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Cyndi Howells walks us through the structure of the Internet.
The Internet is revolutionizing how we do genealogy - making some genealogical research faster, less costly, and easier than in days gone by. This incredible resource brings the world to the genealogist's home computer by linking together a vast network of web sites. It is a powerful tool, meeting place, and vast genealogical library, all wrapped up in one.
Perhaps the most useful way of thinking of the Internet is as a huge library, with each web page representing a book in that library. These "books" may allow us to peer into the holdings of a library or archive, search through databases hosted there, connect with other researchers with similar interests, share our discoveries with our extended family, and so much more. Many of these web sites include links to other related sites, making it easy to wander from one to another, exploring assorted resources on your topic of interest. Fortunately, even those who don't own a computer can usually access this virtual library at an actual, local library.
While it's true that there are more than two million sites with genealogy-related material on the Internet, don't plan on finding your genealogy already done for you so you can simply print it out. Rather, expect the Internet to show you where and how to research particular kinds of records, and to allow you to look at an impressive selection of records that have been computerized. Also beware of totally trusting information you find on the Internet (or even from CD-ROMs). Misinformation gets posted as well as facts, and errors, once put on the Internet and copied, can spread quickly. Go to the Compiled Records episode to learn more about smart strategies for using information found on the Internet.
Some of the more useful facets of the Internet from the genealogist's perspective are search engines, E-mail, mailing lists, and online databases.