You’re Searching. But Are You Researching?

We’ve all done it. Jumped online, done a search for someone, and come up with nothing, zip, nada.

So what’s next? Sadly that’s where many leave it. They simply go on to the next person. While a “researcher” likes to delve into the details. Finding out about the specifics of the records they were searching, such as what years were covered, what region, where the record came from, even the context of why it was compiled, and so on … and they may well find out that the area they’re after wasn’t even included. So then it’s a matter of searching further (usually offline) to search further.

It’s like looking up an index, finding a name, without looking at the rest of the book for that actual information.

The internet has made it easy to search, there’s no doubt about that. But is it making people forget about the actual research?

Take online trees as an example. We all know that there are WAAAY too many trees online that have huge errors, and sadly these get copied on to other trees. Why, because copying is quicker than doing the research. Again, these people are searching, but not “researching”.

I’m not sure if our “instant-everything” society is to blame and making people lazy, or is it that we’re not teaching these people how to research beyond the internet?

It’s an interesting thought, and one that I come across often. And while I don’t have an answer for it, I just hope that some of the searchers, do in time become researchers.

Besides who wouldn’t want to research further (meaning offline) when you hear that there’s only a tiny fraction of records that available are actually digitised and online. Think of all the awesome records sitting in archives, just waiting to be looked through! Sounds awesome doesn’t it. And just to clarify, by”tiny fraction” I mean probably only 10% or so. I’ll admit that I don’t have an exact figure, but between 5%-10% is what has been quoted in various articles a couple of years ago. So when we hear of millions of new records being added online each week, it’s really still only peanuts in the whole scheme of things.

NOTE: And as a side note for those who complain about all the errors on online trees … my advice is to simply ignore the trees. Do your own research. Document it. And then you have nothing to complain about. And you’ll know the quality of your own work.

11 Responses to “You’re Searching. But Are You Researching?”

  1. DebB says:

    I have researched only a bit, mainly because I am so far from the point of origin for my ancestors’ records. What little I have done has truly fascinated me and only whet my appetite for more! I am anxious for my next vacation to the area and the research opportunities it offers!

    • Alona says:

      Nothing beats either getting in touch with local-to-your-research archives and getting info and records from them, except being able to go and visit them for yourself. All the best with your continued research, it’s such a fun journey to be on.

  2. Jenny MacKay says:

    I’m so glad that I did most of my research back in the days before the internet. Nothing was instant, so you had time to analyse what you were looking at and where to go next while you waited for that letter from the repository to come back with the information. Oh and how I used to love hearing the postie’s motorbike out the front.

    • Alona says:

      Jenny, I do believe that in general the slow “old school” way made for better researchers. And I can totally relate to you waiting for the postie. I remember that too. Always a thrill when it finally arrived.

  3. Jill Ball says:

    Re-searchers return to their research regularly and redo their searches.

  4. Claricia says:

    You get that gem of a moment when a name becomes a real person. Reading the Will saying “To my darling wife” in his own hand! Amazing. Sadly some of us can never get to locations of paper documents. I am 14 hours by plane so having access to something on line is much better than nothing. The need to actually make contact with distant members from our trees to swap details, finds, photos etc is a real bonus to the age of digital research. It is so much easier to take an image of a photo or certificate and email it, rather than mailing it, is a definite plus for data, though a minus for the thrill of handling the same items your ancestors did

  5. A thought provoking post, Alona. As a former librarian, I don’t like to be defeated on an enquiry, so would like to consider myself “a researcher”. But I must admit I can get distracted and find myself going down sidelines, instead of remaining focussed on the key point.

    • Alona says:

      Susan, those BSOs (bright shiny objects) get us all at some stage and take us off our original path. Still they can be fun. 🙂

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