Old books for free!

Did you know that there are ways to read old publications completely free of charge?

I mean… obviously you can go to the library, but a lot of the books we need as genealogists are not sufficiently ‘general interest’ to be available on the library shelves, and although they might be available on an inter-library book loan, that takes time.

But you can often get them absolutely free, and instantly. Here’s how.

First, there’s the Internet Archive. You can read about it [here]; and if you go to [the home page] and just scroll down a little, you can search for any title and see if they have it. If the book you need was published before 1927, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find it there.

Next is the Hathi Trust. Again, read about it [here] – their focus is more academic than the Internet Archive. Then, back at [the home page], just enter your search terms to see if they have what you’re looking for.

The type of book you might find is truly breathtaking! As examples – I can access the full range of Leeds Parish registers as published by the Thoresby Society, Leeds’s prestigious local history society. There is also a complete set of indexes for all probate and administration entries at the Prerogative Court of York, from 1389 to 1688. More obscure – and you would be surprised how often this happens – I like to read around events when researching my ancestors, and sometimes I think ‘Oh, *if only* someone had written a book covering precisely XXXXX’ Well, often they have! I wished for a book written by the actual ship’s surgeon on the voyage that transported one of my kinsmen to Van Diemen’s Land – and found he had indeed written a book, including a chapter on his approach to his charges during transportation voyages! More recently, and thanks to one of the regular readers of this blog (Thank you Tony!) we have found a book written by someone who worked as a child in a mill of interest to Tony, and actually alongside the older children of my 3xG grandparents!

But if you never wish, you won’t find them!

Less obscure books, like literature that might add useful context to your research can often be found for free at Amazon on Kindle. You don’t need an actual Kindle to read Kindle books. You can download the app and read on any other handheld device or on a PC. On the search bar, set the department to Kindle Books, and then put in the book or the author you want (e.g. ‘Charlotte Brontë’) and add the words ‘free kindle books’. If the book you want isn’t available for free it might be available at reduced cost – £2 or so.

Good luck! I hope you find just what you need!

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