One of my favorite genealogy pursuits is haunting used bookstores online. That’s because I’ve found some incredible family tales in old books. The one I like best, hands down, is the one about how an ancestor shot a stove instead of a buffalo. You gotta love it.
A few years ago, after doing some Moravian research, I went to the online bookstores, in case there was a book that might be of help. Instead of a book, I found a copy of a term paper written back in the 1930s that mentioned my family. The term paper had a bibliographic reference to The Moravians in North Carolina, originally published in 1857, reprinted in 2002. These two reference works helped me learn more about the early Moravian settlements, as well as the cemetery where two of my family were buried.
Since I don’t live anywhere near the places many of my ancestral lines sprouted, being able to track down these locale-specific books online has been a blessing. Perhaps my library could get some of this via an interlibrary exchange, my truthfully, I’d rather have the books as part of my own library.
Old books—particularly those that detail the history of a town, village, or county—are priceless additions to your genealogy library. Even if your family isn’t mentioned, those old histories provide an amazing amount of insight into your family’s life and times.
So, where do I find these treasures?
My first stop on a Saturday afternoon’s browsing is always Abebooks, an umbrella organization representing thousands of independent booksellers from around the world. Use the onsite search engine to track down a book by author, title, or keyword. By the way—if you’re not sure a book even exists, try an advanced search for terms like “Hendrickson genealogy,” “Wilken family tree,” or “Shelby Indiana history.”
If you’re a U.S. researcher, don’t discount international bookstores—I’ve found two of my more precious historic books on the frontier West at U.K. booksellers.