Interesting Poems

5 11 2008

I found these two little poems in a box of old letters that my mom’s sister sent me.  There is no date to them, and the author apparently wished to remain anonymous, as they didn’t put their signature to them either.  I don’t recognize the handwriting either, which greatly increases the odds that I really don’t have a clue who wrote it.  After going through hundreds of letters from my grandparents and beyond, I have become fairly familiar with their handwriting.

The two people referenced in the poems are Agnes and “Hillie” Seward, my grandparents.  I thought since it has been a few months since I posted anything on here that I would at least add something.

Read the rest of this entry »





Are Your Ancestors Worth Any Money?

10 09 2008

I am always looking for new and interesting means by which I can find out information about my ancestors.  Recently I found myself perusing the website Missing Money.  According to the site, Missing Money is “a database of governmental unclaimed property records”.  Some of the examples of the types of unclaimed properties are bank accounts and safe deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends, uncashed checks and wages, insurance policies, CD’s, trust funds, and utility deposits, escrow accounts”.  Looking further into the site, I found a little more explanation as to how these unclaimed properties end up where they do.  According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), accounts from businesses and financial institutions that have had no activity and no contact with an individual for more than a year are handed over to a state administrator.  The most interesting peice I read stated, “Most states hold lost funds until you are found, returning them to you at no cost or for a nominal handling fee upon filing a claim form and verification of your identity.”

From what I could tell, there was no time limit on how long the state administrator would hold on to this missing money.  The first thing that came to mind was how cool it would be if I were to find an old insurance policy or something that belonged to a long dead relative?

With that in mind, I started to do some researching.

I started by searching myself as well as my brother and sister – just in case.  Nothing.  No hits on my parents either.  Perhaps it’s too soon for one of them to “forget” about money they had somewhere.  So I skipped down the line a bit and went for my great-grandparents, Earle Russell Miller and Dorothy Frances (Baker) Miller.  Nothing for Earle, but when I looked for Dorothy, I found four results for a Dorothy Miller with a Somerville, Massachusetts address (They lived there for some time from the 30’s to the 50’s I believe).  Each of the four hits were from a “Corestates Financial Corp”; a brief look into the history of the company shows that the bank had been around in one shape or form since its original structure as Philadelphia Bank in 1803.  So the odds are in favor that these could be old bank accounts belonging to my great-grandmother!

I made note that I may have found a potential “winner” (I’d have to see what my father would suggest since he’s closer in relationship than myself) and continued searching other names.  Since just about everyone else on my Miller side came from Canada, I decided to start poking around my mother’s side of the family.  I did a quick search for the surname Willetts in Pennsylvania – my mother’s grandfather’s family were from Pennsylvania.  BAM!  Another hit.  This one was my grandmother’s cousin.  I think I met her once when I was a little boy, but she died in 1983.  She never married and had no children that I was aware of.

I decided to see what steps would have to be taken to claim this particular money, so I followed the link to the Pennsylvania Treasury department and found a phone number.  After a brief explanation of the situation, the person on the other end of the line told me how things work in Pennsylvania.  In order to be immediately eligible to claim the missing property, the claimant has to be a spouse, parent, or child of the individual if they are deceased.  If the relationship is more distant than that, the individual would have to reopen probate for the purpose of claiming the money.  The woman was very nice and told me that the amount listed for the account I was calling for was $56.28; not really enough to justify hiring a lawyer to reopen probate with the courts!  I agreed and thanked her for the time – a valuable lesson nonetheless.

I’ll certainly be digging deeper into the vast generations of my family tree for more opportunities.  If nothing else, it adds a little more detail to the lives these past generations left and what may have been overlooked by the courts at the time of their death.





The Road To Castelvetere

28 08 2008

Ah, Italy.  Rich in history, art, and natural beauty, Italy is one of those places I hope to some day visit.  Of course since I can’t manage a trip to the next state over, odds are I’ll have to wait until I retire before I can make the trip across the globe to Italy.

There is a tiny little town in the province of Avellino called Castelvetere sul Calore (Castle of the Heat).  You’d really have to squint to find it on any map of the country:

Looking a little closer it becomes apparent why it would be so hard to find this little town:

Yep, that’s the entire town!  With a population teetering on two thousand, this is certainly not a touristy part of Italy.  It rises approximately 2,400 feet above sea level, and from these hills one can see several other countries on a clear day.  Castelvetere sul Calore is in a prime location to grow various types of wine grapes, as well as olive oil, chestnuts, pears, and apples.  Some historians believe the origins of the town of Castlevetere sul Calore can be traced back to 991AD, when it was supposedly settled by the monastery of Saint Benedict from Salermo.

