I started researching before the Internet was available to many and conducted my research by writing letters on an old manual typewriter while sitting at my dining room table. Wow, does that paint an old fashioned picture. The typewriter was purchased at an auction for our daughter to play with. It worked wonderfully well and I used it when she wasn't playing with it.
Writing letters the old fashioned way to conduct genealogy research required a lot of patience. Once I mailed my letter, there was the long wait allowing time for the United States Postal Service to route my letter from the local post office to the regional post office and then to another region before finally arriving at the local post office of the recipient. Depending on the length of time the letter lay on the recipient's desk, it could be a month before I would receive a reply. In the meantime, questions keep flooding into my mind and new letters are formatted in the process. These new letters were mailed to different recipients who might be able to assist with the question, if the question was for the same repository, I had to be really patient.
When I bought my first PC and connected to the Internet in 1996, it opened up a whole new world of research possibilities. Letters were sent via email now, if the repository had an email address. Message boards were developed to help connect with other researchers. I signed up for every surname and locality pertinent to my research. I posted my brick walls, questions, etc. I also signed up for mailing lists for localities to get help from researchers in that area of specialty. I asked a lot of 'dumb' questions and received a great education. I am eternally grateful to those who assisted in my education!
Through the message boards I connected with others researching my same surnames. We shared information, photos of our ancestors, etc. via email. I started out printing each email and keeping it in folders for that surname. I printed some photos, others I saved to 3.5" floppy discs. One of my email contacts was in Virginia, while I never found proof of how we connected, I was grateful for his help. We both had direct lines living in the same localities in Missouri. His line move on into Iowa while mine went to Kansas. When he decided to 'retire' from active genealogy research, he asked if I wanted his research. I, of course, said yes. I was the lucky recipient of hand written letters from as far back at 1915. I have scanned these letters to my computer and placed the originals in archival safe sheet protectors and placed them in a binder. I hope to someday find a repository for these letters.
Gradually more digital images of original records are being placed online. For the armchair genealogist, this is awesome! I can sit here at my computer and scan images of tax record books, census images, county history books, newspapers, death certificates, marriage record books, etc. Genealogy research has never been more satisfying than it is now or will be in the future. Last night I browsed images of tax record books from Columbiana County, Ohio. I now know Edmond Hayes owned a parcel of land located in R2, T12, S34NE in 1820 and that the original owner was William Boyd. How cool is that!
I have downloaded several county history books that have been digitized on archive.org and newspaper articles from newspaperarchive.com and ancestry.com. Digital newspapers are one of my personal favorites. It is amazing what I can learn about the life and times of my ancestors. I have found marriage, birth and death notices; lawsuits and happenings in town they participated in; the list goes on. Newspapers are the window into the world of my ancestors.
I save all of the images and PDFs I find in folders within folders in my Documents folder. I file electronic data just as I would a hard copy. I copy my folders to an external hard disc drive placed in a docking station. It has a large capacity for lots of data storage. I am in the process of scanning my pre-Internet research to my computer and creating an index in electronic format, not to be printed. I have a lot of scanning to do and it will take years to do on my HP all-in-one. Given the opportunity to scan on a larger machine, I will definitely take advantage!
Electronic Media allows easier sharing of our research with others. One Saturday, my cousin and I scanned her parent's old photo album to my computer, tagged the photos and created a CD to share with other cousins. Now everyone has the photos of those found in this photo album. Electronic Scrap Books are another great media for keeping and sharing genealogy research. There are so many options now, it is overwhelming sometimes to decide which format, style or type to use. I participated in a book tour recently for digitizing your family history research and learned a lot! I am grateful to the author for sharing her expertise.
I feel it is important to digitize all of my research and photos so my children and grandchildren will have easy access to it. Now, what to do with the paper copies......