Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Free Genealogy Online Books

There are many free books on the Internet that are invaluable in the pursuit of family history.  You may think it is not worthwhile to search historical books for your ancestor because you have ancestors who are just ordinary folks and not newsworthy enough to be in a book. But you may be surprised at what you will find in these books.

Many historical books are county books that include biographies of regular citizens, others are military regimental histories, family history books, historical society publications, county commission reports, court cases and city directories.  These books have info about regular people.  The public domain books can be read online, downloaded to your computer, or transferred to your e-reader such as the Kindle

The following online book archives are searchable by title, author or any word that may appear within the book.  You can search for your surnames, words that may appear in the book, or the location such as city or town.

  • BYU
  • The BYU Family History Archive is a free collection of approximately 18,000 family histories, local histories, city directories and other genealogy books online from nine major genealogy libraries.  These books can be search by title, author, and/or a surname.   If I am just browsing, I usually search for just a surname.

  • Google Books
  • Google books include many county histories with citizen biographies published in the late 1800s and early 1900s, family histories, historical society publications, county commission reports, court cases as well as military regimental histories.  These books can be search by title, author, and/or keywords that may appear in the book such as surname by using the Google Book Search or the Google Advanced Book Search
    Many, but not all, of the Google Books are in the public domain.  Once you have search results, click on  free Google ebooks in the left column if you only want to search free public domain books.  These can be read fully online, downloaded to your computer, or transferred to your ereader.    
     Once you have found a book, the contents can be searched using the searchbox in the left column.

The following books are searchable by title and author only.  Since many of the genealogy books within this archive seem to be county related, the best search strategy I have found is to search by county name.  Once you have the books with the county name in the title, you can search each for your surnames.
  • Internet Archive
  • Over 2 million public domain free books to read online, download to your computer, or transfer to your Kindle. Search is by title and author only. Search for book title first (if you search for county name - the search will bring up all books that include the county name), then search within book for family surname. 
    In the drop down box, you can choose American Libraries, Canadian Libraries, or Project Gutenberg, among others.  Or choose text to search all books.  While there are many genealogy books included in the mix, not all are genealogy related.

  • Open Library
  • Over 1 million free titles, but of course, not all are genealogy related. Search for county in book title and make sure to check the 'Only show eBooks' checkbox.  When viewing a title, click how you want to read the book; such as, the 'Send to Kindle' link next to the edition in which you're interested.  I was surprised how many books I found that interested me.   
     If you do not check the "only show eBooks" checkbox, you will be shown hardback books which are available for purchase or free from a library.  If the libraries shown are not near you, you can always visit your local library and request an ILL (Interlibrary Loan) where your local library might be able to borrow the book from another library for you.


shannon katherine said...

I also use
I have found a few good books on the site

A rootdigger said...

This is a wonderful post. I have found sources for books for my locations in germany, but neglect america and have had to rely on used book sales sight. But to even know the writers is a task alone. And then not sure where I recorded info.
thanks so much.

Steve said...

Free Kindle genealogy book. "Family Genealogy Queries: 'Q' Surnames" will be free for two days this week, Thursday and Friday, July 4 and 5. You don't even need to own a Kindle device to read it, if you have the free Kindle app from Amazon on your computer. This will be of interest to anyone researching family lines with a "Q" surname (QUINN, QUARLES, QUINCY, QUATTLEBAUM, etc.) in the southern U.S. (Note: Outside of the two-day "freebie" window, anyone with a Kindle device and an Amazon Prime account may still borrow the book at no cost.)