Everyone has Googled their own name. We've probably also used search engines to look for our friends and living family. I defy anyone to tell me that they've never typed a celebrity's name in there! But so many historians never think to check for any mention of their ancestors.
Forum niche experts frequently turned into web-masters too. Their invaluable knowledge became stored on tiny websites buried in the depths of the internet. But the search bots are still scanning them. That information will still turn up in the results.
I'd lost my great-great-great grandparents. Careless of me, I know. They were in their home, where they were supposed to be, in 1861 and 1881. But in between, they were mysteriously missing. Their adult children were minding both the store and the younger ones, but no database was telling me where the parents were in 1871.
After fruitlessly rooting through Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, I nearly had to admit defeat. But there was one last avenue to try. I put their names into Google and I was presented with thousands of links. There were a lot of living people with the same names, ranking much higher. I have patience. I started scrolling.
Somewhere back on about page 32 of the search engine results, I found my errant family. A local genealogist had found them in Matlock, where they were partaking of the spa. He had transcribed their names himself from the census records before him. He'd written their names correctly, which was more than the big database sites had done.
Moreover, because he was local, he had included a great deal of information about why people holidayed in Matlock in the 19th century. It painted a beautifully vivid picture, which brought everything to life for me. These were the nuggets of knowledge that makes researching your family history worth the hassle. For a moment, you can almost glimpse the past, and the people stop becoming merely names on the paper.
That isn't the only time that I've struck gold in search engines, while working on my family tree. It takes a lot of stamina to keep trailing through endless pages (almost like going back to the real world archives), but the gems, when they're found, really do shine.