I purchased two genealogy books this morning. The books are both about my family name, although not about my direct ancestors. I have seen both books previously in libraries and am quite familiar with the contents. Today, I purchased my own copies on CD-ROM disks to keep on my computer as well as in my own private area “in the cloud.” Both books provide background information which interests me as well as may provide answers when other people contact me about their Eastman ancestry. Since I will copy both disks to my own password-protected area in the cloud, I will have them with me at all times. I can access them from home, from a laptop at the gate at an airport, from the iPad from most anyplace, and even from my “smartphone” when at the grocery store. Admittedly, reading books on a tiny cell phone screen does offer a few challenges but reading them on a laptop, tablet, or other ebook reader is often more convenient than reading similar content on paper.
Best of all: I am delighted with the price: $10.95 for one and $7.95 for the other. Those prices are much, much cheaper than purchasing reprinted books on paper (typically $35 to $200 and occasionally even more).
These books also will be easier to store, easier to access, and much more convenient to read wherever I am.
For instance, when attending a genealogy meeting or conference, if I meet a possible cousin, it will be possible to show the contents to that person within seconds on my laptop computer, iPad, or cell phone. Even better, it only requires a few seconds to copy-and-paste a few paragraphs or even a few pages into an email message and send that information to my new-found cousin. I can even do that while standing in the convention center at a genealogy conference!
In short, I carry my personal library with me at all times. Try doing that with printed books!
Perhaps one of the greatest overlooked genealogy resources is the huge “online garage sale” at eBay. For years before the invention of the Internet, I scoured flea markets and yard sales looking for old books, hand-written records, family Bibles, photographs, and anything else that would assist my search for ancestry. So, why not do the same with the online equivalent of yard sales and flea markets: eBay?
Indeed, old records and genealogy books are available by the hundreds on eBay. You can go to http://www.ebay.com and search for almost anything. I did a search on the word “genealogy” and found 42,717 items listed. Some eBay sellers apparently cannot spell too well: I also did a search on the misspelled word “geneology”: and found another 463 items listed for sale!
Used book dealers who specialize in genealogy materials are finding that eBay is perhaps the best market for their goods. They can scan out-of-copyright books and then sell them worldwide on eBay. Millions of people will have access to these books with a simple search, far more potential customers than will ever enter a store or even read a printed catalog. Best of all, out-of-copyright books can legally be scanned once, then sold multiple times to multiple customers. The result is far more profit for each bookseller.
To be sure, the quality of genealogy material on eBay varies greatly, just like the items you find in yard sales and flea markets and even in used book stores. You can find books of all sorts, including printed books as well as books that have been scanned and are now sold on CD-ROM disks. I entered a search of “genealogy cd” on eBay.com and found 3,360 items listed. Some of them are duplicates of others items already listed but there was a wide variety of genealogy-related items available for sale, most of them are scanned images of out-of-copyright genealogy books. Upon receipt, I copy the CDs to my computer’s hard drive and to my password-protected space “in the cloud” where I can access it at any time, wherever I am, by using a tablet or laptop computer or even from my cell phone.
A few digitized books are even available for direct online downloads within seconds after you make the purchase although CD-ROM distribution is still much more common.
You can occasionally even find original records. I once purchased the original 1907 tax records for the town of Corinna, Maine, hand-written by the municipal tax collector at that time. It shows my grandfather’s farm listed with real estate valued at $400 plus a personal estate of $92. It states that grand-dad paid real estate taxes that year of $10, personal estate taxes of $2.30 and a poll tax of $3. It also shows that his next-door neighbor never paid his assessed taxes, at least not in the year 1907. I hope that he paid them in arrears the next year.
By the way, I have no idea how official tax records of a town end up on eBay, or in a garage sale for that matter. I would assume that the records still belong to the town. In the case of the Corinna tax records, I scanned the entire book and saved them as digital images. I then donated the original book to the town.
