Sources for Free Online Family and Local Histories

By Diane Haddad

I’ve been editing the Published Genealogies classes for Family Tree University, and I wanted to share these sources of free online family histories and local histories.

I’ve listed sources with broad geographic coverage first, followed by sources focusing on a particular state or locality. Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive—libraries and societies all over the place are putting books online. Click Comments below this post to add sources you know of.

Broad coverage

BYU Family History Archive: More than 17,000 items from the Family History Library, Allen County Public Library, Houston Public Library Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center, BYU Harold B. Lee Library, BYU Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library Find The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (aka the OR) and other mostly military titles

Google Books: Zillions of searchable books on all topics (many are free to read, especially older books, but books still covered by copyright may have limited or no preview)

HeritageQuest Online, accessible through public, state and university libraries that offer this service (ask at your library’s reference desk): More than 25,000 searchable family and local history books

Internet Archive: millions of books from libraries around the world

Library of Congress: Many books from the 1500s and 1600s about early explorations and world cultures, as well as US works including a farmer’s almanac with handwritten notes by George Washington

Making of America at and (different material is found on each site): Material covers Acadians, individuals and families, geographic areas and more

Project Gutenburg: Browse “bookshelves” on topics such as slavery, suffrage, witchcraft, bestsellers and more

State and local coverage

Digital Library of Georgia: The Anne Fannie Gorham Civil War diary, Living in Savannah scrapbook project, oral histories, titles from the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library and more

Historic Pittsburgh: City directories, local and church histories, University of Pittsburgh alumni directories and more

The Kansas Collection Books: Transcribed (rather than scanned) books from and about Kansas’ past

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Digital Library: The history and genealogy section includes county histories, city directories, ships’ log books, The Black Brigade of Cincinnati and more

Quinnipiac University Digitized Connecticut History Books: Biographies, regimental histories, local histories and more

Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collections: Pioneer memoirs and interviews, books on state history and more

The Family Tree University Published Genealogies course covers how to find and use genealogies in your research. The next course starts August 16—see Family Tree University for more information and to register.