Last week I was researching late at night and I came across a reference to a family history book that was written in 1885. I needed to consult the book before I could continue with the research. In the past I would have had to either request the book through interlibrary loan or wait until I visited a library that had a copy of the book. Both options would have halted my research for days, if not weeks.
However, that night I checked the online sites that have digital copies of books and was able to download a complete copy of the book Within thirty minutes, I checked the information I was looking for and continued with the research.
There are many Web sites that have digital copies of books and more are popping up every day. These sites contain family histories, city directories, city, county, and state histories, reference books, record indexes, and more. Many of these books are rare, out-of-print, and very hard to find. To have these books available to us at the click of a mouse is nothing short of amazing.
If you would like to search for a book, here are several free Web sites which I have found to be useful.
Brigham Young University (BYU) Digitized Book Project/Family History Archive (http://www.lib.byu.edu/fhc/). BYU has joined forces with the Family History Library and the Allen County Public Library in a unique project. The project began in 2005 with scanning of family histories. It has expanded to include city and county histories, historic city directories, and other related records. These digitized books are free and are full of genealogical information. The unique feature of this database is that there are hyperlinks from the Family History Library Catalog directly to the book on the BYU site. One can review and copy one page or download an entire book. I once had a page from an unidentified book which contained vital genealogical information. In order to evaluate the credibility of the information, I needed the name of the book and author. I searched the Family History Library Catalog using the family surname. One of the results was a book that had a link to the BYU Digitized Book Project. I clicked on the link which connected me to the digitized copy of the book. From there it was a simple matter of comparing the page number in the book with the page I had to establish that they were the same.
Google Book Search (http://books.google.com/). Like Google, Google Book Search is free and easy. Simply type in a few search words to find the desired book. There are four different views on Google Book Search and the view that comes up depends on the status of the book. Full View allows viewing of a page or downloading of the entire book. These are the books that are no longer protected by copyright or the publisher or author has permitted the book to be fully viewable. There are three other views besides Full View: Limited Preview, Snippet View, and No Preview. These views provide varying degrees of the book contents and information. Not all the books are free but Google provides links to libraries or to online store where the book can be purchased. There is a “Search within this book” feature which is very helpful if you are not sure if the book contains the information you want. The advantage to doing this type of search is that you could also find additional books which might be pertinent to your research. Last week when I was doing my research, I put the words “Schuyler Family” into Google Book Search and found not only the book I was looking for but others which I bookmarked to return to at a later time.
Another worthwhile feature in Google Book Search to consider is “My Library.” This option allows you to save books to your account so you can come back to them later or share with others.
HeritageQuest Online (http://persi.heritagequestonline.com/hqoweb/library/do/books). HeritageQuest is an online genealogical resource for libraries. The service is available remotely from a home computer for library patrons using a valid library card. The HeritageQuest book collection includes about 22,000 family histories and local histories. The entire text is searchable and the complete book is available for viewing but downloading is limited to 50 pages.
Digital Book Index (www.digitalbookindex.org). Digital Book Index is a free “meta-index” search site and provides links to more than 140,000 digital books on the internet of which approximately 30,000 are free. This site displays the results as a list and includes the digital format, the price (if any), and the publisher. Because if it a meta search, it indexes many Web sites including Google Book Search.
Some of the paid genealogy subscription sites have full text copies of books as well. The entire book cannot usually be downloaded, but individual pages can be viewed and copied. Most of the books found on the Internet are in either PDF or HTML formats which makes it easy to view and copy in minutes. There is some overlap in content but the collections are very different. If you don’t find what you are looking for on one site, check one of the others. And check back often because they are all constantly adding titles.
There are many wonderful advantages in using technology and the Internet for genealogy and digital online books is certainly one of them.