June 24, 2018
The Thrill of the Hunt is Gone... or Is It
I was thinking about it this week. Do you remember B.I.? Before Windows. Before Cyndis List. Before Ancestry.com. Before Olive Tree Genealogy!
Before this wonderful cyber world we know now.
I worked on my computer in DOS (remember, this was also B.W. - Before Windows), and joined a few BBS (Bulletin Board Services). I had to dial long distance from my home to the nearest big city of Toronto to pick up the BBS.
It cost me a fortune in long-distance charges so I would dial in, download the BBS "mail" and log off. Then I'd read the messages offline, respond offline and dial in again to upload (post) my responses. There was a 4 to 5 day lag time between sending my messages and seeing responses. That seemed pretty speedy back in those days.
Snail mail was important, I would pore over queries in all the genealogy newsletters I received. Then I'd write to anyone who seemed to be looking for the same ancestors I was. I waited in anticipation day after day, anxious to see what the next day's mail would bring.
I look back on that as a very satisfying genealogy experience, there was something quite wonderful about the feeling you got when that huge package of material arrived in the mail from another researcher.
I miss that. Now I do most of my research online for two reasons - my health issues and convenience. I love the convenience of online research. I love the speed of finding ancestors online. But I do miss going to libraries, archives, and museums and scrolling through page after page of microfilm.
It's kind of like buying from E-Bay instead of going out to the antique store or junk store or flea market and experiencing that "aha!" moment when you spot a treasure buried under a pile of junk... There's a great deal of satisfaction in slogging through reel after reel of microfilm - unindexed microfilm - and finally spotting your ancestor's name!
Now when I get a package in the mail (which is infrequent as most items are scanned and sent via email), it is for material I already know is coming. I'm not complaining, it's all good and it's genealogy information I want and need BUT I don't have that same sense of wonderment or anticipation as I did back in the days of B.I.
I love the Internet. I would never want to return to B.I. But I would love to have the awe and excitement of snail mail anticipation back again. I think I can be forgiven for feeling a bit discouraged - after all I've been researching for almost 60 years! But I love every minute of it and I still do my genealogy happy dance with every new find. And meantime I'm busy compiling and writing my family history books to ensure my years of research are not lost.