This is Part Two of a series on important websites to help your genealogical research. In Part One, we covered Google Searches and the Four big online database programs, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org and findmypast.com. This post will cover some of the most important websites with large collections of books. As the number of digitized online source material grows, a huge number of valuable genealogical materials are included. This is most definitely the case with digitized books. The number of books containing valuable historical and genealogical information has grown to the point that these resources must not be ignored.
Many researchers conclude, without any basis at all, that no one has written about their family. As you go back in time, it becomes more and more likely that you will find a book entirely about your ancestors or a book where your ancestors are mentioned. Books that talk either about an ancestor and his or her descendants or about the ancestors of a certain person and collectively known as surname books. In addition to books directly about genealogy, there may also be valuable genealogical information in a local or state history. These are only some of the reasons for searching for both each of your ancestral surnames and full names (with variations) in the large online digitized book repositories.
World.org is one of the most valuable online resources available for genealogical or any other type of research. This huge website is a compilation of the catalogs of more than 70,000 libraries worldwide. The catalog contains more than 2 billion entries. You can search for individuals, surnames, county histories and any other pertinent information. There is also a direct link from Google.com Books to WorldCat.org. Another important feature is that if you find a book that is not readily available in the library near you, you can use the citation to find the book through an interlibrary loan program in your local library. By entering your ZIP Code, when you find a book WorldCat.org will tell you the distance to each library that has a copy of the book.
Google.com Books (Free)
It is reported, that Google.com Books now has over 30 million scanned books in its collection. Just as with WorldCat.org, it is important to use the Google book search to find books about your ancestors or local and state histories. Many of the books on Google are in the public domain and can be completely searched and read online. Optionally, you can download the books in the public domain to your own computer or any tablet reading device.
Archive.org is another extremely useful source for digitized material. Their collection includes over 1 million videos and nearly 2,000,000 audio recordings as well as 5 1/2 million digitized books. All of the books in the Archive.org collection are in the public domain and can be downloaded in a variety of formats or read on your computer. This is a particularly valuable resource for genealogical materials in that it has a complete set of the US Census records from 1790 to 1930. However, there is no index to the US Census records. This collection also has a huge number of genealogically important books that may not be available from any other source.
The HathiTrust.org is another huge online source for digitized books. This particular website is a collection of digitized materials from large U. S. universities. It presently has 10.8 million total volumes and 3.4 million of those volumes are in the public domain. However, all of the digitized books on the HathiTrust.org can be searched. It is important to search for your ancestors both by their given names and surnames in all of these collections.
FamilySearch.org Books (Free)
FamilySearch.org has a collection of more than 100,000 surname books, and local and state histories. Nearly all of the books are readily downloadable as PDF files. This online collection contains books from the Family History Library, the Allen County Public Library, the Brigham Young University Harold B.Lee Library, The Brigham Young University Idaho David O. McKay Library, the Brigham Young University Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library, the Church History Library, the Houston Public Library and the Mid-Continent Public Library.
Ancestry.com also has a sizable collection of digitized history and surname books. Although this online subscription database is not usually associated with digitized books it does have a sizable collection of books that are pertinent to genealogical research.
HeritageQuestOnline.com (Free in library websites)
Heritage Quest Online also has a sizable collection of digitized surname books and local and state history books. This website is only available through Family History Centers or through local public libraries’ online resources.
The question is often asked as to whether these websites have a lot of the same books and other resources? The answer is that there is some overlap but each of the sites has unique content. There are also many more sites with huge book collections, you may want to do a Google search on “digitized books” to see some of the other large collections.