The Best Online Book Sites for Genealogists

The Internet is amazing for so many reasons.  One of the most profound in my opinion is the “democratization” of information.  You don’t have to be some where or be somebody to get all of the best information available. For example, you don’t have to live near a library to have access to a huge archive of genealogy research-helping books at your fingertips.  They are free.  They are online, which means 24/7 access.  They are full text books – not just links to libraries.  They can be easily read without aid of special software.

For the genealogist, you will find local and regional histories, topical histories (church, transportation, event, military), full, rich compiled genealogies, finding aids to point you to paper books off-line, and so much more.

Is this not a wonderful world?

The Best Genealogy Book Websites

If you have not yet encountered this wonderful treasure, please allow me to introduce you – or familiarize you again - with the websites I have come to know and love.

Google Books

This is the granddaddy of the books sites.  They purport to have north of four million books, scanned and uploaded for your reading pleasure.  I have heard that they have arrangements with several prestigious universities, i.e. The University of Michigan, to work their way digitizing one by one their entire library.  Wow.  Now what you need to know about Google Books is that it is not just about genealogy or history.  You can find books on just about anything.  Further, not all of the books are full text.  Many are extracts – like you would find on Amazon – a book preview.  But they point you to a library where you can find the hard copy.

Family History Books

Brought to you buy our friends at, they have created partnerships with a half-dozen or more genealogy libraries, i.e. BYU, Allen County Public Library, and the Midwest Genealogy Center, to digitize, index and put online 40,000 books.  Now the quantity pales in comparison to Google Books, BUT the books are all related to genealogy and local history.  It’s your “private” genealogy library at your finger tips.  What you need to know is it is growing by leaps and bounds.  Every day they are adding more to your library.

Hathi Trust

This may not be a site you’ve heard of, but trust me it will soon be your best friend.  They have more than five million books online of general interest with a very respectable collection of genealogy and local history.  There are two things you should know about this site. 1) They are a full text search site.  That means you can search INSIDE the books in addition to searching titles and descriptions.  It will bring up a list of every book that has “Foulk” IN THE BOOK.  Amazing.  And it doesn’t take forever as you might suspect.  It’s a fast site.  2) You can create your own “collection.”  Let’s say you’re doing research on Colonial Pennsylvania.  As you find relevant books you can tag them and add them to your collection.  Next time you’re on the site, you can pull up your collection and go right to your list of books.  Further, you can access other collections created by other researchers.  There’s a featured collection, “Ancestry & Genealogy” well worth your time to check out.

Internet Archive

I really shouldn’t play favorites among “my” websites, but this is my favorite.  It has a super fast search engine and download speed.  The reader lets you flip the pages just like you would a book – right to left.  It has about three million records – all full text books – no extracts or sample pages.  Further, it has other media in its collection.  You can find audio, video, and even old websites that are no longer active through the Wayback Machine.

When you can read books – that may be 1,000 miles away in hardcopy form – without leaving the comfort of your home and without any cost, there’s no reason not to make full use of these sites.  I’ve found genealogies on the “Foulk” family.  I’ve found histories of the towns they settled.  I’ve found a biography of a family in-law that referenced his wife and “Foulk” father-in-law, giving me her married name! I’ve found books that pointed me to primary source documents I would have never known about otherwise.

Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Go online and find the books that will make your family tree blossom.

Happy Researching.



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