Genealogists often learn about books that cover narrow subject areas, such as a community, waterway, school, business, occupation, church, cemetery, family, person or mortuary. When searching for those types of books, check Google Books at

The site has digitized copies of millions of books from libraries around the world. Digitized copies of old, rare and fragile books from the libraries can be downloaded free of charge. The site’s database can be searched by title, author or key words.

The site also has information about books that are not in the public domain. After the name of a book is entered, the site provides details about the book. A button on the left side of the screen notes whether the book is in public domain, has been digitized and can be downloaded free of charge. Check the table of contents and index to see if the subject matter will be helpful.

A second approach is to search the database by entering key words. A third approach is to enter the name of the author. The site will list other books that the author has written. You may want to read those books.

When a book is not in public domain, the site gives snippets of text and details about the author and publisher. On the left of the screen, the site has a button “Get this book in print.” After that button is clicked, the site lists businesses that offer the book for sale. When the button “Find in a library” is clicked, the site lists libraries that have the book.

A second website where I have tremendous success finding free, digitized copies of books, documents and articles written in the 1700s and 1800s is the HathiTrust Digital Library at

Also search online catalogs of archives in the area where your ancestors lived. Examples are religious, community, university, genealogical and historical society libraries. In addition, check online catalogs of museums in that area.

After learning about a helpful book, record the title, author, publisher, date and place of publication. Take the list to your local library. If the library doesn’t have the book, request an interlibrary oan of the book from another library. You will need a library card to submit the request. A small fee is sometimes charged to cover shipping. Books arrive in seven to 10 days and can be used for about three weeks.

Also, check the online catalog of the Library of Congress, which participates in Interlibrary Loan. Similar to other libraries, LOC doesn’t loan genealogy books, family history books and rare books.

Suggestions or comments? Contact Frankie Meyer at