Remember the days when we filed our genealogical information in 3-ring notebooks and kept in touch with fellow researchers by ground mail? We've come a long way, but where do we go from here and what does the future hold for genealogists?
I'm not a fortune teller, but I can tell you this: Our appetite for digitized records has been whetted and we want more - more military records, more newspapers, more vital records and please, please let there be more digitized court and land records. I do foresee the day when vital records will be available for immediate download with the flash of a credit card. No more downloading the form and sending the completed form to the proper agency.
I've heard people say that all genealogy resources should be free. No more subscription services. That would be nice. I'd like my groceries to be free too, but it's not going to happen. I will continue to pay to feed my thirst for information just as I do to feed my body. Both are necessary for my growth and well being.
In addition to using subscription services, I use several online tools, including Google Maps and Images, in my research. For some time, I have been working on the genealogy of a town - the people and businesses and on which town lots they were situated. With the use of Google Maps, I can walk the streets to see what buildings are located there today - all without leaving the comfort of my home. Google Images allow me to see photos of people and places of interest in my target town. Research without Google would be very difficult.
Online tools do come with advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is that these records and images are available to use at home. With the easy access comes the possibility that we forget about other resources not online. For those records we must visit the courthouses and cemeteries and read the microfilm. Good research involves the use of all possible resources.