I also found this beautiful slide show of images of Castelvetere sul Calore.  It only furthers my desire to go there some day…

On top of that, it was the home of my grandmothers’ paternal ancestry, the Gradone’s.  I have fItaliound several generations of the Gradone family living in Castelvetere sul Calore, unfortunately I can’t fill in all the details until I teach myself to read Italian.  From what I have been told, mt great-grandfather Michelangelo Benedetto Gradone was the last generation to live in Castelvetere sul Calore.  Apparently his father, Salvatore Benedetto Gradone, born approximately 1848 died sometime before 1910 while still in Castelvetere sul Calore.  Salvatore’s wife, Maria Grazia Nargi (born about 1855) decided to give her children the opportunity that so many others were taking; they’re coming to America!  So Maria packed up five of her seven children and moved to the United States.  One daughter, Irene Maria Teresa Gradone, had married Michelangelo Nazzaro in Castelvetere sul Calore on December 12, 1895 and would immigrate to America seperately.  Her oldest son, Raffaele, stayed behind in Castelvetere sul Calore to become the parish priest.  The rest of the family boarded the ship San Giorgio in Naples and endured an eighteen day trip, finally arriving at Ellis Island on January 24, 1910.

Anyway, skip ahead a generation or two.  In the summer of 1983 Michelangelo Benedetto Gradone’s son, along with his wife took a vacation to Italy.  This vacation included a stop in Castelvetere sul Calore, the home of his father and several generations before.  Once they returned from their trip, Michelangelo’s son wrote a letter to his siblings about the trip to Castelvetere sul Calore and the experiences they had.  I have a copy of this letter and thought it was a great story, so I am going to share it with you as well.

July 20, 1983

Pat and I have just returned from a wonderful 16-day trip to Italy.  We spent a week in Rome and approximately a week in beautiful Sorrento.  I don’t want to bore you with a detailed account of our entire trip, but I do feel that you may be interested in the highlight of the sixteen days — out visit to Pa’s home town of Castelvetere.

We all remember how often and glowingly Pa would talk about Castlevetere, and how he had hoped to go back to visit his relatives.  Of course, he never made it.  Over the years I have often thought of going to Castlevetere in his place, but the idea seemed impractical for several reasons.  But thanks to Pat’s encouragement and insistence, we decided to give it a try — and we were able to accomplish what I had long hoped to do.

Two weeks before we left for Italy, I wrote a letter in Italia to the priest (il parroco) of the church in Castelvetere, telling him who I was, why I was coming and the approximate date of our arrival.  He recognized the name Gradone, and brought the letter to Ines Nargi, who has a mass said every year for Rafaele Gradone.  Ines, whose father Guiseppe was Pa’s cousin, was now aware that we were coming and she was awaiting our arrival.

On Tuesday, July 12, we rented a Fiat in Sorrento and began to drive to Castelvetere.  We drove from Sorrento to Castellamare to Salerno to Avellino, and then eastward toward Castelvetere.  Castelvetere is not on many maps, and most Italians didn’t seem to have heard of it.  But we knew approximately where it was, and we drove high up into the mountains — a scary drive with hairpin turns and no guard rails.  It wasn’t until we were almost there that we saw our first Castelvetere sign, which we immediately photographed.  From a distance, Castelvetere is almost a picture postcard (Pat calls it an Italian Shangri-La).  We drove through what seemed to be the only street in town, and we stopped in a sort of open square next to a church.  The first person we saw was an elderly man (Generoso), and I told him in my broken Italian who I was and that my father was born in the town.  He didn’t seem to recognize Michele Gradone, but said he knew a Rafaele Gradone, who was formerly a priest in the town.  Then we knew we were in the right place.

Generoso then disappeared and came back in a few minutes with a young girl who spoke fluent American — why shouldn’t she, since she lives in Stamford, Connecticut!  Her mother, Antonette D’Agostino, was born in Castelvetere, and the family returns to that town for a month or two each summer.  Marina is 17 years old and a high school senior — a delightful girl who was our interpreter throughout our stay in Castelvetere.  Within minutes, a crowd began to gather around us in the town square.  My letter had obviously alerted the townspeople, and they were on the lookout for us.  We went to the D’Agostino home for lunch, and it was there that Ines Nargi joined us.

