52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 5:
At the Library

Digital Bookshelf: At the Library

I rarely go to “brick and mortar” libraries. I like libraries, I live near a nice library, but I prefer to do most my research using online resources. That said, I have built a fairly large virtual bookshelf of digitized books for use in my genealogy research. I access books on Google Books [1] and the Internet Archive [2] regularly while researching my ancestors.

Digital BookshelfMost the digitized books I access were published 70 to 170, or more, years ago. I have a variety of books on my digital shelf: county and city histories, family histories, genealogical reference books, etc. Some of the local history books include brief biographies of citizens, including my ancestors occasionally. Others are useful for providing historic information of locations where my ancestors lived. Many of these old books would not be available at smaller libraries or branches. Having them digitized and accessible online is very valuable to researchers, especially since they are more contemporaneous to the people we are researching.

One of my best finds is a digitized version of the regimental history of my great grandfather’s Civil War unit, the 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry [3]. This book enabled me to put facts to family oral history regarding my great grandfather’s service during the war.

Beyond Books

Just like brick and mortar libraries, online libraries have items other than books. I have also placed atlases, music, photos and art on my virtual bookshelf. Old maps are particularly useful for visualizing how a place was when an ancestor was alive. Old photographs and picture postcards can be found in online archives for many places. Although, finding images that predate photography is very challenging. I was even able to find a recording of the song that was sung at my grandparent’s wedding, contemporary with the year of their marriage, 1914, on Internet Archive [4].

Next time you are looking for a reference book, or other material, about an ancestor, or their place in history, think of looking for a digitized version online. More material is being placed in the “cloud” everyday!


1. https://books.google.com/

2. https://archive.org/

3. https://archive.org/details/historyofeightyt00marsh/page/n3

4. https://archive.org/details/78_oh-promise-me_hill-carmen