More than 80,000 Digitized Genealogy and Family History Publications are Now Available Online

One of the greatest genealogy resources available today is the huge collection of digitized genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. When I travel to various genealogy conferences and societies, I am often amazed at how many genealogists are unaware of these free resources. Not only are the books and other publications available free of charge, you don’t even have to pay for gas to visit these libraries!

These digital books are available at:

Google Books
Archive.org
Allen County Public Library
Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library
Brigham Young University Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library
Church History Library
Family History Library
Houston Public Library – Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research
Mid-Continent Public Library – Midwest Genealogy Center
Pennsylvania State University Libraries’ Digitized Collections

The menus and the search methods will obviously vary from one site to another. However, a few minutes spent exploring each site’s holdings could pay big dividends.

I will say that most newcomers search only for names. In fact, I’ll admit that I do the same on my first search on a new web site and I suspect a lot of other experienced genealogists do the same. However, after exhausting the search for names, most experienced genealogists start looking for other search terms. I always look for locations. Many times, I have been successful at finding some tidbit about an ancestor by searching for the county or the town in which he or she lived, even after a search for the person’s name produced no results at all.

One of my more successful searches came as a result of searching for the name of the small town in which my great-great-grandparents lived. I knew he was a farmer so I searched for his his name plus the name of the small town in which he lived. I was rewarded with a scanned digital booklet of only 42 pages, printed in 1842, that listed all the farmers in his county, along with a detailed description of the farm and even the assessed value of the property. It listed the total acreage of his property, the number of acres under cultivation, the number of acres of woodlands, the number of barns and outbuildings, how many head of cattle, sheep, and swine that he owned, and even the number of chickens. It also listed the crops he sold. I learned a lot more about him and my great-great-grandmother in that small booklet than I ever found in census records!

When searching old books and other printed information, you have to be creative. You should search not only for locations, abut also for fraternal organizations, religious affiliations, veterans’ organizations, and anything else you can think of.

6 Comments

It will be a while before every printed item is digitalised and fully searchable so catalogues remain of great importance. Once of the most under used is the ESTC or the English Short Title Catalogue. This is an ongoing project to bring together in one place details of Printed Material in the English Language pre 1801 (and includes collections worldwide). It isn’t complete . It is also worth mentioning exclusions : prints; maps; engraved music; trade cards; and playbills.

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Two Canadian sources of digitized books are:
http://www.ourroots.ca/ (although this morning it seems to be offline)
http://www.manitobia.ca/

Rick M

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At https://books.familysearch.org you can search for free ebooks from several libraries at once
The valuable resources included in Family History Books come from the following partner institutions:
Allen County Public Library
Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library
Brigham Young University Idaho David O. McKay Library
Brigham Young University Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library
Church History Library
Family History Library
Houston Public Library – Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research
Mid-Continent Public Library – Midwest Genealogy Center
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Onondaga County Public Library

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Dick, thanks for the list. I’ve used several of these but a few are new to me. The Penn State on-line collection is one I’ve not used before. I did a “name” search and found some wonderful documents. I had trouble searching/retrieving documents at both BYU links. While googling “how to access BYU” I came across the following notice: “The Family History Archives at BYU have been moved to Family History Books at FamilySearch. http://books.familysearch.org/” If you go to the link, it says there are 150,000 books available from the following partners:
-Allen County Public Library
-Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library
-Brigham Young University Idaho David O. McKay Library
-Brigham Young University Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library
-Church History Library
-Family History Library
-Houston Public Library – Clayton Library for Genealogical Research
-Mid-Continent Public Library – Midwest Genealogy Center
-Historical Society of Pennsylvania
-Onondaga County Public Library
Does anyone know if there are additional resources at BYU that aren’t available at http://books.familysearch.org?

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Hi Dick,

You might sometime discuss the fact that new genealogical books and journals are mostly not online since they’re under copyright. But newer publications often correct old ones. And they of course provide newly identified people and relationships. Since so much of the old stuff is online, errors are being perpetuated.
Thanks,
Helen

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http://europeana.eu
“Explore millions of items from a range of Europe’s leading galleries, libraries, archives and museums. Books and manuscripts, photos and paintings, television and film, sculpture and crafts, diaries and maps, sheet music and recordings, they’re all here.”

http://www.hathitrust.org/
“HathiTrust is a partnership of academic & research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.”
–some titles are *not* full text rather limited to searching within

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