The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 27, 2012

Frankie Meyer: Use Google as a resource for hard-to-find books

JOPLIN, Mo. — In search of family history? How do you learn about helpful books? One method is to travel to the area where ancestors lived and stop at the local library, historical society, museum and genealogy society.

Another method, which is definitely cheaper, is to do an Internet search by entering the term “Google Books” in the search box at the top of the screen. When the next screen opens, enter a key word or term. Google Books then provides a list of digitized books that include that topic.

Publishers submit the names of some of the books. Those types of books are under copyright and must be purchased. Often times, snippets of those books are available to read.

Fortunately for genealogists, the list also includes older genealogy books and historical books that are often “out of copyright,” which means they are in the public domain. Such books can be freely downloaded, read and printed. Their texts have been scanned and converted using a system called optical character recognition.

If you are looking for information on a family such as Capps, you could enter the key words “Capps Family History.” To narrow the search, include a region with the family name. An example is “Capps family of Tennessee.”  

If you want information on the history of an area where an ancestor lived, type something like “History of Pike County, Illinois.” When I entered that term, I was shocked to learn that an 1880 book with the same name has been digitized and is available for free download at Google Books. I had read the fragile book about four years ago when my husband and I stopped at the library in Pike County.

Reading an old book that has digitized by OCG is even better than reading it at a library because one can easily search the book for people, localities and other key words. The box that one uses to search a book is on the left of the text.

When I entered the name “Hubbard” in that box and clicked the button for “Go,” I learned that people named Hubbard are discussed over 10 times in the book. Because the pages were listed, I was able to click on each entry to read that part of the book.

Perhaps someone in your family was a minister or helped found an early church. When I entered the term “Baptists in Missouri,” I learned that an 1882 book, “A History of the Baptists in Missouri,” has been digitized and is in public domain.

Many years ago, I had read that rare book at the library at William Jewell College in Independence. I downloaded the book, free of charge, and quickly and easily searched the text for people, churches and associations.

If you find a useful book at Google Books that is not free, click on the name of the book. When the next screen opens, look on the left side of the screen for the words “Find a Library” and click on that term. You will then be given a list of libraries that have the book. Record the information and then ask your local librarian about an inexpensive interlibrary loan.

Suggestions or queries? Send to Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or contact:

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