18/09/2013 09:00 BST | Updated 18/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Genealogy Lesson: Remember That Not Everything You Need is Online

Contrary to what you read in far too many places, everything you need to conduct your genealogy, family history, and ancestry is NOT online!

Genealogy Lesson: Remember That Not Everything You Need is Online!

Contrary to what you read in far too many places, everything you need to conduct your genealogy, family history, and ancestry is NOT online! Certainly plenty of things are, but the reality is that billions more records and items are not online than are.


While many online services tout their 'billions of records' remember two things. First some services take one image, say of a birth record and call it over a dozen records, as they have one record for the baby, one for the father, one for the mother, one for the address, one for the year, etc. You still have only one item, but the 'record' numbers are inflated several times over.

While I certainly use online services, such as,,,, and others for much of my research, the vast majority of the real treasures I have found have come from offline resources.

Most of the wills, deeds, and Admiralty records I personally have needed from the National Archives have not been digitally available, until I requested and had to pay for them to be digitally copied. Hopefully once they did them for me they will keep them available online too for others.

Another case on point is that I discovered that one of my ancestral cousins was a police officer for the City of Cleveland, Ohio, from the image on his gravestone; I did not know anything about his service until I discovered the small, but incredibly valuable holdings of the Cleveland Police Historical Society and Museum. They were able to provide copies of his work records from the early 1900s when he served.

In another situation I came across a reference to my great grandfather, who I have been tracing for years, in a book on Google Books. While I found his name, only a few pages of this book were scanned. It was not until I finally located a physical copy of this book, from 1892 that I not only was able to read about my great grandfather, but I was also able to find the one and only known image of him in the book!


In my efforts to research my Bohemian ancestors, I was dismayed to find that the Czech immigrants are amongst the poorest studied and documented immigrant populations. In this case, once I discovered two amazing items by Czech-American newspaperman and author Hugo Chotek, my firm, Onward To Our Past® Genealogy Services decided to translate them to English for the first time and also to put those translations online and available at no charge to anyone who wished to read them. The book can be found here and the article, which contains some truly amazing first-person interviews from the 1800s here.

Another example is that while I know my Phillipps family lived for generations in the parishes of St. Teath and Lanteglos by Camelford, it was not until I made a connection with a local historian there to see such amazing items as a plaque in the bell tower inscribed to some of my ancestors as well as their names cast on two of the three church bells and a Sexton's record book for the St. Julitta churchyard. Amazing items and information that brought these ancestors alive in my genealogy work.


So remember, that while much is online, many resources still are not. Often to find the real treasures we must burn a little shoe leather! Plus while we are searching I don't think there can be a much better feeling than perchance to find yourself standing where your ancestors also stood!