The big mystery of the Internet for genealogists is figuring out who has what resources. We constantly hear of all the fabulously large colletions of records going online, but there doesn't seem to be anyway of keeping track of what is out there. Yes, you could use a search engine like Google or Macavo.com but you still have to know how to ask the question. Where is that problem being solved?
I wish the answer were simple, but it is not. The key to finding resources on the Internet is to assume they are there until proven otherwise. Since I am sitting here in Duluth, Georgia, outside Atlanta, here is an example of a local history book from the University of Georgia:
The Story of Washington-Wilkes. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1941.
Not a very complete citation, but serviceable. I found this by digging way down in Ancestry.com by the way. Now, where else is this source available and how would I go about finding it, assuming I did not know the book existed?
As I mentioned, the key to finding the resource is to expect it to be on the Internet, but to use this key, you need some very specific background information. That information consists of an extensive knowledge of the types of information you might be interested in finding. To find this book, you first have to know that people write local histories. You also need to know that local histories contain a lot of references to the people who lived in the locality. In a few cases, the local histories even include source references. But even if they don't part of understanding genealogy and how to find your relatives and/or ancestors, includes knowing the national, state and local history (more than generally) about the places they lived.
But how am I supposed to guess the name of that book? Easy, you don't have to.
I just need to assume that if I am looking for a county history in Wilkes County, Georgia, that something of that nature exists online. So I do a Google search for "wilkes county ga." And I get over a million results. Wow, that is really helpful. Not.
So I add a few words, such as, "wilkes county ga history local." You see, I am telling Google what I want to find and I am assuming that it is there. What do I get? Try it and you will see. Ancestry.com had this one resource for specifically Wilkes County, Georgia. But I found dozens and dozens of useful links, including a USGenWeb local history and an article in the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki.
But, you say, you already found the book on Ancestry.com so why do you care? Well, Ancestry.com is a commercial subscription service and I don't like to show people things they have to pay to see. So what if I wanted that book. Really simple. Go to WorldCat.org and put in the name of the book. Guess what? There are a whole lot of different editions of that same book, Here's the complete citation to the book with the parts that Ancestry.com omitted:
Georgia Writers' Project. The Story of Washington-Wilkes. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1941.
Why did Ancestry.com omit the reference to the Georgia Writers' Project? Who knows, but the fact is that the book is also referenced on HertiageQuest.com for free through a public library and again on the HathiTrust.org for searching. But what if I want a copy of the book. WorldCat.org lists all of libraries that have a copy of the book.
Note, you might still find the book on other sites for free, see, I found the book on Ancestry.com.
So I add another step to the key to finding things online. Assume you can find it for free.