FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #6 – Books are my Jam!
As each layer of your research starts to come together, I hope that you find yourself actually looking forward to “the hunt.” I’ve always said that family history research is the best reality show that there ever could be. It’s our own show exclusively about us! This month, as we continue to add layers into our research toolkit, it’s time to look at books. That could look like an actual trip to a library where your ancestors lived or it could be from your home early in the wee hours. Let’s tap into the massive scanned book collections of Google Books, Internet Archive, FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.
“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.” — John Connolly
I’m a grandmother to two under-two-year-old grandchildren and one eight-year-old grand-daughter so I’m in that point of my life where I am watching my children’s children take the form of the future adults they will grow up to become and can I just say that it is uh-mazing! As I have worked on my next layout for my paternal grandparents’ booklet, it has actually helped me to understand exactly why I always knew that I would have my own grandma’s stash of toys. Isn’t that what scrapbooking does for us? It allows us to process our thoughts as we “paint” our layouts with photos, colors and stories? Looking into our own family history works on a similar line when it allows us to pull old thoughts together and run them through a new filter – the filter of new stories that give us “the rest of the story” as a famous radio personality used to say.
Who doesn’t love a good book?
Anyhoo… let’s get back to this month’s tool – books. At the risk of sounding like I grew up in the really old days, I could tell you that I originally had to do all my family history research by going to a library and actually pulling books, copying pages on a copier and bringing them home to make sense of what all I had uncovered. Well… I certainly did that and maybe that is why I have a serious appreciation for the ability to perform online searches through books that have been OCR’d!
Power of the Search
Indexes in books are incredibly important, but having the ability to Search a book on any word that we want is powerful. If you have never tried looking for your ancestor’s name in an online book, you should definitely try it right now. There is the chance that you will hear crickets from the responses, but there is also the chance that you could find your family’s story (or at least a portion of it!)
There are techniques that help, especially with Google’s Search, like placing your ancestor’s name in quotes and then adding the place name of where they lived. Once you get the millions of results, look at the top of the search box area for the “MORE” dropdown menu and click on it. You will see “BOOKS” as an option and you will want to click on that as well.
This brings us to a whole different area of Google and it is a good thing, believe me! If you find a book that looks promising, click on it and you will either have a snippet view or have the entire book to peruse. If you get the latter, then you can click through the pages that match your search criteria at the top of the page or you can perform a new search within the book by typing your new search terms in the box on the left-hand side of the page. If you find yourself with the snippet view, then you can click on the option to Find in a Library and you can then try and locate the book in a nearby library. (Don’t be put off by this if you don’t live anywhere near the library where it is held because here in the United States, our interlibrary loan system is a fantastic resource to add to your toolkit. Librarians are always our best friends!)
Why do most of the searchable books look older? It is because they are outside of the copyright time period or have been given the rights to upload the book. One more tip for Google Books is that you can add the book to your own “library” so that you can locate it in the future and they have even more filtering options, so just click away and see what you come up with.
Don’t forget to Save
My tip for you would be to Snip a picture of the pages that you need along with the title page and then make them into a PDF so you can save them all together in one document.
I’ve touched on Google Books in this article, but the other powerhouse in the book area is Internet Archive (Archive.org). “Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.” If you have never come across it, you might want to set aside some time and just start clicking away. You can just search their books, but as you see, they have way more than just books.
When I perform a search on Google and one of the results shows a book from the Internet Archive, I click on the book and then always perform a Search in the box up at the top. (Just make sure that you type your search term into the box that says, “Search inside” in the box. Otherwise, you will be doing a search through the entire archive.)
FamilySearch.org also has a massive amount of scanned books so give them a try as well. You will need to click on the Search option at their Home screen and then choose Books. You will need a username but the site is free. There are some books that are only viewable at their FamilyHistory sites. If it looks promising, the physical FamilyHistory sites are well worth the trip and they are open to the public.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Ancestry.com and their ever-growing book supply. As always, if you don’t have a subscription, remember to check with your local library!
“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss
I’d love to hear if you have any luck in locating new information in an online book resource.
Just a note on my layout on the cover page… As I said last month, I have quickly become a fan of Anna Aspnes’ Artsy world, especially as I pull together my heritage booklet for my grandparents. When I remembered my grandmother, part of what would always pop up in my thoughts was her great old toys that she kept in a closet in her bedroom. I was fascinated with them because they were nothing like any toy I had ever seen and they gave me a lot of enjoyment on visits to my grandparents’ home. I knew that I needed to include them into my booklet, but how to do that without actual pictures? I googled the ones I remembered vividly and saved small pics of them, hoping to be able to use them somehow. Well, adding them to a layout just ended up looking messy but when I enlarged them (by a LOT) and then blended them into Anna Aspnes’ Artsy paper (ArtPlayMiniPaletteEutaxy_ArtsyPaper3), suddenly things started to take on their own life and my smile as well as enjoyment grew exponentially. This type of scrapbooking has literally given me back my sense of artistic fun!
Note: I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared June 28th, 2019, on The Scrapaneers’ Society website in a series titled “Family History Basics.” My articles are meant to encourage us all to get our own LifeStories written down and I’ve been given permission to repost them here on my own website. If you are interested in learning more about digital scrapbooking, The Scrapaneers’ Society has wonderful classes available from beginner to advanced.