Before the Internet, genealogy was a sometimes lonely pursuit. You might have a local genealogy group, such as the Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society, or a national one, such as the National Genealogical Society.With these groups, you could attend workshops and seminars, just as you do today, to learn what records to search and the best way to find them.
But then you had to physically go find them sometimes. You could write a letter to the archive, courthouse, or library and hope some staffer had the time and inclination to copy the information for you, especially if you included money for the copying costs and an SASE. But as I noted in an earlier entry, if the staffer in question didn’t have an interest in genealogy, you were up the creek unless you went there yourself.
Another way to glean information was the query. Queries could be posted in the publications of groups like the ones mentioned above, or in the venerable genealogy periodicals such as the Genealogical Helper. One of the first things my mother taught me about genealogy is that a good query, with dates, names and places, can sometimes give you the break you need in a certain family line. And that reading queries is as important as publishing them!
Again, with the Internet, we do the same thing today, but we can get our query out there much more quickly with the Internet, and to sometimes a wider audience. Forums, mail lists and boards all help spread the word.
And with sites such as FindAGrave, with cemetery records the genealogist need no longer guess, or stumble upon an obit tucked in the family Bible. The computerization of the Social Security Death Index helped make searching for a place of death much easier. Transcriptions of wills, ships’ passenger lists and deeds on the Internet have also made it much easier to find the life stories of our ancestors. Before the Internet, you had to travel to different places to find where these elusive records might be.
Readers, please comment: How did you pursue genealogy before the Internet?