Tips for Locating Rare Books for Genealogy Research

Today, I’ll share some quick tips for locating and/or purchasing hard-to-find genealogy books that you’d either like to read or actually add a hard copy to your home reference library.

Where can that elusive book be found?

Absolutely, my first online stop is the FamilySearch catalog, hoping that there might be a digital version available of the book.

My second stop would be Internet Archive, hoping for the same result, but I have no success.

Next, I would stop and pause before continuing my search. The publication date of the book might be the issue, as it might still be under copyright restrictions.

My third website visit would be WorldCat. Now, to choose an example that will illustrate the rest of these tips, let’s say I would love to read and/or even own a copy of Passamaquoddy – Genealogies of West Isle Families, by Martha Ford Barto and published in New Brunswick, Canada in 1975. My mother’s family has lots of early Passamaquoddy area ancestors.

WorldCat has this entry:

Notice that I will be able to view all formats and editions, but the left arrow indicates that the book is available as an eBook, too.

Choosing the eBook icon opens a list of libraries who have a copy of the book and a list of the distances from me (in Tucson) to each of the libraries.

Using this option didn’t readily allow me to find the eBook. I had more success choosing the link on the right to View All Formats and Editions:

Choosing the eBook version prompted me to use a free access button to the Mesa, Arizona Family History Center.

Where Can I Buy a Copy of the Elusive Book?

Purchasing a hard-to-find book might be difficult for two reasons. First, rare books might be somewhat expensive. Second, there may not be copies floating around to be bought. However, there are several websites to check:

  • Amazon – I don’t usually have much success here and didn’t find Barto’s book
  • Abe Books – I have had some success here, as they seem to carry more scholarly type books and this book is available for $135.00
  • AddALL – Barto’s book is available for $135.00+
  • BookFinder – The book is listed for $189.68+
  • viaLibri – The book is listed for $135.00+

Thankfully, I own this book, having purchased it about 1980, when I first started my family history research. However, if I didn’t own it and really wanted to read it, I know there is one eBook option available and I know which libraries have a hard copy available.

I have also learned that, if I really wanted to own a copy of this book, I’d have to be prepared to pay $135.00 for it. Not cheap, by any means, but copies are available for sale, so purchasing is an (expensive) option.

If you are looking for a specific book, hoping to access it from home, locate a copy to read or buy the book, these links should help you determine how rare your book is and where, if anyplace, it is available to be bought.

Good luck with your searches!

2 thoughts on “Tips for Locating Rare Books for Genealogy Research”

  1. Thanks for the tip about e books on WorldCat. I didn’t know about that. Another place I check for books to read is HathiTrust.

  2. Great tips…I would add to your list Hathi Trust, which also has copies of rare books online, and Alibris for buying rare books 🙂

    I use WorldCat professionally, and for my genealogy work – it’s a fantastic resource!!

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