No More Late Fees! Check Out Free Genealogy Magazines and eBooks at Your Local Library

Your local library may offer free genealogy magazines and ebooks. Why choose them over print? So many reasons! No more late fees. Read on the go. Choose your font size. So go ahead: check out digital versions of that Genealogy Gems Book Club title you’ve been meaning to read, or the current issue of Family Tree Magazine. Here’s how.

genealogy library freebies

Here in the U.S., it’s my favorite time of year: back-to-school! The weather slowly cools. My children shake off summer’s mental lethargy. My own schedule resumes a more predictable, productive rhythm. And after months spent outdoors, I rediscover my local library. Top on my library list this fall: free genealogy ebooks and magazines I can check out on my mobile device. It’s on-the-go reading for my favorite hobby–with no searching under my bed when items come due to avoid those pesky late fees.

Free Genealogy eBooks and Magazines

Genealogy Gems Premium Member Autumn feels the same way about free genealogy gems at her local library. Here’s a letter she wrote to Lisa Louise Cooke:

“I’m really enjoying both the Premium and free podcasts. I also like the addition of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. I haven’t read all the books yet but am adding them all to my wishlist on Overdrive, a free app that allows you to check out digital books for free from your local library. They don’t have every book but they have many, many books including some from the book club. Most libraries have a lot of biographies and histories available through Overdrive for free that are of interest to genealogists as well. Some libraries are adding video to their Overdrive offerings too.

Many of these same libraries offer magazines free as well.  My library…use[s] Zinio, a magazine app. I only subscribe to a couple of magazines now because I can get so many for free through my library (not to mention keeping my home neater by not having them laying everywhere).”

genealogy book club family history readingIt makes me happy that Autumn is enjoying the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We hear from many avid readers who love browsing our list of mainstream fiction and nonfiction picks for family history lovers. As part of our book club, we interview every book club author, too–from beloved novelists like Fannie Flagg to acclaimed journalists, memoir writers, and historians who take their own unique approaches to family history themes. Hear excerpts of these interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast; full interviews run on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast, available by subscription.

Overdrive and Zinio

At Autumn’s recommendation, I started using Overdrive through my local library. I love it! I’ve listened to several digital audiobooks on the road and at the gym through Overdrive and have read several ebooks, too. (I’m always on the hunt for the next Genealogy Gems Book Club title.) The books just disappear at the end of the lending period (hence the “no late fees” bonus).

Genealogy Gems Service Manager Lacey Cooke loves Overdrive, too. She sent me these four reasons why:

1. Download for Offline Listening: “You can download the ebooks, audiobooks, magazines etc. to your device so that you can enjoy them offline (great for traveling). They’ll still disappear once your lending period expires, but having them available offline is awesome. You don’t have to worry about data charges or slow internet connections.

2. The Wishlist: Autumn briefly mentioned the Wishlist feature. I love this feature because it gives me somewhere to save book titles that I’m interested in reading at some point, but I’m not ready to check out just yet.

3. Bookmark/Syncing: You can bookmark a page, then pick up where you left off. If you have the Overdrive app on multiple devices, the app syncs. I can start reading on one device, and pick up on another right where I left off.

4. Format Adjustments: You can adjust the font style, size, and color to make it easier for you to read. I like to pick a nice, clean font in a big size so there’s no strain on my eyes.”

It’s worth noting that if you don’t already have a library card with your local library, you may be required to sign up in person to get a card, even if you only plan on using the Overdrive app to request items online. New releases or popular titles may have a wait list to check out the ebook or audiobook (especially if the library only possesses one copy). If you do have to place an ebook on hold, you will be notified via email when it becomes available to you, so if you don’t check your email regularly, keep that in mind when you place a hold. Each library system is different, so of course, your experience may vary.

Another helpful tip: not every library offers Overdrive ebook checkouts. But sometimes you can use another library’s Overdrive privileges. Autumn sent a link to these instructions on how to do so. (Thanks, Autumn!)

