A recent survey question on eBooks prompted member George McKinney of Santa Rosa, California, to write an article about the availability of free eBooks.
Free eBooks for Genealogy Research
eBooks — or electronic books — exist in a variety of digital formats and can be read on your computer, smart phone, or eReader (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.). Different eReaders utilize different digital formats, but, in most cases, an eBook can be converted to work on your device by using calibre-ebook.com.
A number of websites offer free eBooks — generally out-of-copyright books or works made available by their authors. Categories of particular interest to the family historian are family genealogies, compendiums of genealogical facts (such as military records), directories, and local histories.
Here are some examples of free eBooks I’ve used in my own research:
History of the Families of McKinney-Brady-Quigley, 1905
History of Southwest Virginia, 1746–1786, Washington County, 1777–1870, 1903
Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties, Connecticut, 1903
San Francisco City Directory, 1850
Sources of free eBooks for genealogical research
Family History Books is a collection of over 40,000 books made available by FamilySearch. All books on this site are free and relate to genealogy.
Google Books is provided by Google. This site contains literally millions of books. After you enter your search terms, you can limit your search to free books by clicking “Free Google eBooks” halfway down the left side of the page. Further down the column, you can also select a custom date range, or choose a 19th, 20th, or 21st century search.
The non-profit Internet Archive offers a wide range of volumes. To limit a search to books, select “Texts” from the drop-down menu labeled “All Media Types.”
The NEHGS website, AmericanAncestors.org, offers free eBooks for members. From the homepage, click on Library, then Library Catalog, and then enter your search terms in the "Search the Digital Library & Archive only" box. You can also browse through available eBooks by clicking the "Browse the Digital Library" link found at the bottom of the library catalog pages.