Pat and I were tremendously impressed with Ines.  She is a very warm, affectionate, happy person, with a great deal of affection for the Gradone family.  She, of course, is our second cousin.  Ines gave me a letter which Pa wrote in April, 1950, to Guiseppe Nargi, in which Pa explained that his sister Ollie was going to Castelvetere that June.  He also stated that he would like to be going, too, but his daughter Norma was being married in July and consequently he was not able to leave the family.  It was an odd feeling for me as I looked at the letter, recognizing the handwriting which I had known for so many years.  Ines said I could keep that letter.

After lunch, we went to the local cemetery to try to find the remains of Rafaele.  We were told that important people of the town, such as priests, doctors, and other town officials are buried in a small mortuary.  (“Ordinary” people are buried in a cemetery plot for ten years, then their bones are placed in a small box-like container and placed in the side of a wall, with name and picture on the outside.  This frees up the space so badly needed in the cemetery.)  The mortuary was ordinarily locked, but an attendant opened it for us (for a few lire).  The building was badly damaged by the earthquake three years ago, and Italian efficiency has not yet begun to clean up the mess.  It was incredible to see boxes of bones and skulls all over the floor (I would have snitched an elbow or ankle bone if I were sure it was Rafaele’s, but there was no way to be certain.)  No other Gradones were visible to us.

It was now afternoon, and Pat and I were hot and exhausted.  They all wanted us to stay overnight, saying the all had spare bedrooms.  But we were not prepared to stay – no change of clothing, etc – so we promised to return the next day, even though it disrupted our schedule.

We drove back the next morning, arriving before eleven o’clock.  This day, coincidentally, was July 13, the anniversary of Pa’s death, which they were well aware of.  In fact, Auntie Ollie was in Ines’ home when the call cam (from Peg, I believe) notifying Ines of Pa’s death.  She did not tell Aunt Ollie, so as not to spoil her trip.  We went to the hoe of Irene Saggese, Ines’ sister for a 7-course meal.  We sat down for two hours to a wonderful meal, beginning with fusilli, and continuing with zucchini, potato dumplings, veal, salad, struvoli, gelati, fresh fruit – and, of course, the superb home-made wine which all families make for themselves.

It was time to say good-bye, since we didn’t want to drive home in the dark on those mountain roads.  The farewells lasted quite a long time, as they all tried to get us to stay over once again.  We have rolls of film of all of us strolling down the main street, arm in arm, as the rest of the town looked on.  Ines, her husband Luigi, Irene, her husband Carissimo, the D’Agostinos, Generoso, Jenny and Antonio, (who run the small store where I bought 42 Castelvetere postcards), Ines’ brother and assorted townspeople all waved a final farewell as we drove away.  It was a moving experience for all of us.  They made us promise to return some day, and we might just do that!

This is a rather disjointed letter, and I’m sure that I’ve omitted some interesting items.  For example, Ines showed us the house where Pa lived, and we took pictures of it.  Another thing I should mention is the positive and affectionate feelings everyone in Castelvetere had toward Rafaele.  They feel that it wasn’t easy for him when his entire family left to go to America, leaving him without family and support.  He is remembered most fondly by all who knew him.

In conclusion, I must tell you of my feelings of Castelvetere and the people whom we met there.  Castelvetere is a beautiful town — not beautiful in the way we would judge a town in America — but it has a simpleness, and unspoiled beauty that is difficult to put into words.  The same may be said for the people; they are simple, loving, affectionate.  There is a purity to the entire scene that makes me want to go back some day soon.  Pat feels as strongly about this as I do.  I should say that Pat was great with the relatives there.  Despite her limited Italian, she communicated beautifully with them, and they loved her openness and enthusiasm.

I shall send you all some photographs when they are ready — hopefully they will come out well, even though we used a new camera.  As for the four rolls of movie film, we shall pack our projector and screen and hit the road with them.  We’ll call it the Road to Castelvetere.

Great letter, eh?  I sure wish I could see those pictures and videos too, but this letter is pretty awesome in itself.





Time to organize!

26 08 2008

Now that I no longer have school to worry about, I am getting back into the swing of things with the ol’ family history.  But before I start searching for new and exciting information, I have decided that I really need to find a way to organize my information.  A lot of the paperwork in my genealogy filing cabinet has slowly become a pile on top of a pile, with very little structure.  With that, I have decided the best way to organize the paper copies of documents that I have will be by individual.  Currently I just have folders for particular surnames in my family tree with a few exceptions for the few individuals who might have a larger selection of information available.  I also hope that in the near future I can get my recently acquired HP Officejet 7115 scanner/printer/fax up and running so I can simply scan all of these papers through the document feeder.  That way I can tool around with the digital versions and simply put all the originals away for my great-grandchildren to have to deal with.  I figure as I organize, I can share with whoever reads this blog (probably just me and my mom) the various documents that I have for the individual.

