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08 February 2012

USING EBOOKS FOR YOUR GENEALOGY RESEARCH

     Ebooks can be a great source for your genealogy and local history research. You can view or download them instantly, instead of trekking to a bookstore or waiting until they arrive from an online book source. Better yet, the number of free ebooks has risen exponentially and continues to rise.  Many of these free online books were published in the 1800's or earlier, not only providing us with a source for records, but giving us with a contemporary peek into the times of our ancestors.
     However, finding and researching pertinent ebooks can be a daunting task. Luckily, Peter Clarke has come to our rescue with his web site FREE IRISH GENEALOGY EBOOKS  (for those of you on Facebook, you can "like" his new page, FREE IRISH GENEALOGY EBOOKS FACEBOOK PAGE ). Peter has a knack for searching the Internet for free resources for Irish family historians. I asked him a few questions about how he navigates the web to bring us such a useful web site. Peter is a retired bank manager who was born in Cork City and has lived for the past twenty-five years in the village of Saintfield, Co. Down, with his wife and three (grown) children.
What is the purpose of your website?
     Peter: To provide a free central index of eBooks available free at a wide variety of different sites on the general topic of Irish Genealogy. The emphasis is on printed Family Histories but also the site has resources such as almanacs, directories, books on Irish and Local History, the Irish Diaspora, biographies - basically anything which could be helpful to a researcher
When did you launch the site?
     Peter: February, 2011 (1st year anniversary coming up shortly!)
What gave you the idea for the site?
     Peter: An article in the Irish Times (Dublin) by John Grenham (author of "Tracing Your Irish Ancestors", his "Irish Roots" column is a must read every Monday morning). He talked about eBooks and their usefulness to genealogists who did most of their research online or couldn't get to a library. When I realised there were several sites with eBooks I began my Index. Grenham was kind enough to review my site in his column back in August 2011 (after I emailed him to tell him about my project) and he said very favourable things about it. That gave me the incentive to continue with it. I had about 400 books then, now I have well over 2,000.
How do you find the ebooks for your site? Do you have any advice for researchers who want to search for ebooks?
     Peter: Grenham mentioned Google Books (http://books.google.com/), the Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/) and the Open Library (http://openlibrary.org/) as repositories for eBooks on Irish Genealogy - so I started with those. Open Library is really an Index for the Internet Archive - but not a very complete one. Then I Googled "Free", "E-Book", "ebook", "Digital" "Library" with "Irish" or "Genealogy" etc. in various combinations. I found the Haihi Trust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org/ - guest login required) and the Mormon site Family History Archive (http://lib.byu.edu/fhc/index.php). I also found other local and genealogy sites which had smaller numbers of books available for free. New sites and books are being added all the time so every now and again I Google to see if anything new has been added. I would mention that the search engine for the biggest site Internet Archive is terrible! - some of the results do not seem to have anything to do with the search term. Try Open Library first, then if you can't find it there try Internet Archive.
Flip Books - Ebooks that look like real books are the best to read online - unfortunately the Mormon site in most cases has page by page links which is tedious, however it is possible to download the whole book in pdf format - click "printing version". Likewise the Google Books site allows you to scroll down rather than 'flip'. When I find a book on the Mormon site or Google Books I always check to see if it is available on the Internet Archive as well and link to there instead.
I see you provide this service for free. How and why?
     Peter: People ask me why do I provide this service for free? I don't even have ads on my site. "You could make money out of this!" - I keep hearing. One person even offered me money (£10,000) to buy the site from me! My heroine is Cyndi Howells of Cyndi's List (http://www.cyndislist.com/) who does not charge for her brilliant 15 year old site but does have ads and a donate facility. Mind you, she has 290,000+ links - I have only 2,000+! Surprisingly, the reason I don't have ads on my site is that Google (who own Blogger - the free site I use) has blocked me from having ads on my site without explanation or appeal. I can only think that it is because I used to have a political page which said nasty things about Tony Blair but I really don't know why they have blocked a genealogy site. I also don't have a 'donate' facility so the site is completely free and free of ads.
However, now that the site has grown to well over 2,000 links it is starting to throw up some problems particularly the need for a search facility such as "Google Search - search this site" which I can't get to work properly on my site possibly because of the huge number of links it contains. I'm not ready to rent/buy an URL and pay someone to develop a new site or buy a web developer do-it-yourself package and start charging or putting ads and donate buttons etc.
Any other comments you wish to add?
     Peter: Finally can I wish your family history researchers good luck in their efforts? From the feedback I get, people really find things in eBooks that they won't get elsewhere - think of them as another useful source of information.

Thanks to Peter for the e-interview and for providing Irish family historians with a unique and free research service!
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