Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Read genealogy books online -- a survey of sources

The world-wide digitizing projects have created a super-fast growing phenomenon, reading books online. I am just now finishing my first complete genealogy book online from Google Books. I have been reading Jacobus, Donald Lines. Genealogy As Pastime and Profession. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1968. I believe I have mentioned before that I could not find the physical book for sale online. I went so far as to actually purchase a copy for sale, only to be notified that the order was cancelled. I suppose I could have tried harder to buy the book, but then I discovered I could buy the eBook for $5.51, quite a bit less than the physical book. I downloaded the book and have been reading it on my iPhone in off moments.

When I said that this was the first genealogy book I had read in eBook format, I meant the first genealogy book from cover to cover (if you can still say that with eBooks). I have read dozens, probably not yet a hundred books on my iPhone and its predecessors. So how does this impact genealogy? Well, for example, I did a search on Google eBooks only for genealogy and got 467,000 results. Try looking at your local library's offering for books on genealogy and see how that compares. Most of these books were on sale, that is, you would have to pay for the eBook copy. If you have a Google account all you have to do is log in to Google Books and open the "My Account" link to get started. But how many of these books were free? I did a search on Free Google eBooks for genealogy and got 330,000. That should keep anyone busy for a few days.

Now how are you going to read these books? I hear a lot of people say how they can't stand to read books online (I think they are some of the same people who are glued to Facebook and play video games) but I think that is a lame excuse. More and more people are reading online; news, weather, sports, everything. Why not books? They will sit and stare at a TV screen for a U.S. average of over 6 hours, but can't stand to read online?  See Television and Health. In addition, we now have a huge number of book readers out there, iPads, Kindles, Nooks and many smart phones. Some of which can be used to read the online books.

OK, so Google Books has a huge collection, where else can I go to get books online? How about your local library? I recently signed up to check out books from the Mesa Public Library. Our library uses Adobe Digital Editions, a program for downloading books from the library to read on my computer. The Mesa library has NetLibrary and the Greater Phoenix Digital Library. I got about 150 returns from a search on "genealogy" and most were pretty disappointing. But there this area of online library books is rapidly expanding both in scope and numbers of books. You might try some of the larger libraries in the country, such as the New York Public Library. Oh, and don't forget the Library of Congress.

Where else can I go to look for books? Well, there is always They have over a billion entries and for most books they show if a digital edition is available online. Some of the major sources of digital books are the Hathi Trust Digital Library which has 8,433,026 volumes with about 2,204,780 in the public domain. Project Gutenberg with about 100,000 or so free books online is a good source of older books. There is, of course, the Internet Archive with over 2,754,000 books.  In conjunction with the Internet Archive, there is the Open Library which lists over 20,000,000 books in its catalog presently and has provided access to over 1.7 million scanned versions of books. There is also the Family History Archive with over 34,000 genealogy books. You might want to look at kobo also.

In addition, nearly every university has some sort of collection of digitized books.  For example, Arizona State University has a number of online collections of eBooks. You can probably visit the websites of nearly every library in the U.S. and many other around the world and find millions of additional eBooks. Some of these resources will only be available to students and faculty of the university, but others are available to the public. Also, check out Cornell University's digital collections.

Of course, there is Europeana, the huge collection of digitized material from 1500 different institutions in Europe. 

Oh, and don't forget to do a search on line for "digitized books," "digitized genealogy books," and so forth.

Oh, and don't forget to come back with color in your cheeks. Green.


  1. :) Maybe on that hike in New York City we could all stop by the library? Or we could carry our digital books along and read as we go...

  2. Learning online is more easy and convenient to do.Thanks for sharing your blog.