For my first installment, I am organizing my mother’s mother’s father, i.e. my great-grandfather, Ernest Ward Willetts:

Ernest Ward Willetts, May 1902

Ernest Ward Willetts was born September 20, 1897 to Jesse and Sarah Jane (Dunn) Willetts.  His birth certificate states that he was born at his parents residence at 20 Crawford Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Ernest was the eighth of nine children for Jesse and Sarah Willetts, who immigrated from Dudley, Worcestershire, England.  Ernest was found as an eight month old living with his family at 20 Crawford Street in Pittsburgh at the time of the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, taken June 3rd.  Twenty years later, at the time of the 1900 Census, Ernest is listed as a twenty year old student living with his father and three siblings at 1011 Bluff Street in Pittsburgh.  He was two years into his studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine.  After obtaining his M.D. in 1902, he spent two years – 1902-1903 and 1904-1905 – doing graduate work at the University of Vienna in Austria.  From 1903-1904 he interned at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.  I have even found the copy of his passport application dated August 7, 1902; likely in anticipation of his trip overseas for his graduate work.

On May 10, 1905 Ernest married Mary Anne Beattie at the home of Arthur and Agnes Tedcastle in Milton, Massachusetts.  In my vast and varied collection of family history ephemera, I have the original wedding service booklet that was read by the Minister, John Hopkins Denison.  It’s a nice little bound booklet with the scriptures that were read and the vows that they shared.  It’s a really nice peice of history to be able to know what they said to each other as they promised their lives to one another.  Here’s a picture of the home where they were wed:

Once married, Ernest settled into a long and well-established career in medicine.  The highlights of his accomplishments are:

Pathologist at the Pittsburgh Hospital, 1905-1907
Columbia Hospital, 1906-1909
Western Pennsylvania Hospital, 1906-1914
St. Francis Hospital, 1909-1911
Pittsburgh Eye and Ear Hospital, 1906-1924
Dixmont Hospital, 1908-1912

He also served as a medical consultant at St. Margaret’s Hospital, physician-in-chief at the Allegheny General Hospital, consultant at the Pittsburgh Eye and Ear Hospital, and was the Associate Pathologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School from 1910-1911.  He was a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and was a member of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, American Medical Association, Association of American Bacteriologists, and Vice-president of the Medical Society for the State of Pennsylvania.  At one point in his career he also served as the President of the Allegheny County Medical Society and also as the President of the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine.

He was also the author of several medical related studies that were academically recognized during his career.  Ernest wrote papers on tetanus, bacteria of rheumatic fever, and the Swift-Ellis treatment of cerebro-spinal syphilis.  Looking through my folders of family emphemera, I have a nice printed booklet written by Ernest W. Willetts, M.D. titled Blood Stream Infection, with an annotation at the bottom of the first page that states “Read before the Section on Medicine of The Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Session, October 5, 1932.  Reprinted from The Pennsylvania Medical Journal, February, 1933.”

Ernest and Annie Willetts had three children: Agnes Beville, born November 27, 1906, Ernest Ward Jr., born February 14, 1909, and Arthur Tedcastle, born August 20, 1910.

The Willetts family lived in a beautiful home located at 5101 Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh.  Sadly, the house is no longer there and is currently the home of McKean Honda.  It’s a shame, as the home was absolutely beautiful:

Ernest Ward Willetts died March 15, 1965 at his residence at the Cathedral Mansion Apartments, 4716 Ellsworth Avenue, in Oakland, a suburb of Pittsburgh.  He was 85 years old.  He died more than a decade before I was born, although my mother has many fond memories of “Pop”.  From the stories she has told me as well as the life that he led from the research I have done it appears he was just an intelligent, hard working man, father, husband, and grandfather.





