|This article originally appeared in Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink.|
As we enter the twenty-first century, our world vision has been greatly expanded by the many advances made in the electronics and telecommunications fields. These advances are especially visible in libraries as computerized catalogs and electronic reference databases become more readily available. Libraries are subscribing to online databases and electronic bulletin boards to provide the most current information sources for their patrons; genealogists can profit from these new sources of information. Access to many of these databases is not free of charge; researchers should expect to pay some online charges.
DIALOG Information Retrieval Service, from Dialog Information Services, Inc., is one of the best-known online systems worldwide. In operation since 1972, DIALOG offers more than 450 databases covering a broad scope of disciplines, including science, business, technology, chemistry, and social sciences.
Many reference sources reviewed in this chapter are available on DIALOG, including American Library Directory, Books in Print (described in Using Bibliographies), Encyclopedia of Associations (see Using Directories), and the Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications (described in Government Documents). Other DIALOG databases of interest to genealogists include America: History and Life; Biography Master Index; and Historical Abstracts. The last indexes the world’s periodical literature in history, social sciences, and the humanities from 1450 to the present (excluding U.S. and Canadian sources).
Several genealogical databases are available nationwide through the many family history centers of the Family History Library. They are Ancestral File, the Social Security Death Index, and the International Genealogical Index. Also available nationwide in major genealogical libraries is , the popular genealogical database developed by the LDS church. Another major genealogical database is Brøderbund Software’s World Family Tree. Each of these databases offers a unique file of information and may be available in many formats, including online, microfiche, bulletin board, and CD-ROM. Because this technology is changing rapidly, it is important to consult current issues of journals devoted to computer applications, such as Genealogical Computing, a now defunct publication of , and NGS/CIG Digest, a newsletter of the National Genealogical Society Computer Interest Group.
Many libraries across the United States provide access to their electronic catalogs via computer modem. From their homes researchers can search local, state, and national library catalogs for holdings information. Some library online services include community calendars and even such data as local cemetery listings. Some public and university libraries offer document retrieval services via home computer. The Library of Congress recently announced that LOCIS (Library of Congress Information System) is available to the public through the Internet, a collection of computer networks that link tens of millions of computer users in more than one hundred countries. These advances in computerized research allow greater access to reference materials for the family historian.
Computer technology is changing and expanding so rapidly that what is written today will be out of date by the time it is published. The best way to keep up with developments is to read pertinent journals and to attend local, state, and national genealogy conferences.