Beyond the Internet: Week 30 Books

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 30 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is BOOKS. Please do join in and write comments or posts on special discoveries you’ve made with books.

After talking about specialised libraries like the government or university special collections, perhaps it seems self-evident to talk about books.

Books are not only an absolute joy to me, but a total necessity to my family history. Like most of us I started out with the “How to” books about family history. The first Xmas after I started my research my gifts included Nick Vine Hall’s then-benchmark book Tracing your family history in Australia and Australian Pioneer Women by Eve Pownall. Perhaps the most crucial how-to book I acquired, in 1992, was a little volume entitled the Irish Roots Guideby Tony McCarthy, with its tip-off regarding Griffith Valuation revisions/cancellations.

The (mostly) Irish migration corner of my library.

As our research progresses though, we need to learn more about the community, national or international contexts within which our ancestors lived. Where better to turn than the diverse collections in libraries? The rarer books may be tucked away in the special collections and increasingly the older books may be available online through Google Booksbut there’s a wealth of resources on the shelves as well, though you may need to read them in the library rather than borrow them. If you’re as addicted as I am, your own collection may keep growing invasively until your normal reading books have to give way to provide space.

Not to forget the Scots!

At this point of your learning you’re not really looking for your family names (though finding them is always fun!). What you’re doing is building up your understanding of what was happening when and where they lived.

Your local reference library (or even just your local borrowing library) may have some great resources for this but don’t forget that within Australia you can order a book (or indeed a microfilm) into your local library on an inter-library loan from another library or the National Library of Australia.  This really is a great opportunity and well worth taking advantage of …if only we could have a coffee while we read J You can also sign up for a library card with the National Library of Australia and gain access to the electronic collections –but more on that next week.

There are a number of ways to find books that might be useful to your research:

  • Search the online catalogue by keyword (pubs, mariners, Germans, Irish migration, emigration, specific places) to see what comes up.
  • As you read, keep an eye out for the references other researchers use: these will give you further clues to follow up.
  • Check out the bibliographies in relevant books for new reading material or even reference to  primary records previously unknown to you.
  • Buddy up with other geneamates via LibraryThing and see what their reading lists include.
  • Have a look at their blogs to see if they have a books reference tab (mine’s there but the list is the tip of the iceberg.
  • Keep an eye out on blogs for genealogy book reviews.
  • Don’t forget that historical fiction might also give you a feel for the life and times of your ancestors.

Books really are golden treasure for our research and family stories. Have you struck gold in your reading?

15 thoughts on “Beyond the Internet: Week 30 Books

  1. I always like your posts about books. Always find something interesting— and even better a view into how your mind works. Fun and interesting.


  2. I’ve found some wonderful treasures in books, mainly borrowed from the library as my budget doesn’t stretch to buying a lot. Ours is a regional Library and I love that they have an online ordering system for inter-library loans as many books I want to read for family history aren’t on the shelves here. I find the book, order and wait for an email to let me know it has arrived. I also love to browse the local history shelves. Gould Genealogy is also a fantastic place to find books relating to family history. I’ve bought a couple from there that I couldn’t get through an inter-library loan.


    1. How wonderful to be able to order online a wide variety of books. The reference library here is great for borrowing from NLA but I don’t find as much in the council libraries. Goulds are certainly a good option and I also find some 2nd hand on ebay etc.


  3. Op shops! It’s amazing what you can find there for just a few $$. As far as storage, fiction is either borrowed or an ebook, leaving plenty of room for those reference books.


    1. My friend is a devoted op-shopper and I’m learning. Yes that’s the strategy I’m using now – fiction from the library or ebooks. E-bay can turn up some great local histories too as I’ve found over the years. Or the 2nd stringer shops on Amazon -I got a great, and expensive, book on Mapping the Irish Famine for about $5 years ago. Probably my best purchase.


  4. To find local history books and published journal articles about particular areas in Australia, I also use these: “A Guide to the History of Queensland” (Johnston and Zerner); “Directory of Queensland Local Histories” (QALFHS / History Queensland); and (at the State Library of Queensland) the series “Index to Journal Articles on Australian History” (Crittenden et al).


  5. Everytime I visited the area where my familty came from, I made a beeline to bookshops and I now have a large collection of local history books, in particular ones featuring old photographs. I have found photographs of the streets where my family lived, a football team photograph which included my great uncle, and portraits of the vicars who baptised, married and buried my ancestors, plus local events such as fairs, the celebration of Quen Victoria’s Jubilees and then the marking of her death. Although I cannot use the images in my blog, for copyright reasons, they are a great asset providing background information for the narrative family history I am writing for my own pleasure. . Now I can keep up to date with new local history publications through various websites, which recenlty brought to light a new book on men named on the local war memorial and included information on my two great uncles who died in WW1. I am lucky too that photographic copies I have donated to the local historical society are now being used in some publications. I could not manage without my book collexction for setting my ancestors’ lives in the wider context of life around them at the time.


    1. How right you are Susan that those book treasures are lurking out there waiting for us. They may not include our ancestors specifically but you’ve shown just how useful they can be, and in diverse ways. I also like that you are conscious of the copyright issues in nusing those pictures. I hope when you’ve finished your narrative that you at least print it off and bind it for your granddaughter. It’s interesting that all we obsessive geneabloggers in the virtual world are still obsessed with the old-fashioned hard copy book as well.


  6. I am fortunate that on my father’s side of the family we have a connection with the great Confederate general Stonewall Jackson, about whom much has been written. I am continually discovering new writings about him or related to him that connect to other branches of the family.

    Also, two of my aunts, one from each side of my family, have published genealogical books about family histories. I am included in both of these! I frequently will refer to these volumes for tidbits of histories or familial lineage.

    Books are wonderful!

    Wrote By Rote


    1. Wow you are so fortunate with that ancestry Lee! Also very lucky to have published family histories to dip into and it sounds like they’re full of general history too not just the genealogy line. We’re all on the same page about books!!


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