After replying to a request from an Ancestry.com message for some information on a shared ancestor, I started doing a little more digging on that particular line. In my web searching, I happened to stumble across a county history/biography/genealogy that I thought might cover the family. It wasn’t anything Ancestry had, so I thought I’d make a quick check of the Family History Library catalog on familysearch.org. I was thrilled to see that not only was a microfilm copy available for request, but there was also a digital copy that could be downloaded.
What I ended up with was a PDF of an 880 page volume that had been published in 1883 and had information that went back in some cases to the late 1700s. It had information about who held various local government offices, church boards, historical information on companies that served in the civil war, and family histories. It was immediately obvious, that just extracting information that was pertinent to my family was going to be a project.
In 20 years of doing genealogy/family history, experience has shown that these kinds of finds are more the exception than the norm. However, with the rate at which various collections are being digitized, I’m hopeful this will start to happen a little more frequently.
For me, the moral of the story was that with all the focus on doing research online, it pays to still look in the old card catalog. Of course, the old card catalog is an online database, and instead of finding an old book to request, you just might get lucky and find out that some organization has scanned it for you.