Time to share

9 07 2008

Here we go!  I think the first thing I would like to do is share a cool photograph:

You can click on the image for a larger size if you’re interested.  Standing on the left is my great-great-grandfather, Avard Herbert Miller (1866 – 1953).  On the right is Avard’s father, my 3rd great-grandfather Ezra Miller (1843 – 1925).  The man seated in the chair is my great-grandfather, Earle Russell Miller (1898 – 1990) and in his lap is my grandfather, Earle Wesley Miller (1921 – 1994).  I apologize for the poor quality of the picture; my great-aunt Bev sent me a photocopy of the original!  Despite asking a number of times if she would consider mailing me the original so I could get a high quality scan of it, she never really responded to the request.  So this may be the only copy I ever have.  Regardless, I think it’s a really cool picture of four generations of the Miller family.

Today I thought I’d write a little bit about my great-grandfather, Earle Russell Miller.  I personally don’t know anything about him, which is a bummer knowing that he lived until I was almost thirteen.  But in all reality, at thirteen years old I probably wasn’t as concerned.  Earle Russell Miller was born on July 4th, 1898 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  He was the second of four children born to Avard Herbert Miller and Sarah Hannah (Allen) Miller.  The Millers’ lived on Trinity Place in Yarmouth (click the link for a map).  Avard owned and operated a bicycle shop in Yarmouth and also offered bicycles to rent.  Avard led a pretty interesting life, but I will save that for another post.  I don’t know much about Earle’s childhood.  On March 24th, 1916, approximately four months prior to his 18th birthday, Earle agreed to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force during World War One.  At the time of his enlistment, he was recorded as being five feet, nine inches tall, with a chest measurement of thirty-five inches when fully expanded.  He weighed in at a whopping 135 pounds!  His listed his current job title prior to enlisting in the CEF as a bank clerk.  He was added to the list of men in the 219th (Highland) Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel W.H. Muirhead.

On October 12, 1916, Earle Russell Miller and the rest of the 219th departed Halifax, Nova Scotia for England aboard the S.S. Olympic.  He arrived in Englad six days later.  On January 23, 1917 the 219th Battalion was dissolved into the 17th Reserve Battalion in Bramshott, England.  Just a few weeks later on February 8th he taken from the 17th Reserve Battalion and placed in the 161st Battalion in Bramshott.  Approximately a year later, on February 28, 1918 he was once again transferred to another Batallion; this time to the 47th Battalion in Witley, England.  From there he immediately left for France with the rest of the 47th Battalion.  The premise of possibly seeing some action in France was short lived, as two days after arriving in France, he was sent to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp.

On March 4, 1918 he joined the 47th unit already in the field.  The war diary of the 47th Battalion states on this date “A draft of 95 men were received from the 47th Can. Reserve Battalion and were taken on the strength.  These were the first men received from 161st Batt and were of a very fine type”.   On September 6, 1918 he was wounded on the field.  He recieved a gun shot wound to the left leg and was immediately transferred from the 47th Battalion to the Western Ontario Regimental Depot in Bramshott, England.  The medical log in his military records state he had two four inch linear scars on the back and inner side of his left calf.   By October 29, 1918 the medical records stated tha his wounds were “well healed – leg strong” with no disability.  With that, he was given the OK for discharge from the hospital.

After being released from the hospital, Earle had a flurry of activity:

November 6, 1918 was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Depot in Witley, England.
March 9, 1919 was promoted “to be acting Corporal with pay and allowances of rank whilst so employed”
March 25, 1919 was discharged from Western Ontario Regimental Depot and was transferred to the 4th Reserve Battalion in Ripon, England.
March 26, 1919 was given three fillings.  The form also states that he had received previous dental treatment while in England, although it doesn’t say what or why.
April 3, 1919 was added to the list “pending return to Canada”.
May 1, 1919 Earle Russell Miller was dischargedi n Halifax from his service to the country.

His discharge certificate mentions two tattoos which I can only assume he received while serving overseas.  The certificate states he had one tattoo on his left forearm of a butterfly and one on the right forearm of the 219th badge.  His physique at the time of discharge was listed as good, with a weight of 145 pounds.  Here’s an image of the 219th badge:

Just a little more than a year later, on October 11, 1920 Earle Russell Miller married Dorothy Frances Baker.  Dorothy was the daughter of James Edward Baker and Jessie Maria (Potter) Baker.  They had three children: Earle Wesley (1921 – 1994), Alan Dane (1922 – 1982) and Beverly Frances (1924 – ).  In October 14, 1923, Earle and family immigrated to Massachusetts.  They lived in Massachusetts for quite some time, most of which was in Somerville.  Again, I have a big gap here with what he did for work and the like.  At some point, Earle and Dorothy moved back to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  Dorothy died June 15, 1990 at the ripe old age of 89 and Earle died two months later on August 4th at the even more ripe old age of 92.

