I am drowning under the amount of information and keep finding more and more methods to find additional sources. I'm not even sure how I got there, but I found a video of Miriam Robbins Midkiff talking about using Google Books in her research.
So I open up the site and plug in the first name I can think of, Conrad Auth. Conrad was my wife's 2nd-great-grandfather, was born in 1832 in Germany. He married Elizabeth Bannantine, born in 1839 in England, and lived with his large family in Pittsburgh, PA. I have very little information on Conrad and his family outside of what I could find in census data and a GEDCOM file I received from another Auth. The 1880 US Census lists his occupation as Glassblower.
I got 20 results for my search of "Conrad Auth". The first book in the list was:
Sons and Daughters of Labor: Class and Clerical Work in Turn-of-the-Century Pittsburgh
By Ileen A. DeVault
Published by Cornell University Press, 1995
ISBN 0801483077, 9780801483073
I clicked on the link and found the following section in the book (I used OCR to get it in text instead of the screenshot I took, but many books actually have a plain-text version as well):
Charles Auth entered the Commercial Department in 1900. His father, Conrad, was a Pennsylvania-born glassblower of mixed German and English heritage and national treasurer of the Glass Bottle Blowers’ Association (GBBA). Glassblowers like Auth made up almost 3 percent of the skilled workers represented in the Commercial Department. Conrad Auth, his English-born wife, five sons, and one daughter lived in a house with a fully paid mortgage near the glasshouses on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Charles was the youngest son. His two oldest brothers held manual jobs; one was a glassblower like his father, and the other was an unspecified "steelworker." During the year ending with the federal census taking of June 1900, Conrad Auth and his glassblowing son had both been unemployed for twelve full months. Even as treasurer of his national union, Auth, Sr., did not receive a salary, although he did sometimes receive per diem payment and costs for time spent on union business. Auth`s steelworker son had been unemployed for seven months of 1900. Faced with this dramatic experience of the precariousness of the skilled trades, the Auth family switched to a new plan for their three younger sons. When fifteen-year-old Charles entered the high school's program, his other two brothers worked as clerks, one for a plumbing business and the other as a grocery clerk. Unlike their older brothers, neither of these young men employed in white-collar jobs had any periods of unemployment in 1900. Since the family had paid off the mortgage on their home, their economic situation had not always been so bleak as it was in 1900. Nonetheless, the pattern of employment in the family demonstrates a change in strategy for the sons' futures over the course of the 1890s.
WOW! Look at all this information! I love it! This kind of data breathes real life into our ancestors. It takes them from a bunch of census data and source citations to an actual family, living in times of hardship and persevering. I would have had to dig deep to find out that Conrad was the national treasurer of the GBBA. And this was just the first link!
I kept going through the list and found out that he testified in the tariff hearings before the Committee on Ways and Means, First Session, Fifty-third Congress, in 1893. There was a lot more information but I was already completely overwhelmed. I tried a few others and kept finding more and more.
So obviously this is a huge resource that I will use in the future. One of the things that's kind of annoying is that not all the books have full view. Some only have snippets and point you to where you can buy the book. But even these snippets can be extremely valuable.
Some of you veteran genealogists are probably snickering at my ridiculous newbie discovery. But since I have no formal genealogical training and I haven't even read an "Idiot's Guide To Genealogy" book, this is still a big deal to me.
Any more 'WOW' tips out there? I sure hope so!