research that a computer screen can’t and extends the research I’m able to do online.
I’d like to share a few experiences that provide insight into the value of field research and planning.