Autumn also mentioned the Zinio app. My library doesn’t offer Zinio yet, so I spent a little time on its public search portal. That doesn’t have a browsable genealogy category, and searches for the terms family history, genealogy and ancestry came up empty. But I did finally find these titles:

Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems DNA expert Diahan Southard, and I are all frequent contributors to Family Tree Magazine, which we {heart} and recommend for its easy-reading research tips, hands-on tech and DNA tutorials, and the eye-candy layout. (Click here to subscribe personally, if you don’t want to read through a library app.)

More Free Genealogy Resources at Your Local Library

Of course, your local library may offer many additional free genealogy research and reading materials. Of tremendous value is access to Library editions of popular genealogy databases such as Ancestry, Findmypast, Fold3, and MyHeritage, along with institutional versions of historical newspaper databases. (Click here to learn more about the differences between the major genealogy websites.) Call your library or browse its website to see what resources may be available with your library card on site or even remotely from your own home or mobile device. And remember to watch for your library’s e-media options like those recommended by Autumn.

As a special shout-out to all the free genealogy resources at your library, Lisa Louise Cooke has granted free access for everyone to Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #125. In this episode, Lisa has a full discussion about more free genealogy gems at public libraries with Cheryl McClellan. Cheryl is not only my awesome mom, she rocks professionally as the Geauga County, Ohio public library system staff genealogist!

This Premium episode is usually exclusively for Genealogy Gems Premium members. If you love it, and you’re not already a member, consider gifting yourself a “back to school” subscription. It’s the most fun, energizing, apply-it-now genealogy learning experience you may ever have.

Start Your Canadian Genealogy Research: Library and Archives Canada

Jump start your Canadian genealogy research and celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday! Here are tips for you to start your Canadian genealogy research. Already started? Take it to the next level with resources at Library and Archives Canada.

Canadian genealogy tips

Canadian genealogy researchCanada is celebrating 150 years of nationhood in 2017! To join the party, I invited Claire Banton from Library and Archives Canada to the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 199. We had a great chat about Canada’s history and its planned year-long celebration. And of course, our conversation quickly turned to tips for exploring your Canadian roots at Library and Archives Canada.

Quick Tips for Canadian Genealogy Research

You can listen to our entire conversation for free in episode 199, but here are some quick take-away tips:

research Canadian genealogy

Claire Banton obtained her Masters of Library and Information Studies degree in 2006. She has worked in Reference Services at Library and Archives Canada for 10 years, where she has enjoyed learning something new every day. She is currently Chief, Orientation Services, where she works with an awesome team who help people search for information. She loves being an information detective and helping people overcome their research challenges.

1. Library and Archives Canada is very different from the average library.
It is both a national library (search the library catalog here) and a national archive (search the archival catalog here). And you don’t even have to have an account to search.

2. Start with the LAC website genealogy resources page whether you plan to visit in person or not.
You’ll find loads of free databases and some digitized records that haven’t been indexed yet, but are ripe for browsing. The topics page will tell you more about what is available for Canadian genealogy.

3. Familiarize yourself with the history of border crossings.
There was no border control from the US to Canada prior to 1908, so that means there are no Canadian records of earlier crossings. However, there is a database containing an index of aliens and citizens crossing into the U.S. from Canada via various ports of entry along the U.S.-Canadian border between 1895 and 1956 at FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.

4. Call LAC directly for quick Canadian genealogy answers.
Schedule a Skype call with a genealogy expert to get a more in depth answer. (This is awesome – well done LAC!) Set the expert up for success and get the most out of your call by providing background information ahead of time.

Click here to explore (and join) Canada’s 150th birthday celebration!

More Canadian Genealogy Tips

Search Canadian Passenger Lists for FREE at Library and Archives Canada

Here’s Why Quebec Church Records are a Great Place to Look for Ancestors 

Canadiana: Canadian Digital Archive and Portal to the Past

Trove: Australia Digitized Newspapers and More

TroveThis free video (below) introduces Trove, The National Library of Australia’s online catalog and digital archive for all things Australian. 

