Genealogy books, family histories, and more useful books online, digitized

When I was working on a cousin’s colonial ancestry, googling an ancestor’s name* would often find a book digitized and online at google, for example, a local history of Stamford, CT. Recently I saw a post about the genealogically related books digitized by familysearch which said “There are many thousands of historical and genealogical books available to read online. They are indexed so I was able to find old towns where ancestors lived, genealogies of families …”

In short order I found a book at familysearch.org about Norwegians in Brooklyn that listed my granddad and both sets of my great grandparents who lived there. The details of that are posted here on my family history site.

MunsonInstituteAfter I excitedly announced this on one of my favorite mailing lists, others chimed in with more online book resources. So with permission, I am including June Byrne’s list of these and tips on using them.

*n.b. when googling a name, put it in quotes to get an exact match, e.g. “Lawrence J. Munson”

The rest of this post is adapted from a write-up by June C. Byrne.

There are lots of books which have recently been digitalized.  They are either old enough to be out of copyright or the authors have given permission to have them copied.  Many of these are very useful for genealogical research.

WorldCat is a worldwide catalog of books.  It will tell you the closest library that has a specific book, and if there are digitalized versions of it online.

FamilySearch.org  – Free Books.  If you have trouble using a book there, you can download it and in order to use it more easily.  If the book is large, it is slow to search and they may lock up your computer if you try to use it online. Do not try to use with an AOL browser.  Use your Internet Explorer or Chrome or any other browser instead.  Also check the catalog at this site for links to many of their free books on line. [Ed note: One user per book at a time, so you can get a message like this:

You do not have sufficient rights to view requested object.

Item is currently in use by one other user. Somebody else is currently using this book, and only one user can use this book at a time. Please check back for availability in 60 minutes, which is our checkout period. There is no waiting list.

Google Books: Some of these are free, some are not.  But it is a good place to look for old books.

Heritage Quest has about 25,000 genealogy books digitalized and searchable. This is not free but it is available free through a lot of public libraries. Most likely you can have remote access to this with a library card.  If not, find another library close by or a state library which offers this with remote access to residents.

Internet Archive has many books.  Not all of them are useful for genealogy. Do a search for the book title.  Or click on American Libraries.  Half way down the page, there is a place to browse by title name.  These are transcribed books which makes them faster to search.  One advantage of searching is that the indices are not complete in a lot of old books.  For example, in the Early Germans in New Jersey, I found a number of names by searching that were not in the index. But some of the transcriptions are OCR. This can be a problem because the Optical Character Recognition reads Clover for Glover.

Thank you June (and other list members) for all this!

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  1. very helpful and informative. I always tag my brick walls with the word yet. My more recent research has focused on Boston, Mass, discovering evermore colonial ancestors. One in particular, Joshua Brackett, was an innholder on South Street, a member of the committee of correspondence, the Old South Street Church and a close friend of Paul Revere. He was member of the original Sons of Liberty whose members quite possibly had a direct hand in the Boston Tea Party. Late last night, I came upon a handwritten letter to Ben Franklin updating the current activity at the Old South St Church (church scratched out an replaced with ‘meeting house’) including discussion of the Tea Party. I found a digitized copy on InternetArchives. Joshua, quite possibly, was one of those men disguised as a native american. Such cool beans!

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