As when searching through garage sales and flea markets, be prepared to sift through a lot of junk in order to find the gems of interest. You will find books, reprints of books, scanned books on CD-ROM disks, reprints of Virkus’ Compendium (a series of pseudo-genealogy books printed from the 1920s through 1940s and generally considered to be worthless), genealogy software (always verify that you will receive a legal software license), family Bibles, and more. One of the greatest treasures I ever found was a handmade coverlet made about 1840 by a man in my extended family tree, not a direct ancestor but a great-great-great uncle. The quilt included a handwritten letter from the man’s granddaughter written in the 1930s describing her grandfather and how she came to inherit the coverlet.
I have also found listings of CD-ROM disks that contain scanned images of all sorts of books, including a few that are still under copyright. Of course, selling copyrighted material is a Federal offense. Anyone doing so risks receiving an unpleasant letter from the copyright holder’s attorneys. If you see such disks listed, you might drop a note to the seller. I have done that and have always received pleasant “thank you” messages in which the seller claimed that he or she did not know that the copyright was still in effect.
Scanning through other items listed on eBay shows that most everything genealogy-related can be found there. In fact there are so many genealogy-related items that there are too many to find by using a simple one-word search of “genealogy.” Luckily, there is an easy solution: narrow the search down for specific terms by using more words.
I found my books this morning by performing an eBay search for “Eastman genealogy,” which specifies the results to show any listings that have both those words in the titles. I found 14 items listed.
Of course, you can search for other words. I have an interest in Penobscot County, Maine, genealogy, so I conducted a search for “Penobscot genealogy” in both titles and descriptions. (Eight items were found.) You can use your imagination to find the items that interest you. You might also try searching for combinations of two, three, or more words.
Too busy to go to eBay every few days to find items of interest? There is an answer for you as well. eBay will automatically conduct daily searches for any words or combinations of words that you are looking for. If found, eBay will send an e-mail to you, listing the item(s) found. You do not even need to visit eBay at all until you find something to bid on. You can find more information at http://pages.ebay.com/help/buy/searches-follow.html.
Of course, just like flea markets and garage sales, you have to be careful about what you purchase. Money back guarantees may or may not be present; so, read the entire description to find out. eBay has a strong policy about accurately describing the items to be sold and enforces it rigorously. However, with several million sellers active at any time, it is impossible to enforce those policies everywhere.
One of the best things that eBay did was to invent a rating system in which the buyers rate the honesty and timely shipments of the sellers. If you see a seller with a high rating, you know that previous buyers of his or her products were satisfied with the results. Always read the rating of a seller before bidding. You can read more about the rating system at http://pages.ebay.com/help/confidence/know-seller-stars.html and at http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/hub.html.
eBay offers several payment methods to choose from. By far, the most popular method is to use PayPal. Actually, PayPal turned out to be so secure and popular a payment method that eBay bought PayPal several years ago. PayPal is now a division of eBay and has proven to be much safer than using credit cards or mailing checks. When using PayPal, the seller never sees your credit card number. PayPal pays the seller for you, decreasing the possibility of fraud. eBay/PayPal offers full insurance against any form of fraudulent use of the service. The protection is available to both eBay buyers and sellers. Details may be found at https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/paypal-safety-and-security.
I must say that I have been an eBay devotee for years. I have purchased probably several hundred items on eBay, including dozens of genealogy books, one tractor, two automobiles, and several computers for myself and my friends. I have also sold numerous items on eBay, again including two automobiles, with one of them shipped to a buyer in the Virgin Islands! I have been quite satisfied with the results.
Out of all my purchases, I can only recall one disappointment, and even that one was handled to my satisfaction. I once purchased an item for $200 that, upon receipt, seemed to be a bit more “used” than the seller’s description indicated. I contacted the buyer, and he immediately said, “Send it back.” I did so, and a few days later my credit card was credited for the full amount, including shipping. While I am a satisfied eBay shopper, I still closely evaluate every seller’s feedback rating before bidding on anything new. I only purchase from sellers who have a high positive feedback rating, typically looking for ratings that are 99% or higher positive feedback.
eBay is, indeed, the world’s largest garage sale. It can provide many items of interest that would be nearly impossible to find elsewhere. Yes, even rare genealogy books and other items can occasionally often be found at http://www.ebay.com. I suggest you take a look for yourself.