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Genealogy on the Internet
Part 3: Online Leads to Offline Genealogies and Records
(updated 2009)

By Jim Rice

Sources providing online leads to offline genealogies also generally provide leads to offline records as well. There are now at least two sources of online leads to books containing genealogies and records, where all or portions of the contents of the books are being made available online. Thus, I am combining things and covering online leads to both offline genealogies and offline records at the same time.

For each of the resources I describe, it’s important that you take the time to explore the search entry forms and get a feel for how they work. The best way to do that is just to experiment with them. Once you have mastered a couple of them, effective use of the others will come more quickly and easily.

1. Searching for books on genealogies and records using Google’s book search engine

Google now provides a book search service, where they are scanning books and developing searchable indexes to their contents. This is an ongoing project, but they have already scanned and indexed thousands of books of all types, including many of value in genealogical research. Depending on the copyright status of the book and the permissions Google has been given, they may show you snippets, selected pages or an entire book online. This has been a controversial project, and Google has been the subject of some criticism over it. However, as best I can tell, Google seems to be doing a good job of protecting copyright interests while providing the public with a useful service.

If you go to http://books.google.com and click on Advanced Book Search, you should get their advanced search entry form. It’s impossible to describe in a few words how to do the searches you might want to do here. You will need to familiarize yourself with the form and learn how to take advantage of its various search constraint options. For openers, you can go to the All the Words box and enter your surname of interest and the word genealogy or a location and the word genealogy. You will likely find that such a simple search will not be as selective as you would prefer, and you may have to sort through a number of unrelated hits. In the case of searching for specific surname genealogies, problems arise from the fact that the search looks at authors as well as content.  I soon found that a John Rice has written several books discussing genealogies from the Bible. Furthermore, if your surname of interest is also a common word (e.g. Rice and rice, Hill and hill), you will get various numbers of unrelated hits.

You can try narrowing your search by using the At Least One of the Words box and requiring that hits include a location. When I searched for the exact phrase Rice genealogy and required hits to include reference to their being in Tennessee, TN, Tenn or Tn, I got a manageable 26 hits.  The exact phrase Rice family and at least one of the Tennessee location spellings yielded 243 hits.

You can also try limiting the search to books and even to books with full views, but that can be very limiting.

Again, study the Advanced Search entry form and experiment with it to see what you can find in the way of books or magazine articles on genealogies or family histories relating to your surnames of interest in the areas where those people lived. You can also look for histories in the locations where your people of interest lived and search for books on records in the locations that are of interest to you. However, you will probably find that searching the LDS Family History Library Catalog will be of greater help when looking for records, and I discuss that later.

 

2. Using the Books and Persi searches at Heritage Quest Online (HQO)

As noted earlier, HQO is a subscription-based service that is only available through certain libraries and genealogical societies around the country.  Fortunately, the public libraries in Georgia, including our Athens Area ones, are now subscribers to HQO, and patrons will be able to logon to their local library’s web page (http://www.clarke.public.lib.ga.us for the Athens Library), click through to Internet Resources and then to the Online database, Galileo, enter the password they have gotten from their library, access the HeritageQuest Online service and do research in its databases from home. In the following, I try to describe HQO databases and how to use them.

I have found searches in HQO’s Books to be a bit tricky and not very selective, but you may have better luck. They do have a lot of useful books in their database if you can find them. Book searches can be made for People, Places or Publications.

A People search for books can also include places and other keywords. A search for your surname of interest in a location where they may have lived may yield hits in books in the HQO collection. The default ranking of hits is by Relevancy, and that is probably the best choice in most cases. The relevancy is on a 1 to 5 scale displayed in a bar graph presentation, and you will probably find that hits ranked 4 to 5 are likely to be truly relevant, but the list of hits returned will also likely include numerous ones that are not of any obvious relevancy. So far, I’ve never seen a 5 ranking, but 4’s are more common and most often relevant.

A Place search for books can also include names and other keywords. A search in your location of interest for your surname of interest will probably yield about the same hits as found doing a People search in that location. Again, look especially for hits that are relevancy ranked at 4 or 5.

A basic Publications search for books would seem to be mainly of value if you know the title and are looking to see if HQO has the book in their database. However, they offer an advanced searching option through their Search Publications link, and this may be the best way of all to search in the HQO book collection. 

