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From the Green Valley News, Sunday 19 February 2012, pages C3

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

Google Books: Online Library for Researchers

When doing genealogical research we spend a lot of time searching for and reading old books, many written in the 1800s or early 1900s. Google Books is a great source for old books today, right at our fingertips.

The Google Book Project was first explored in 2002. The following year Google's engineers began experimenting with scanning techniques to solve the problems of odd type sizes, unusual fonts and other unexpected peculiarities they expected to encounter in mass, high speed scanning of books in 430 languages.

The "Google Print" Library Project was launched in 2004 in partnership with Harvard, the University of Michigan, the New York Public Library, Oxford and Stanford whose combined collections are estimated at more than 15 million volumes. The next year they involved partners in eight European countries. Google also donated $3 million to the Library of Congress to help build the World Digital Library.

Many more libraries and universities have joined the project which has grown and developed as a prime Internet site for library research. If a book is out of copyright, it's probably available in digitized form in its entirety on Google Books, and that's where genealogists benefit. If the publisher gives permission, you will also find newer books. For books still "in print," however, the number of viewable pages is limited.

If a book is in the public domain, you can download a PDF copy and read or print it at your leisure. There are other options such as Full View, Limited Preview, Snippet View, or No Preview Available. For every book, links are provided to bookstores where the books may be purchased and to libraries where it can be borrowed. Books can also be bought from the Google eBookstore.

A user can search for a specific book title or a particular topic or even a person's. The Google search engine will search every word in a book so you can search for the name of a person and find books in which it appears, useful for the genealogist looking for information about an ancestor. When using an ancestor's name, be sure it is someone born a generation or two before the book was written.

When you find a book in which you are interested, Google provides a number of ways for you to keep it handy. Save it to My Library for later reference, to Favorites, or to Reading Now. Google will also suggest other similar titles you may be interested in based on your recent searches. Browsing History keeps titles you have looked at for a time in case you decide to go back to them.

I've found a wide variety of books recently including: The Hazard Family of Rhode Island, 1635-1894; The Gardiners of Narragansett; Dr. Joseph Torrey and His Record Book of Marriage; A History of Washington & Kent Counties, Rhode Island; A Report on Marriage and Divorce by the U.S. Department of labor compiled in 1891; Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate dated Feb 1836, with an article about an ancestor; Disowning Slavery . . . in New England, 1760-1870; and even a Genealogical Helper from 1981 in which a query I submitted was published.

If you locate a source you'll want to go back to, be sure to save it. It can be difficult to find the same source again unless you remember your earlier search terms. I urge you to try Google's ebooks, It may save you a trip to a distant library or help you to solve a long- standing genealogical problem and doesn't cost a penny.

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