Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Don't bother me -- I already know everything!

I hope I never get to the point where I think I know everything, but I have run into a few people with this attitude. In genealogy, this attitude is fatal. You might not die immediately, but it can become an insidious disease that will keep you from learning anything new and stop your progress in its tracks.

During the past week, as I was writing blog posts, I kept running into major online genealogical resources that I had never imagined existed. One of those, that I mentioned in a previous post, was a website by Colonial Williamsburg. The interesting thing about the site is that if you go to the main website, it looks like one big advertisement, sort-of like Disneyland or whatever, but I didn't find the site by going to the main pages, I found it looking for probate inventories. When I tried to go back to the website, I could find no reference to the huge number of resources I had discovered on the first visit. They have a number of other websites including Then I started to get intrigued. Where did I find the information about the probate files?

I went back to my browser history and looked down through the list of sites I had visited the last few days. The list was huge with easily a hundred sites and dozens of searches. I guess I do searching so automatically that I don't even notice the time it takes. Anyway, I couldn't find where I had searched a Colonial Williamsburg website. I finally decided to do the search over again and there was the website. Because it had a Colonial Williamsburg logo, I assumed it was their website, but in fact, it was the website. I finally found the reference in the Research Division, Rockefeller Library, CW Digital Library. There is no way I could have started with the Colonial Williamsburg website and finally ended up in this section without a direct link from a Google search.

In addition, I discover that this Colonial Williamsburg website has a huge online collection of newspapers, indexes, digital images and on and on and on. Here is just one website with thousands, likely tens of thousands of digital images and references that I had never run across previously. So the next time you think you know it all, you might try searching for some obscure topic such as "probate inventories" and see what comes up.

Another example from the site is interesting. I mentioned above that I found the probate inventories under the Rockefeller Library link. Well here is a description of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library:
The John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library's collections encompass more than 10,000 rare books, 50,000 manuscripts and 100,000 images. The collections document the history and culture of colonial British America, the American Revolution and the early national period. Materials created by Colonial Williamsburg Foundation staff document the restoration of Williamsburg in the first half of the twentieth century.
This sort of example should make you stop and think a little about what may be out there that you haven't even a clue exists.


  1. James, great point here. Another feature of the same website is a nearly complete run of images of the Virginia Gazette's 3 phases of existence 1766-1780, an invaluable source for the Revolutionary War period. Indexed, too.

  2. Reminds me of those people who have 'done' their family history.

  3. Thank you for this article. I am definitely guilty of not always exploring more than I do. I certainly don't think I know everything, but I think we all get into a rut in regards to our research methods. Good reminder!