Several months ago, I wrote one of the GFHC Friday open threads about how not all records are on-line yet and that, to be thorough in genealogy work, one needs to go to libraries, courthouses, and the like. See this diary for all those gory details ;-)
But there's another way genealogists should get out from behind the computer, if at all possible.... visit the areas your ancestors lived. Find their houses (if still extant...), or the locations, if not.
Follow me over the squiggly doohickey for more.
There are benefits beyond just the thrill of standing where your ancestors lived to visiting the locations you are researching. Not to be too preachy, but it's often worth the time and effort to visit the areas ancestors lived in.
There may be dates or clues in, for example, how a cemetery is laid out....or you might find that a gravestone has a date that you haven't found on-line yet ~~ or that a sister is buried next to your ancestor but was missed when the graveyard was cataloged (yup, happened to me.....).
Even though I think I've mined the Learoyd-Putnam cemetery for any possible information, I still often stop there when I'm in eastern Massachusetts.....
Visiting an area can help you visualize how easy it was to get around before cars. Is the area hilly and hard to walk? Or flat and settled in compact areas? Did families in the area live in densely-packed detached houses or tenements? Or maybe in isolated shepherd's cottages?
Detached houses on the North Shore of Massachusetts (Marblehead, to be specific):
Tenements in Edinburgh:
Shankend Shiel, where my grandmother's grandmother was born ~~ isolated now, it was even more so 150 years ago...
My great-great-grandmother was living in this house when she died; the current residents invited me in for a cup of tea...and shared old pictures of the house a previous resident had given them:
It's also possible to find a small historical society with volunteers with local knowledge....or (as happened to me in Scotland) a combination of the local postmaster and a man in his late 80s waiting for a bus, pointed out by the postmaster, who helped me find a place that an ancestor had died from the conflicting newspaper and coroner's reports.
Similarly, I happened on a senior citizens' group at the church my grandparents had met at ~~ and several of the women remembered my great aunts and great grandmother, all of whom had died before I was born....
Obviously, trips like this cost time and money, but they can unstick brick walls ~~ and make the whole pursuit of genealogy much richer.
Just for fun: this picture was taken standing on the site of an ancestor's house.... the white building in the middle has been a pub for almost 2 centuries, and it is likely that that ancestor often drank there (as he died from a bit too much New Year's Eve one year....drowning in a mill pond).