The existence of these types of lists presuppose that the researcher knows where to go to obtain the types of records listed. The lists suggest record types with no explanation. The Record Selection Table in the Research Wiki has entries linked to articles on each of the suggested record types, thereby giving the explanation missing from the other source lists. For example, you may see something such as these topics:
- Vital Records
- School Records
- Employment Records
But without the further explanations and links in the Research Wiki, you may have no idea where to go to find such records. Also, no one repository could possibly have even a big percentage of the longer lists of sources.
I will refer to this as the "missing link" in genealogical research. Let's suppose you have a missing ancestor in the mid-1800s in Virginia. Where would you go to find school records? What about directories? Would you even know whether or not such records exist at the time and place your ancestor lived? The missing link is first recognizing that there are additional types of sources that may help in your research and then knowing how to go about finding those types of records.
The main purpose for having such a list is to open up possibilities. Many times I find myself following well rutted research trails and ignoring all the less traveled paths leading off into the wilderness of genealogy. But I find myself coming back again and again to the Research Wiki and books such as The Source and other such publications that give me a start on a less used trails.
The huge online genealogical database programs give users the impression that they are searching millions and millions of records, with the implication that the records you are searching for are there and available. Let me give you an example of the type of record not usually found in any easily obtainable online genealogy program.
From time to time, as I work on adding content to the FamilySearch Research Wiki, I find whole categories of records that have yet to be added to the database. Recently, I have been starting to add information about United States Water Records and a similar page for each of the states. Once you have thought of this type of record, it becomes obvious that it is missing. As you analyze the value of such records, you realize that they contain valuable genealogical information. In saying this, I think we all need to expand what is included in our personal definition of genealogically valuable records. In my view, any record that locates an ancestor in a particular place at a particular time is valuable.
I find that few genealogical researchers know about or use these types of records, I also find that many types of records seldom come up in any genealogical classes or discussions. When I have proposed teaching a class or doing a presentation on some of the lesser used types of, let's call them "obscure," records, I have been turned down. Conference organizers do not wish to risk have a small "poorly attended" class, so they stick with the main stream topics. For example, my next research topic for the Research Wiki is Livestock Brands. When was the last time you heard of a class on that subject in a genealogy conference. Do you think there will be a class on Livestock Brands at next year's RootsTech or FGS Conference?
By the way, as the Research Wiki contributors spend more time and effort on the program, it continues to become more and more valuable as a finding aid and in effect, becomes a super source checklist and unlike the single sheet of paper list, it gives the places to go to find the record types. As usual, my suggestions are that we expand the way we look at genealogy to include the types of records and sources that exist but are often overlooked.