The Internet has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 15 years as well as the interest in family history research. By digitizing many documents and records they are now available on the Internet through various providers such as FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.
One source which likewise has been digitized are the many printed books that are in the public domain. Printed books under the public domain are those older then 85 years or which the publisher and/or author have released into the public domain, meaning anyone has access to them.
A wealth of information on numerous topics are located in these public domain books, many of which are very rare and not readily available. Being digitized has opened a new source for researchers to tap into.
On the research engine Google site there is a section under the ‘More’ category labeled ‘books’. Just like searching for any topic, placing various names, topics or locations will produce the books available. Those in the public domain will offer the ‘full view’ meaning the entire book is immediately there for the viewing. Any marked ‘preview’ are generally newer books with about one-fourth to a third of the pages of that book available.
Putting in the Google book search the term ‘surnames’ produces a variety of book titles along with a brief summary. Some examples include Surnames by B. Homer Dixon published in 1857. There is an alphabetical list of thousands of surnames, how they are pronounced, their origin, meaning and alternative spellings. Another is titled Irish Names and Surnames by Patrick Woulfe published in 1906. It doesn’t matter the book was published in 1857 or 1906, the information is still pertain for the researcher today.
By searching for a certain family name a wealth of information in a book published decades earlier can be of great assistance. An example is the Everhart family of Maryland. Just typing in the Google book search box the name Everhart, the title of History of the Everhart and Shower Families, from 1744 to 1883 by O. T. Everhart and published in 1883 was shown to be available in its full text, all 142 pages, including a history of the town of Manchester, Maryland. This book can be read on the screen, downloaded to the computer and searched for specific content.
Putting in surnames can also direct the researcher to books about specific locations where individuals with that surname lived. The book History of Posey, Indiana by John C. Leffel published in 1913 illustrates how many of the books contain biographical sketchers of its citizens. In the town of Posey, family names such as Bixler, Raben, Hume, Frier, Barter, Hall and Rinear have well-written biographies.
Besides books there are also journals and directories. The Peoria Directory of 1844 has not only a listing of the citizens of Peoria in 1843 and 1844, their occupations, those who were widows, but also where they lived and worked.
Using the Google book search is well-worth the effort. Try different names and places and the rewards could be plentiful.