Wednesday, February 19, 2014

E-Reading for Genealogy

This is a companion piece to my post on Digitizing Records where I will discuss e-readers,
Fotografía de Mariana Eguaras
 rodeada de elementos
 que representan 
la edición impresa y edición digital…,21
 August 2013, Wikimedia.
their effect on the digitization of print materials, and more places to search for digitized copies of genealogical records, journals and books.

When did e-readers first become available? According to a web piece by PC Magazine:,

“Starting in the late 1990s, e-book readers began to appear; however, it took a decade to gain real traction due to the many different e-book formats on the market.”

The popularity of e-readers has opened a new market for digitized materials. Although many people prefer to read their e-material on the larger screens of computers and tablets, others use e-readers or even mobile phones. This is a boon to genealogists: as the market grows so the availability of family history information in electronic format increases. 

George McKinney wrote an article about e-books, “Free ebooks for Genealogy Research,” which appeared in the  New England Historic Genealogy Society’s (NEHGS) genealogy blog, "The Daily Genealogist," on June 29, 2012. McKinney talked about the availability of free e-books and which types might be of interest to genealogists:

“A number of websites offer free eBooks — generally out-of-copyright books or works made available by their authors. Categories of particular interest to the family historian are family genealogies, compendiums of genealogical facts (such as military records), directories, and local histories.”

Many of these books, if not in e-format, would be out of reach for most genealogists. Often times, these books are part of special collections that aren’t available through interlibrary loan. The only way you can see such books is to go to the institution that owns them.

George McKinney lists some websites to search for free or low-cost e-books. He mentions, a site that is familiar to many readers. Google includes books in different formats on this site. Some are still in copyright and available in print only or in both print and electronic versions that you can purchase from on-line retailers. In some cases, Google will offer a preview of the book; in other cases no preview is available.

To the Homeless of the Chicago Fire,
Chicago History Museum, City of Chicago, Wikimedia.
On the opening page of, you will see a search box. I searched for “Chicago history” and several books came up, including History of Chicago Volume 3 by Alfred Theodore Andreas, in a free e-book format. It was here that I first heard of the Chicago Relief and Aid Society. On October 13,1871, the general relief society turned over the charge of assisting victims of the Great Chicago Fire

Chicago in ruins after the The Great Chicago Fire of 1871,
he New York Times photo archive, Wikimedia.
to The Chicago Relief and Aid Society. The statistics below give just a partial picture of the great work this Society accomplished:

“The total number of families aided by the Chicago Relief and Aid Society from October 18, 1871, to May 1, 1873 was thirty-nine thousand two hundred and forty-two….”
(p. 604)

The nationalities that made up this number were: “Irish, 11,623; German, 14,816; American, 4,823; English, 1,406; Scandinavian, 3,624; French, 382; Canadian, 323, Scotch, 526; Italian, 207; Welsh, 35; Polish, 143; Swiss, 55; Holland, 60; Bohemian, 565; Negro, 600; Belgian, 54.” (p. 604) 

This is the kind of information that is often very difficult to find but offers greater understanding to periods of history such as the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Another website McKinney lists is the Internet Archive, a non-profit that works with libraries to offer a rich collection of books. To learn more about the Internet Archive’s digital book collections, click "Text" on the menu bar at the top of the first screen. Georgia is participating in the Internet Archive’s Open Library which gives you access to thousands of e-free books.,
In my post on January 16, 2014, I mentioned the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA)  page on digitized collections. At the top of the main page under “Contents,” click  “E-Book Collections (Full-text).”  Under this category, scroll down to: “Online Texts Collection” and click. You will be re-directed to the Internet PublicLibrary, hosted by DrexelUniversity, where you will be immersed in the world of e-books.

iSchool at Drexel, College of Information Science and Technology,
Thesab, 14 February 2008, Wikimedia.
On the main Internet Public Library page, I put “Kentucky History” in the search box. Up came several listings, including “Kentuckiana Digital Library” with images, historic newspapers, oral histories, and maps about historic Kentucky. In just a few minutes of searching this site, I found a 1909 map of Livermore, KY where my great, great grandfather, Franklin Allis, worked as a tailor in 1870.
McLean County Public Library, located at 116 E. Second Street in
 LivermoreKentuckyUnited States, Nyttend, 2013, Wikimedia.

In conclusion, genealogists have an ever increasing number of on-line resources to check to see if records, journals, or books pertinent to their research are available in e-format. Universities, public and private libraries, archives and other institutions are teaming up to provide electronic access to their collections. And you have many different ways to view electronic material: computer, tablet, mobile phone and e-reader.

Categories: genealogy tools

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