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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

OK, so where are all the books online?

There are millions upon millions of digitized books online and many millions of those even larger millions are in the public domain and free and completely searchable. So, you say, what good are millions of books if the one I need or want is not there? Good question, but it begs the issue. What is more likely is that there is a genealogically valuable book out there that you have yet to find or know about. Recently, one of my distant relatives showed me a surname book written about one of my direct ancestors with hundreds of pages, that I had never seen or heard about! What's so great about this? Remember, I spend literally hundreds of hours scouring the Internet and you would think that I would follow my own advice and would have long ago have found the book.

So why didn't I find the book? The reason is very simple: I didn't look. Here is the citation to the book that I now know exists:

Parkinson, Diane, and John Parkinson. Samuel Charles Bryant of Rolvenden: His Roots and His Branches : England, Australia, America : a Biographical History and Genealogical Record of the Family of Samuel Charles and Sarai Stapley Bryant. Austin, Tex: Published for the Samuel Charles Bryant Family Association by Historical Publications, 1993. 

How did I find the book online? First, I looked for the name of the ancestor. No luck. Then I tried Still no luck. I did several more searches online with no results, so I called the publisher. They didn't remember the book at all. Hmmm. I began to think maybe this was one of those family publications that never made it into a library. But that is not the case. Finally, persistence paid off. I searched for the names of the authors who had published a similar book of which I had a copy. So by looking for the authors, then copies of the book began to appear online. The answer was simple, I was looking for the wrong title.

It turns out that two major libraries have copies of the book. The citation of the book in references a family organization. What it turned out finally was that it was in and several other places but out-of-print and unavailable, I hadn't searched completely enough. Then I realized that I should check several other places, such as the Family History Library, for example.Yes, they have a copy also.

Now here is the problem. If these family organizations have these books, which are in a very few (or no) libraries, then why don't they have the book scanned an put online? Usually, if you inquire about the book, you will find some family member with a stack of the printed copies in a garage or closet. The original publishers printed the book and tried to sell it to family members to recoup the cost of publication. In many cases, in my experience, they could not sell enough of the books to pay the costs of publication, so they are not willing to scan the book and give it away to the public. With our copyright laws, we will all have to wait for a hundred years to gain access to a copy of the book. Now, I could order the book through Inter-library Loan. I tried that next.

So, I went to my local public library and logged in to my account. One of the options I had was to order a book through Interlibrary Loan.  After filling out the form with the information I found in and elsewhere, I ordered the book. I will let you know what happens and if they can find a copy. Since the book is in the Library of Congress, I may also be able to get the book directly from them.

Once I found the book online, it popped up everywhere. I found it in and the Family History Library Catalog. Persistence pays.

The lesson to be learned from this search? Keep looking for combinations of title and author or authors. First efforts may not always produce results.

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