 

3. A Persi search for genealogies and records

Persi stands for Periodical Search Index and is the genealogical equivalent of the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature. It’s important to remember that a lot of family histories and records sets have been published in relevant state, regional or county genealogical periodicals. Persi searches can be done for People or Places, and there is also a How to section providing for broad searches for given types of records in given locations.

People searches in Persi. A People search in Persi allows you to enter Surnames, Keywords and Periodicals. For openers, I suggest entering your surname of interest in the Surname box and the state or country where they were in the Periodical box. A search for Rice in Tennessee yielded there generally relevant hits, all in periodicals with Tennessee in their titles. As always, you need to experiment with the searches to see what you can find, and that will usually include trying alternate spellings for names and locations.

Places searches in Persi. Persi provides for basic and advanced Place searches, and both seem to be user friendly and work well. This is an excellent way to find records that have been published in periodicals.

Ordering copies of articles found through Persi. When hits of interest are found in Persi, copies of the article can usually be gotten from the developers of Persi, the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, IN. From each hit, there is a link to more detail on the article and, from there, you can link through to details on the periodical involved and get a list of repositories that own that periodical and then to suggestions on ordering a copy.

 

4. Using Search Engines to do broad searches for online leads to both online and offline genealogies and records

This is essentially the same as I described in the February 2006 COGS newsletter, and I will only repeat enough here to remind you of these search opportunities and add some that I didn’t include before.

a. Using Cyndi’s List to find genealogies and records

Go to http://www.cyndislist.com and use the Google search in the upper right corner to look for a surname or a location. Alternatively, you may want to locate sections of Cyndi’s List and browse for web pages of interest. You will likely find things of interest and will need to revisit Cyndi’s List periodically to check for new things as they are added.

b. Using the Google main search engine to search the web for genealogies and records of interest

Go to http://www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=en and do searches as recommended previously. You may find online genealogies and records of interest, but you may also find leads to offline genealogies and records. If you haven’t taken the time to learn how to use Google’s Advanced Search, you really owe it to yourself to do so. If I had to limit myself to one online search tool, I think it would be Google, and that applies to looking for genealogies and records and for locating libraries that may have holdings of interest. In addition to the searches already mentioned, Laura Carter has mentioned using Google to find a library that holds a particular book. If you go to the Google home page and type in a title with quotes around it and then the words Find a Library, Google will return hits that will take you to libraries that hold the book.

c. Using the All The Web search engine

There are some in genealogy who feel that the All The Web search engine does a better job in finding genealogical web pages, and it is a good one. Go to http://www.alltheweb.com and click through to do an Advanced Search. They have modified the search entry form to where it is probably easier to use than previously.  I did a search for the exact phrase Pendlebury family and required that hits mention Lancashire.  I got very good results on leads to the Pendlebury family of Lancashire in England.  Similar searches can be done for surname genealogies.

d. Using the new genealogy specific search engine called Linkpendium

Linkpendium can return interesting results. If you go to http://www.linkpendium.com,

you will be offered the chance to search for Localities in the USA or Surnames Worldwide. Linkpendium seems to be strongest in its searching in Localities in the USA. You are presented with an alphabetical listing of U.S. states, and, from each state, you can choose from an alphabetical listing of counties. I did a search for Hancock County, Tennessee and got a page with links to 116 pages with various Hancock County records. This is a very good way to look for records in the U.S. Some of the links are to actual records, whereas others are to offline records sources.

If you go to Linkpendium’s Surnames Worldwide page, you will be able to click through to alphabetical listings of surnames. I clicked on P for Pendlebury and then on Pen and finally scrolled down to Pendelbury, Pendlebury, Pendleberry and clicked to explore them. Linkpendium seems to include hits from other genealogy search engines, and is an interesting search approach. Give it a try on your surnames of interest. 

 

5. Searches in online library catalogs for genealogies and records

This is probably the most important way to look online for offline genealogies and records.  Searching the online library catalogs is, for the most part, not too difficult. As I got into this, I realized that I was the wrong person to be doing it, since our Laura Carter knows a lot more about this subject than I do. However, I’m giving it a try here.

I will list several specific national, regional, state and local libraries with significant genealogical holdings and then give links to larger listings that include many other libraries. 

a. Searching the Family History Library Catalog

The Family History Library (FHL) is located in Salt Lake City, UT and is supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). It has what is thought to be the largest collection of genealogical records of any library in the world, and its online catalog is user friendly and easy to search. The Church has acquired millions of books, manuscripts and periodicals and has sent workers around the world microfilming records wherever they were allowed to do so. Most holdings on microfilm can be rented and used at any local Family History Center (FHC) around the world, including the one here in Athens, GA.

