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This summer I began conducting research for a historical fiction book, and though the time and subject I was researching had a very narrow focus (the British women's suffrage movement during 1900-1905), I found myself overwhelmed with the resources available online. Although I did utilize books offline, it was the online bibliographies that led me to those reference items available at my local library.

"Gotcha," you may well be saying, "but I'm not writing a piece of historical fiction-what possible use could such online research be to me, a genealogist?"

At some point in time, most genealogists find themselves trying to research a locality, ethnicity, or genealogy subject-many researchers are not content with bare dates, and seek to put a little "flesh" on their ancestors. It is at those times that a practical knowledge of online research skills can come in handy.

For instance, let's say you happen to have Virginia ancestors who were Quakers. You've done the research and have names and dates, but little knowledge of what life was like for those ancestors; how events influenced them, what sorrows and joys they might have experienced, what everyday life was like for them, and what role their religion might have played in their lives. If you want to add flavor and interest to your family history, you may find yourself with the desire to locate information about how your ancestors lived.

You can pop the words Quakers and Virginia into any popular search engine and get a huge number of results, or you can refine your search to a specific phrase (for instance, a search on Alta Vista for the words Virginia and Quakers returned over a million pages, while a search for the phrase "Virginia Quaker" returned only 15 hits).

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