The Internet is not the "Bee All" of Genealogy

Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

The Internet has not yet reached a high level of publishing all genealogical data and resources. In fact, it is “just the beginning.” That means that State Archives and local and regional libraries are still a great source for genealogists. Also, there are cemeteries to visit, old bibles to find and relatives to question. The whole thing is to find all possible information that is out there. One of my favorite haunts is antique shops because people continue dispose of valuable papers, journals, newspapers, diaries, especially from estate sales. There are just a lot of surprises out there. The one which thrilled me the most was the discovery in an attic of a book from a probate court. Turns out that the owner had been the clerk of the court, and often took his work home with him. On this one occasion, there was a court house fire and these books survived. Also, country churches kept records (baptisms, births, marriages, deaths) which often found their way into the hands of local residents. Doesn’t hurt to ask !

The two most essential elements of tracing families is the census and county records. For this reason, Georgia Pioneers continues to digitize county records. Last year, we digitized a bulk of Virginia county records dating from the early 1600’s and put the information online. This year, we are adding more Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee county records. Fortunately, I was able to scan most of the Georgia Militia Records dating from 1755 before the Georgia Archives closed down. (The militia is helpful to locating persons serving in militia units during the Revolutionary War, and provides some pretty vital information).

All county records were put on microfilm during the 1950s. Irrespectively however, some counties got omitted, like Georgia’s Cobb County. That is why I visited there and acquired as much data as possible. Needless to say that all records had not survived as there were county fires, etc. Today, when one visits a court house, they are likely to discover a database on a public computer and have to order records brought to them. Also, it is becoming commonplace to send old records to an off-site warehouse. One needs to inquire first, before visiting. A better choice is to visit the State Archives where the records are on microfilm.

But, unfortunately, certain State Archives have budget issues and are not always open to the public. Again, we need to inquire.

Comes the Chinese pandemic. Everything that I know of is closed, including local and regional libraries which also maintain genealogical records such as census, newspapers, published county records, and so on.

It is my hope that the expansion of the Georgia Pioneers website (to include Alabama, Kentucky, NC, SC, TN and VA) is helpful to everyone. Happy hunting to all genealogists this year!