One good thing that I can talk about is the ability to wipe away time and distance and use e-mail and file sharing of information via the internet. We have some knowledge of where to look for GEDCOMs (a file format that allows sharing to family data without rekeying it). Rootsweb, Ancestry and many other sites have the ability to read and examine data. However, we might not think of what else the Net has made it possible for us to do.
One thing is to be able to do research in materials that once you had to travel great distances to see and use – such as ship passenger lists, which can be found online in commercial web sites, and many others.
There are other interesting developments. I will briefly talk about some here: when you visit these web sites you will see for yourself the wealth and breadth of information that is available on them for free.
One that I came upon a while ago is on the overall web site: http://www.genealogienetz.de/genealogy.htm, which is the link to the English language page. It is the home page for a great many projects, and among them the following:
The GEDBAS Project - http://gedbas.genealogy.net/. This is a collection of downloadable family files. At the time of this writing, the descriptive information said that there were currently 9509 databases (of which 2505 may be downloaded as a GEDCOM files – Germans love their privacy) with 8,020,246 people and 3,106,983 families. It is defined online as a GEDCOM-based database (in German only).
Another is the FoKo Project, http://foko.genealogy.net, which at the time of this writing contains 1,362,019 records from 5668 different research areas. FoKo allows the user to find and contact other researchers in German genealogy (German only)
And we should also remember GOV - http://gov.genealogy.net, which is a place gazetteer for Austria, Switzerland and Germany (including historical regions).
There are also online family heritage books, with linked families and relatives. The overall link to these is http://www.ortsfamilienbuecher.de/, "Online Ortsfamilienbücher - Online heritage books". The OFB's can be made to appear in English, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, and Slovenian at this writing.
The connected family names appear with the following choices that you can invoke: List of family (name here); a Complete List of S
I have chosen one that appears in English for ease of explanation: http://www.ortsfamilienbuecher.de/horse_prairie/index.php?lang=en.
It is great fun to click through these and see parents, children, relatives, etc. Similar kinds of things are available elsewhere on the Net but since this is geographically based, it's very helpful. I looked for but did not see a way to download the information as a GEDCOM.
There is even a link to YouTube videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/LalisioWebcast, which has the well-known name researcher, Professor Juergen Udolph, giving an introduction to the scientific field of onomastics (names research). In Part 2 he talks about local and river names, in Section 3, concerning the meaning and origin of surnames.
Another nice online site is one that was given to me is ADELOCH (Google it and you will find the link to http://etat-civil.bas-rhin.fr/adeloch/index.php - Si vous ne pouvez pas liser en français, use Google Translate to get an idea of what's going on here.) One of the descriptive pages reads: "the Department of Bas-Rhin authorizes you to freely reuse the information contained on this site, provided that you agree expressly to:" and there is a list of what you can and cannot do.
What I found very cool indeed is that the same films that I used to have to order through the Family History Centers, and laboriously reel my way through, are now available online for free. Choosing to search the records for a small village named Mietesheim, for example, gets me to a page with "Liste des registres disponibles pour Mietesheim", and from that I can easily browse through the information going back in this case to 1655.
Like all things that you find, there are good and bad parts – good is that you can see the actual records, and make your own determinations about what they say; you can brighten or dim the display; you can drag the page around; and you can zoom in and out.
Bad is that you really need broadband connections to make effective use of the site, since they are large files. You cannot download that I can see (although you can print) and, of course (in this case ), they are handwritten in French (and German, and Latin), so if you are linguistically challenged, you will probably need a bit of help to make sense of the data. Names and dates are pretty predictable, so once you get the hang of it, the logic makes it simpler to decode.
I encourage you to try these out and see what you can find that might help your research. Please, as always, remember to cite your sources carefully, so that following researchers can trust what you have found.