Go to http://www.familysearch.org look to the top and click on Library and then go to Family History Library and click through to Search Records and on to Library Catalog.

To look for genealogies and family histories, use the Surname search or maybe the Keyword search if needed to narrow the findings. A surname search for Hill yielded 1089 hits. A Keyword search for Hill Lancashire, yielded a much more manageable 152 hits on the Hill family in the locality I was interested in.

To look for records, do a Place search for the location where the records should be. A Place search for Blount as part of Tennessee, took me to a page with links to Tennessee, Blount and Tennessee, Sullivan, Blountville. I clicked on Tennessee, Blount and got a listing of the various categories of Blount County, Tennessee records the FHL has holdings for. When you click on a category, you will get a listing of titles, and you can click on each of them to learn more about that holding. When you do that, you will get a page with a notation in the upper right corner indicating whether or not the holding is available on film. If it is, you can normally rent and use that film in your local FHC. If the holding is not on film, you can plan a trip to Salt Lake City, or maybe look for the title in libraries more accessible to you. 

b. Searching for genealogies and records using the master catalog, Worldcat

Worldcat is a master catalog of the holdings of most major libraries in at least North America. It is only available through subscribing libraries, but, fortunately, Georgia Public Libraries have access to it through the Galileo service, and library patrons can contact their local library and get a password that will allow them to logon to Galileo and click through to search Worldcat from home using their local library web site. Also, University of Georgia students, faculty and staff can get a password allowing them to search Worldcat through the UGA web connection.

Once you are logged onto Worldcat, click on Advanced Search to begin looking for sources of genealogies and records. As powerful as Worldcat Advanced searches are, they are a bit complex, and you will need to study the form, familiarize yourself with it and experiment with it. In addition to the three search entry boxes, you can, if you want, limit your search to books, serials, articles, etc., or leave it open to all forms of hits, including things on the Internet.

The Advanced search’s three search entry boxes effectively allow you to construct a Boolean search. I put Rice family in the top box and required that it be title phrase.  I left the other boxes blank and did a search that yielded nine interesting hits.

To find holdings on land, probate or marriage records in Knox Co., TN, I put Knox County in the first box and required it to be a title phrase. In the second box, I put Tennessee or TN or Tenn. or Tn. and left it set to Keyword.  I did a search leaving it open to return hits in any format, and got two relevant hits.

 

6. Searching in other libraries and archives with genealogical holdings.

This is where I am getting a bit out of my league, and I apologize for any oversights. There are numerous libraries around the county with significant genealogical holdings and the majority have online catalogs. At least a couple are from the U.S. government, but there are libraries and archives in each state plus the libraries of most colleges and universities. Last, but by no means least, there are the many public libraries around the country with collections of various sizes, some rivaling those of the state and university libraries and many with serious commitments to genealogy.

You will want to learn how to find and search these libraries, and a good way to begin is through Cyndi’s List. If you go to http://www.cyndislist.com
and scroll down to near the bottom of the home page, you will come to the category of Libraries, Archives and Museums. Click on it. On the resultant page, you can explore and find libraries and archives at the federal and state levels as well as searching by name.

When it comes to information on public libraries, Cyndi’s List is probably not the best source. There are other online listings of genealogical libraries that do a better job of finding the public ones. A couple of these are as follows, but there are others.

a. Directory of Genealogy Libraries in the U.S.

The Directory of Genealogy Libraries in the U.S. (http://www.gwest.org/gen_libs.htm) is a good one. We don’t have the space here to do anything like an exhaustive listing of genealogy libraries, but there are a few I feel must be mentioned. I’m not going to get into the details of searching their online catalogs, since you can experiment and figure them out on your own.

One more thing, there is the question of what to do when you find a book that you need to do research in. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to this question. You will likely find that most of the books of genealogical interest are in collections that do not circulate and are thus not available for checkout or interlibrary loan. However, there are some exceptions to this, and my suggestion is that you consult with the librarian in your local genealogy collection to see if they may be able to help you. If nothing else, they may be able to help you order photocopies of the pages you are interested in, possibly starting with the book’s table of contents and/or index. Beyond borrowing or photocopying, there is the option of purchasing the book if it is available. And, lastly there are we sites where people who own books will do lookups for you and possibly send you page copies. A couple of these sites are Books We Own (http://www.rootsweb.com/~bwo) and Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (http://www.raogk.org).

b. Federal libraries and archives in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

NARA is our federal agency responsible for housing public records and making them available for use. The web address for the national location is http://www.archives.gov/index.html. The web address for the Southeastern Branch is http://www.archives.gov/southeast. Whereas, the location for NARA’s home is in the Washington, DC area, the Southeastern Branch is in Morrow, GA and conveniently located next to the Georgia Archives. These NARA web sites allow you to search and determine what records they have and get the call numbers needed to find them when you visit the physical facilities.

c. The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has large holdings of genealogical value. Its web address is http://www.loc.gov/index.html. Of course, it is located in Washington, DC.

d. State Libraries and Archives

From Cyndi’s List’s page on Libraries, Archives and Museums, you can click on U.S. State Level Repositories link and be taken to a page listing links to libraries and archives for each U.S. state. The previously mentioned Directory of Genealogy Libraries in the U.S. also allows you to look up libraries by states and includes public libraries as well as state ones. Some of the state libraries and archives for the Southeast are as follows:

Alabama Department of Archives and History (http://www.archives.state.al.us)
Georgia Department of Archives and History (http://www.sos.state.ga.us/archives)
North Carolina State Archives (http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/archives)
North Carolina State Library (http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us)
South Carolina Department of Archives and History (http://scdah.sc.gov/)
South Carolina State Library (http://www.statelibrary.sc.gov/)
Tennessee State Library and Archives (http://www.tn.gov/tsla)
Library of Virginia (http://www.lva.Virginia.gov)

e. University Libraries

Cyndi’s List doesn’t seem to have a link to university libraries as a group. However, for those whose names begin with University, you can find them by clicking on the alphabetical name category of U and scrolling down to the University area. You may be better off using the previously mentioned Directory of Genealogy Libraries in the U.S. to look for university libraries. The following are a few of the university libraries in the Southeast.

University of Georgia (http://www.libs.uga.edu)
University of North Carolina Libraries (http://www.lib.unc.edu)
University of South Carolina (http://www.sc.edu/library)
University of Tennessee (http://www.lib.utk.edu)

f. Major Public Libraries

Finding links to public libraries via Cyndi’s List is a hit and miss proposition, and you are probably going to have to dig deeper for these. A search at the U.S. State Level Repositories will, for some states, lead you to a listing of public libraries. The previously mentioned Directory of Genealogy Libraries in the U.S. is probably a better place to find public libraries. Look within the states. A few of the leading public libraries with strong genealogical holdings are listed below:

Allen County Public Library, Ft. Wayne, IN (http://www.acpl.lib.in.us)
Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham, AL (http://www.bham.lib.al.us)
Houston Public Library, Houston, TX (http://houstonlibrary.org/)
New York Public Library, New York City (http://www.nypl.org)
Newberry Library, Chicago. IL (http://www.newberry.org)
Washington Memorial Library, Macon, GA. This is a major regional library specializing in records for the 13 original colonies/states.  It is part of the Pines Catalog system, and you can search their holdings by going to the Athens Regional Library (see below), logging on as a Guest (or as a registered patron) and doing a Power Search limiting hits to the holdings of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System which the Washington Memorial Library is a part of.  See also the below-listed web site for the Pines home page, from which, you can switch to the Middle Georgia Regional Library and limit your search to those holdings.

g. Local Public Libraries

Local public libraries are often going to have good collections of genealogical holdings specific to their locality, and certainly should not be overlooked in your search. The WWW Library Directory is a good place to find local libraries using their state links and then looking for the city of interest. I couldn’t close this article without mentioning a few local libraries with holdings helpful to research in our Northeast Georgia area:

Athens Regional Library, Athens, GA (http://www.clarke.public.lib.ga.us)
Commerce Public Library, Commerce, GA (http://www.commercega.org/site/page5086.html)
Hall County Library, Gainesville, GA (http://www.hallcountylibrary.org)
Pines- Georgia Public Libraries' online catalog (http://gapines.org/)

 

Genealogy on the Internet Introduction / Part 1 / Part 2

 

The "Genealogy on the Internet" lessons provided on this web site are the property of Dr. James T. Rice and may not be copied to any other web site, print material, or other media without his permission. Permission is granted to link to this page.

 

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