If you’ve read my column for any length of time, you know that 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 about how an ancestor shot a stove instead of a buffalo. You gotta love it.
In January, after writing about my Moravian research, I went back to the online bookstores in case there was a volume that might be of help. Instead of a book, however, 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 by Rev. Levin T. Reichel, originally published in 1857 and reprinted in 2002 (Clearfield Co., $22.50). These two reference works helped me learn more about the early Moravian settlements, as well as the cemetery where two of my family members were buried.
Since I don’t live near the places where 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, but 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.com, an umbrella organization representing more than 12,000 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 US researcher, don’t discount international bookstores—I’ve found two of my more precious historic books on the frontier West at British booksellers.
Other stops on my bookstore hop:
• Powell’s City of Books