My first computer was so small I probably damaged my eye-sight trying to squint at the monitor. Genealogical software had yet to be designed and while I patiently waited, I designed some of my own forms. They were crude compared to what is now available. Indexing was not an easy task, but in time we were introduced to better methods of storage and retrieval. Most of those early genealogical programs went by the way, giving way to the demands of the genealogist for quick entry and retrieval of data, along with superior forms and better means of documentation.
Many of you remember the FidoNet and the Bulletin Board Systems that could be accessed with a dial-up modem. I spent many late evenings taking advantage of lower phone rates to access the messages. Now we have the e-mail lists, message boards, forums and newsgroups as well as blogs and podcasts. Genealogists have come a long way in the sharing of information and ideas.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Family History Library has been around a long time, actually since 1894 when they established the Genealogical Society of Utah. Books, microfilm and microform have been available to researchers going there and also through their many Family History Centers. In 1999 the FamilySearch web page, FamilySearch International, made its appearance on Internet. This allowed many of those who could not access records from the main library or a center, to do so on their home computers, and free. Two years ago they announced a long-term project of monumental proportions. Work began and continues to be done to digitize their entire collection and index the records. They will also be online and free.
Earlier this year the Family History Library and their centers lost free access to Ancestry.com for patrons. If you used this service, check with your library to see if they have it available for genealogists. There will be some Ancestry.com services left for patrons of the Family History Centers, such as the 1841 to 1891 census indexes for England and Wales, WWI draft cards and the 1880, 1900 and 1920 US censuses.
If you are going to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or to one of their Family History Centers, you will see new additions to services provided on their computers. World Vital Records, Footnote, ProQuest CSA and the Godfrey Library will all be made available to patrons. The service will be free. Not all centers will have ProQuest's Heritage Quest Online.
Genealogists are very eager to begin using Footnoote which will eventually have 3 million Revolutionary War pension files (digitized) online. Eventually you can check the index to these free on the FamilySearch web page. World Vital Records will contain many digitized records and newspapers and eventually add compiled genealogies and local histories.
FamilySearch is to become even more user friendly. They are combining the International Genealogical Index (IGI), Ancestral File (AF) and Pedigree Resource File(PRF) databases. Facts will be linked to images of source documents and users will be able to easily submit and update information.
The large online databases continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com, offers new databases every few weeks, as well as additions to those that currently exist. Subscriptions may seem pricey, so determine if you can access their databases from a nearby library. If you do a good deal of research, the price may not be unreasonable. GenealogyBank, GenealogyBank, is another fee based database which contains newspapers dating from 1690 to 1977 and obituaries from 1977 to the current time period. They also have historical documents and books. If you are using Footnote, Fold3.com (formerly Footnote.com), outside of the Family History Library or Family History Center, you will need a subscription to view the images. You can check the indexes without a subscription. Check out World Vital Records at World Vital Records. Some of the databases are free, so browse around to see what is available in your areas of interest.
Much remains free on Internet such as the USGenWeb, The USGenWeb Project, and RootsWeb, Rootsweb.com. Many state archives, libraries and socieites have free data and images on Internet. Do a Google search to determine what might be in your areas of interest. Records usually range from digitized death certificates or newspapers to extracted data.
Within the next few days there will probably be more announcements of the advancements in the free as well as pay databases online. More and more records are being digitized so we have much to look forward to in the next few months and years.