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:
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.