"I see that knowing history of the time period is so important. Is there a site to obtain a dateline for world/state happenings?"
I have timelines for the United States as a whole, each state that I work in, and each county within those states where I do research. I also have histories at the state level and the county level. I keep all of this information in my Research Binder. I update it as I find new information. I can refer to it at anytime to refresh my memory when I am working on a new family in the same area.
The first place I look for information is a simple internet search via Google. The second place I look is the FamilySearch Wiki. The third place I look is USGenWeb. The fourth place I look is Wikipedia. Remember that these are being updated by a lot of different people so remember to check the sources. Since Mississippi is my favorite state here are some examples of Mississippi timelines:
You can see just how easy it is to put together a decent timeline by using multiple sources available on the internet.
For local history at the state and county levels I go to WorldCat which is a card catalog crossing over to most of the libraries in the nation. You can search for a book on a particular location and it will tell you which libraries have it. The list is sorted by distance, closest libraries first.
A couple of other great resources for local history is Google Books and Internet Archive. Here you will find books that are out of copyright which is actually an advantage because these will be books written closer in time to the events in question.
I am seriously thinking about converting my research binder from paper over to Microsoft OneNote to make my materials easier to update. Right now I have xerox copies of stuff, notes that I have typed up, handwritten notes etc. I do have bookmark files in Firefox of internet sources for each of the counties I do research in. In OneNote you can link to all of this and have it readily available. One day...
Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis