With each passing day, I seem to find new collections of digitized books accessible online from home. Today, I’m sharing a list of 26 websites that I’ve compiled that offer access to free digitized books.
Now, not all of these sources are equal in terms of genealogical content. There’s quite a range in terms of types of books available and the time period in which they were written.
However, genealogists consult many types of books – familial, historical, social, scientific, etc. – so I’ve included some websites that run more towards the academic/ ancient ranges, too. Don’t write off really old books – one of my readers tipped me off to a medical dissertation written in Latin in the early 1700s. The subject was one of my husband’s ancestors, who not only survived a fractured skull, but lived a number of years with a gaping hole in his head!
Note, though, that NONE of these sites will provide digital access to copyrighted works, other than to tell you where you can find a copy.
Let’s get started!
There are several websites that are probably considered the “go to” places to find books:
- Google Books
- Internet Archive
- FamilySearch – free, but you need an account
- MyHeritage – Many people don’t realize that MyHeritage has a collection of digitized books and NO subscription is needed to access them. On the right top corner of the home page, click on Research, then Collection Catalog and then Historical Books.
- Google Scholar – Google Scholar is like Google Books, but it consists of articles.
- Genealogy Gophers – This website is neat because you can search by a name or a book title. The Stufflebean surname brought up 17 pages of hits!
There are actually finding aids to finding book collections. Realize that these finding aids will help you locate a book title in a repository. You will need to then look at format options to see if there is a digital copy somewhere online:
Next are some very large repositories, which have a huge range of topics:
- Library of Congress
- World Digital Library – affiliated with the Library of Congress
- Smithsonian Digital Library
- University of Chicago Guide to Early Printed Books
- University of Pennsylvania Online Books
- Digital Book Index
- Open Library – part of Internet Archive; offers both books to read and some to virtually borrow
- Project Gutenberg
- DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) – Rather than books, DPLA has a collection of text and images relating to history.
- Princeton Public Library – links to many other sites with digital books
- New York Public Library Digital Collections
There are also more specialized collections:
- California Digital Library
- North Carolina Archives Digital Collections
- Free Irish Genealogy Ebooks
- Individual State eBook Collections – Many states have historical eBook collections online. However, most are restricted to residents of that state or to those with a library card. for example, if you are looking for historical books about Texas and live in the state, you will be able to access the collections.
- University and College Digital Collections – As with state collections, many colleges restrict digital book access to faculty and students. However, if you think there might be a book of interest, check the catalog to see the permissions to access. You might be lucky.