If you have roots in Australia, I hope you are using Trove. When I first covered it in the Genealogy Gems podcast a while back, it was a fairly new resource and I shared how it is chock full of 76 million digitized newspaper articles. Now that number exceeds 200 million records! The site has expanded its other content, too. If you haven’t looked for your Aussie roots on Trove recently, you’re really missing out!

Trove helps you find and use resources relating to Australia. It’s more than a search engine. Trove brings together content from libraries, museums, archives and other research organisations and gives you tools to explore and build.

Trove is many things: a community, a set of services, an aggregation of metadata, and a growing repository of fulltext digital resources.

Best of all, Trove is yours, created and maintained by the National Library of Australia.

Australian genealogy congress bannerThat’s how the site introduces itself, and it sure lives up to its claim. As shown in the video below, Trove lets you search among “zones” of online content:

  • digitized newspapers; journals, articles and data sets;
  • online and offline books, audiobooks, theses and pamphlets;
  • pictures, photos and objects;
  • music, sound and video files;
  • maps, atlases, charts and globes;
  • diaries, letters and personal papers;
  • archived websites;
  • people and organizations; and
  • a zone for user-created lists.

You can browse these zones individually or search them all with a single click. You can search for just items available online, in Australian-only content, or just in libraries you specify. Creating a free user ID allows you to personalize your experience and participate in online forums. From my U.S. perspective, it would be like having the Library of Congress main website and all its offshoots such as Chronicling America rolled up together with WorldCatArchiveGrid, Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine–but focused entirely on my country.

When it comes to those nearly-200 million newspaper articles, you can search these by keyword or browse by newspaper title, state, date, category (article, ad or list) or tag. Refine search results by place, title, Newspaper Book Covercategory, whether illustrated, decade and even the length of the article. You can even sign up to receive alerts to newly-posted material that matches your search criteria.

Remember, newspaper research in genealogy isn’t just about obituaries or wedding anniversary announcements. It’s about understanding the daily lives of our ancestors, and I share more strategies on uncovering these gems in my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers (available as an e-book or in print).

Here’s a video from the National Library of Australia with an overview of Trove:

Click here to search newspapers on Trove now.

DNA down underMORE Australia Genealogy Gems

New Australia Genealogy Records Online

AncestryDNA in Australia and New Zealand

Assisted Immigration: Queensland Passenger Lists

Free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 188 Now Available

GGP 188 genealogy gems podcast episode 188Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 188 has published. It’s packed with news, tips and inspiration that can help your family history research now. Check it out!

The newest episode of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast is now available. Host Lisa Louise Cooke shares her signature variety of news, inspiration, innovative strategies and tips you can use now. Highlights from the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 188 include:

  • RootsTech news and resources for everyone;
  • New records online for Ireland and the United States;
  • Two inspiring emails from listeners who unravel family mysteries with determination, skill and Google sleuthing;
  • A Genealogy Gems Book Club update with more thoughts on the featured title Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Growby Tara Austen Weaver and book recommendations from RootsTech attendees;
  • A critique of a recent NPR article on genetic genealogy by Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard; and
  • A great conversation with Cindy Cochran and Sabrina Riley of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society Library at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Lisa Louise Cooke with Cindy Cochran and Sabrina Riley genealogy gems podcast episode 188

Lisa Louise Cooke with Cindy Cochran and Sabrina Riley

My favorite part of this episode for me was Lisa’s conversation with Cindy and Sabrina. It was fun to meet two interesting women who help keep their corner of the genealogy research world running smoothly. I don’t even have Nebraska roots but I appreciated the inside “look” at their genealogy collection. It reminds me what gems–human and archival–may be tucked away on college campuses that love and welcome researchers.

New to the Genealogy Gems podcast? Welcome! Click on the link above to listen; subscribe and listen in iTunes or download the Genealogy Gems app (click here to learn more about these options).

thanks youre a gemDo you already listen to the free Genealogy Gems podcast? Will you please tell your friends and fellow “genies” about it? We especially appreciate your recommendations on your favorite social media sites–thanks for sharing this post!

A Life Changing Find at the National Archives

national archives sibling reunion birth family reunitedOn the trail of biological parents, this researcher made a life-changing discovery next to a microfilm reader at the National Archives.