…and of course, Earle and Dorothy were the grandparents of this handsome devil:

Who in turn would go on to produce an even more strikingly handsome fellow…  But I’m sure if you’re reading this, you already knew that!





Why pay for archived books on CD? Part Three

2 07 2008

This will wrap up my series on the basics of finding books available in the public domain for free online.  In my last post, I briefly discussed how Google Books can be used to alleviate the pains associated with paying for a book on CD.  But searching for these public domain books takes more than one site to solve the problem.  That’s why this post will discuss the left jab in the one-two punch of book searching; the Internet Archive Text Search.

According to the main page of the Internet Archive, their mission is simple: 

“The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.”

This website is a fabulous resource for information of all types – I would highly suggest you take a look around all the different portions of the site.  For today, we’re sticking with the texts section.  The text section is a collection of nearly 450,000 items from a plethora of North American libraries and beyond.  I think it’s in your best interest to browse the individual collections as you have time simply because there are so many resources throughout that you might find something of use that you otherwise would never have thought of!  For today, we’re sticking with our search for History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men by Duane Hamilton Hurd. 

As with the Google Books Search, all you need to do is type in the first few words of the title in the search box at the top of the text archive page.  I searched for “History of Middlesex County Massachusetts”, again without the quotes.  Shazam!  The fourth, fifth, and sixth results of that search come up with our desired set of books, each volume ready for viewing!  Clicking on the title brings you to your viewing options.

The Internet Archive offers a wider array of options for viewing the books they have available.  They can be found on the left hand side of the page once you’ve selected a book.  The options are:

  • DjVu – a high-quality, high-compressed files, suitable for web viewing
  • PDF – a standard Adobe PDF format
  • B/W PDF – similar to above, although all color has been eliminated, making for faster download
  • TXT – Simple text format.  This is the text pulled from the book when it was scanned using Optical Character Recognition.  This format is often tough to follow
  • Full Text – Similar to TXT
  • Flip Book – Another file for web viewing.  Searching books in this format is kind of a joke, but if you’re just wanting a quick and dirty preview before you download a PDF version, this is the way to go.

I think just about every book I have downloaded from these sites already has the Optical Character Recognition layer embedded into the PDF.  This makes searching through a five hundred plus page book a peice of cake. 

I have had considerable success using these two sites and can only imagine that they will continue to be a means of accessing otherwise out of print, old, and scarce books – especially those in the public domain. 





Why pay for archived books on CD? Part Two

30 06 2008

In my first post I shared my frustration with people making a buck off of unsuspecting family historians by charging for CD versions of books in the public domain.  I used the three-volume set History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men by Duane Hamilton Hurd as an example of one such book being sold for almost thirty dollars!  I would like to continue the discussion on how one can find this, and many other books of potential genealogical importance, for free online.

Today I will be discussing the joys of Google Book Search.

Google Book Search offers several different viewing categories: Full View, Limited View, Snippet View, and No Preview Available.  We’re going to want to access only the books that are available as full view.  According to the Google Books site, “You can see books in Full View if the book is out of copyright, or if the publisher or author has asked to make the book fully viewable. The Full View allows you to view any page from the book, and if the book is in the public domain, you can download, save and print a PDF version to read at your own pace.”

There are two steps to doing this search.  First, go to the Google Book Search page and type in the first handful of words in the title of the book.  I typed “History of Middlesex County Massachusetts” (without the quotes) and hit enter.  I was given 1,618 results.  You can stop here and start browsing for the book or you can eliminate the books that won’t allow complete cover-to-cover access by selecting “Full view only” in the drop down menu near the top of the page.  In this case, the second book listed is what we were looking for.  Clicking on the title of the book brings us to the book itself.  On the right had column you will find several options, the most important being:

  • Download the book as a PDF to save for offline use
  • View the book as plain text (in case the original printing is tough to read)
  • Search – this is the best of the options. You can search for any word or phrase that may appear in the book and it will give you links to the specific page where the word or phrase is found.
  • Other editions – In the case that there are multiple volumes of a particular book, this is where you’d find links to them.  This can be hit or miss as it will link to books that may or may not be available to view online through Google Books.

Unfortunately, it appears that you can only read Volume One of History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men via Google Book Search.  Following the links to the other editions comes up with volumes unaccessable for online viewing.  Fortunately, we have another option to find the rest of the volumes – the Internet Archive Text Search.  I will conclude this series on finding public domain books online for free with basic tips on how to use Internet Archive Text Search in the next few days.