In November 2010 I was writing about an interracial couple in 1918 San Francisco. Here's a fraction of the research I was able to do on the internet for my story. Can't believe how much this has changed in the last 20 years.
#1 - Find a house for the Lancasters to live in, in New Orleans.
#2 Create a 4-generation family tree for my characters, on familyecho.com.
#3 - I can find the right calendar for my story at timeanddate.com
#4 - I can find out what newspapers were around in 1918 San Fran.
#5 - Can find how the US draft worked in WWI.
#6 - What restaurants were like:
#7 - I have a 1911 map of San Francisco, that I can super magnify and locate any number of landmarks, including the hospital:
#8 - Find out more about the hospital.
#9 - Find a page full of alternate names for Satan:
#10 - Find a house on Nob Hill for my heroine to escape from:
#11 - Find out how to make coffee in 1911:
#12 - Find the specifics of the Spanish Influenza in San Francisco:
#13 - If I find an interesting reference while researching music recording in California...
#14 - I can find out more details with a quick wiki:
#15 - I can find San Fran specific info about jazz:
#16 - Look up quotations...
#17 - Consult an old edition of a magazine...
#18 - Find out club names in 1918 New Orleans...
#19 - ...and then find a picture of it:
#20 - The history of interracial marriage by state:
#21 - Get a picture of the interior of a Pullman train car (as well as first hand accounts by Pullman porters, and the schedule for the San Fran -> New Orleans train, showing what time it left, what time it stopped at each city etc. As well as the application of segregation laws as the train traveled from one state to another.)
#22 - I know what jazz songs would be playing:
#23 - And then buy 100 period songs for $11.99, to listen to while writing...
#24 - Pages full of cultural info on the period:
#25 - Interesting people to inspire my characters:
Bonus: And I can have all those pages open in tabs for quick referencing, along with a jazz persona for my browser.
Ridiculous, I tell you. C'est ridicule!