Hats off to researchers and writers prior to the advent of the internet. Research must have been incredibly time consuming and expensive, particularly if the subject you pick lived in a number of countries, none of which you happen to live in.
The advent of online genealogy websites and online newspaper archives is an amazing blessing. Being able to search electronically by keyword or name cuts down the enormous hours of reading edition after edition after edition on the off-chance that your subject is mentioned.
On-line chat forums associated with these sites and other interest groups provide access to people from around the world who have special interests in areas you might need information. For instance, the online Formula One forums helped me track down that Alice’s first husband was not a Le Mans driver when she met him (Le Mans did not actually exist prior to their marriage) despite this “fact” being reported extensively in books and nespapers of the time. Nor could the FI forum members identify anyone from any other race-courses who, even using a nom de circuit, might have been him. All this with a friendly chat at the same time. I could never have amassed their decades of knowledge to come to this conclusion.
Alice was born in Chicago Illinois. Her family was mostly from Chicago and New York, with ancestry in Scotland. She spent some of her childhood in Buffalo, New York, also took a number of trans-Atlantic trips to European countries. She spent her adult life between USA, France, Kenya and England. Her husbands were from France and England, and one lover was from South Africa. One husband travelled to South America and Australia. A number of her friends and lovers were military men and hence were posted in various battle fronts. Many of her friends and lovers travelled extensively.
This required me finding and researching newspaper and official archives from all of these countries – a great deal cheaper and easier online than through flights to various libraries to go through their microfiche archives. Photographs are available online and many national archives now have a number of their catalogues available online.
So, a few of the really helpful generic sites:
– Amazon.com (keyword searches and index searches)
– and of course Google, which done regularly on a range of different associated topics, turns up all sorts of amazing links.
Some newspapers and magazines (Time-Life, London Times) have their own archives which are again searchable by key-word. Newspapers from the early 1900s had very different editorial standards, and, one can only presume, were not sued on a regular basis for inaccuracies and flat-out fabrications. (“Leap Year’s Wierdest Romance” featured sketches of how the shotting may have occurred) So be careful taking their word at face value – try to back it up with documents from other sources. Nonetheless, they can be highly entertaining and give you some pointers on areas to investigate.
The best part of these forums were the people – some really lovely helpful people, some other authors that I got in contact with who were very generous with their time and knowledge.
Are there other websites and resources that you have found of help in researching biographical and genealogical information? Please let me know in the comments section and I will add them to a future post.