When we head to the microfilm reader section of our favorite research library, our greatest hope is usually to learn something new about a long-dead relative. A woman named Jan discovered something even better.

Guideposts.com ran this story about Jan, whose husband Rich was adopted as an infant. After deciding that Rich needed some “closure” about the identity of his birth parents, Jan began looking for them. She did know the birth mother’s name as well as Rich’s date and place of birth. Eventually this information led her to census records on microfilm at the National Archives (US).

Unfortunately, when she went to pull out the microfilm reel she needed, she found it was missing. But by chance she had heard two fellow researchers mention the same state, so she found them in the microfilm reader section. They not only had the microfilm reel she wanted, but they were looking at the census record for her husband’s birth mother. One of the researchers was Rich’s birth sister, who was looking for her long-lost baby brother.

What an inspiring story about members of a birth family reunited! So many of us experience these moments of “genealogy serendipity,” when we feel led to find a particular record, artifact or even a living person. Sometimes we make these amazing discoveries online. But often it’s when we’re out pounding the pavement, making extraordinary efforts ourselves, when we make the most extraordinary discoveries.

kindred voices coverWhere can you go to look for extraordinary finds? A family cemetery? An ancestral hometown? A major research library? I take similar inspiration from Geoff Rasmussen’s book, Kindred Voices, which shares his many experiences with genealogy serendipity. I recommend it as a great holiday read for yourself or a gift for someone else who totally “gets” the value of heritage and family like you do.

Thank you to Genealogy Gems Premium website member Maryann for messaging me on Facebook about this story! It’s an inspiration!

More Inspiring Stories from Genealogy Gems

Celebrate Genealogy Serendipity (This Book Does!)

“We’re Cousins?” DNA for Genealogy Reveals Surprising Results

Her Birth Mom Was Her Co-Worker! Birth Family Reunion

How to Use a Microfilm Reader or a Microfiche Reader

how to use microfilm readerNot sure how to use microfilm or microfiche readers? Watch these quick video tutorials before your next trip to the library!

Recently I heard from a Genealogy Gems Premium member who is digging in deep to her family history. But she confessed that she left the Oklahoma Historical Center in Oklahoma City “in tears because I really didn’t know what I was doing” with the microfiche machine and with microfilms.

I totally understand. Microfilm and fiche readers are not my favorite part of genealogy research, either. But despite the wealth of digitized records that continue to appear online, microfilm is going to be around for a while! FamilySearch and other publishers of microfilmed data (like state archives) do not have copyright permissions to digitize all their microfilmed materials. Even if they can get it, it’s going to take a long time to make that happen.

how to use microfilm reader how to use microfiche reader

Rows of microfilm lay neatly organized in rows of tall cabinets at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Meanwhile, we will continue to need microfilm and microfiche readers!

  • Microfilm is a long reel of film (up to 125 feet, I’ve heard) that are essentially page-by-page photos of a document collection, book, newspaper, etc.
  • Microfiche is a single sheet of film (about 4″ x 6″) that contains the same, only shrunk down so small you need a magnified reader to make sense of it.

These were standard technologies for duplicating records in the pre-digital era. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City alone has over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Yes, that’s million! (And yes, they will lend them out to a Family History Center or FamilySearch Library near you.)

To access these fantastic films and fiches, you will need to use microfilm readers and microfiche readers. It’s easy to walk into the library and think everyone knows how to use them but you. But that’s not true. In fact, every single genealogist has had to face their first encounter with a reader. Don’t be shy about asking politely for a tutorial (and help when you do it wrong and something gets stuck). And don’t be shy about watching these tutorials on YouTube before you go to the library again:

How to Use a Microfilm Reader:

How to Use a Microfiche Reader:

As you can see, YouTube is a fantastic place to pick up essential genealogy skills! Click here to check out our more great ideas for using YouTube for family history.

More Beginning Genealogy Tips from Genealogy Gems

4 Beginning Genealogy Answers to Get You Started

6 Sources That May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online: Google and FamilySearch Wiki

Page 1 of 612345...Last »

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU