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.
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.
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?