[Note: This blog post has been updated since it was originally written.]
I love using the Internet to find information and collaborate with other researchers, and people in general. And I love using tech tools to help me be more efficient. I really love those tech tools that work behind the scenes, so to speak, that look for information while I'm doing other "stuff" 'cause who doesn't like to be more efficient?
However, while it's helpful to have tech tools, like Ancestry.com's Hints [or their shaking leaves], MyHeritage's family tree hints, or even Mocavo's family tree hints. Those "hints" or just one tech tool in my Tech Tool Box. And, really, I only use them sparingly for my own personal research. They have their pros and cons. And the main con, in my opinion, is that they tend to lead new researchers astray by subconsciously suggesting that's the only way to research. And? It's not really researching. It's searching. And it's passive. And it's an algorithm that's doing the passive searching. [Which is a very fancy math formula that is powered by computer programs. And I've never really liked math all that much, so there's that.] And it's only looking in its own limited database of information - not anywhere or everywhere online and offline that the answer I am seeking may exist.
So, it's not really thorough or very complete, which is why it's a tool. A tool that's being controlled by an algorithm which are both guided by you and the family tree and the information you've provided to it, which may or may not be correct. To me, that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E. But only if you haven't relegated this particular tool to your Tech Tool Box to be used when appropriate.
Also, I do check all my free and subscription-based databases online for documents and information that have been digitized. This is a part of my search Tech Tool Box. Either digitized images of documents or indexes of records are being thrown up on the Internet each and every day by many, many organizations and services. And that's the reason I highlight them in my daily blog posts, Genealogy Things You Need to Know This Morning.
But what do you do when you have done all that you can with your online resources? You use your online tech tools to find it offline, if anything exists. Following are 10 general Internet tips on how to locate online where information you need for your family tree research might exist offline. Basically, it's using the Internet as an online Tech Tool to find resources and information offline.
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Sharon DeBartolo Carmack and Erin Nevius, editors. The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists: The Essential Guide to American County and Town Sources. Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books, 2004.