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Search Historical Books

(1749–1900)

Discover your ancestors' lives in these rare and fully searchable old books, historical maps, vintage ads and more.

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Try different name spellings

Ex: Jenson, Jensen, Jens?n; Carrol, Carol, Caroll, Car* name search tips »

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Try variations of the first name

Ex: William, Will OR Bill, Wm., W., etc. name search tips »

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Try adding a word to narrow the hit results

Ex: occupation, university, home town, etc. keyword search tips »

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Try excluding a word to narrow the hit results

Reduce records from a particular state. Ex: Texas keyword search tips »


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Getting limited results? Broaden the date range

Use a range beyond the ancestor's life span. Ex: 1800 - 1890 or Jan 15, 1890 - Nov 22, 1890 date search tips »

Book Search Tips
About Our Historical Books Archive

Our historical books archive contains much more than just old books. Uncover hard-to-find facts about your ancestry in these remarkably diverse genealogy records which include:

  • Old Maps & Atlases
  • Vintage Ads & Prints
  • Theater Programs & Playbills
  • Funeral Sermons, Eulogies & Elegy Poems
  • Old Academic Rewards of Merit
  • Vintage Invitations
  • Tax Bills
  • Town Meeting Reports
  • Almanacs
  • Rare Old Books
    • Autobiographies & Memoirs
    • Biographies
    • Genealogies
Finding Your Ancestors in Historical Books

Old books, historical maps and documents—particularly those that detail the history of a U.S. town, village, or county—are priceless additions to your genealogy research.

Family trees provide names and dates; however, they lack the whole family story. Our ancestors often socialized at work-sponsored events, schools, church gatherings, clubs and organizations affiliated with their religious beliefs or ethnic heritage.

Search this unique online database to get some insights into an elusive ancestor. These old historical records can provide an amazing amount of information about the time period in which your ancestor lived.

Take a step back into their lifetime when you explore these vintage advertisements, theater programs, invitations, church sermons, maps, books and other historical documents.

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Historical Books & Maps Search Tips

Historical Books & Maps Last and First Name Search

  • When you search both first and last name fields, the search results contain historical books and maps where the surname is "near2" the first name.
  • The search engine automatically finds all of the first and last name occurrences that are within two words of each other in the historical books and maps archive.
  • When you search both first and last name, it helps the search engine find occurrences of middle names or initials in the old books and maps archive.
  • The "near2" search command isn't order specific. This means that your historical books and maps search will retrieve the person's name irrespective of how it is ordered: the last name then the first name or the first name then the last name.
  • The historical books and maps search default is intended to return the maximum occurrences of the relative's name you are seeking to find.
  • If the ancestor's name you are researching is popular, like Jones, try narrowing your search with some of the options such as location, date range, and keyword. This will create a more targeted query and help the search engine find the specific Jones you are searching for (see below).

Advanced Search Tips for the Historical Books & Maps Database

  • There are two keyword search boxes to help target your search for historical books and maps:
    • "Include keywords with search" box and "Exclude keywords from search" box (see below).
  • Use the Date search box for a specific date or date range of the historical books and maps you are looking for.

How to Search Historical Books & Maps with Keywords and Quotation Marks

  • All historical books and maps queries are full-text keyword searches against OCR-generated ASCII text. The complete texts of the old books and maps are scanned against your search query to locate matches.
  • Use the "Include keywords with search" box and/or "Exclude keywords from search" box, to expand or narrow your old books and maps search.
  • Enclose key phrases in quotation marks, such as "Abraham Lincoln" in the "Include" keyword box to narrow the historical books and maps search to the specific name rather than using the last/first name search that returns search results that match Abraham near2 Lincoln.
  • If a large number of names are returned for your historical books and maps archive query, narrow your search by entering names or places that you do NOT want included in your results into the "Exclude" box.

Searching Historical Books & Maps with Boolean Operators

  • You can search the historical documents database using Boolean operators like AND, OR, ADJx (order specific), NEARx (order non-specific) and Wildcards (such as "?" and "*").

Expand or narrow your historical books and maps queries

  • By clearing populated search fields to expand your query, or by filling in empty search fields to narrow your search query.

You can display historical books and maps results in a multitude of ways, such as:

  • Best matches (this is the historical books and maps database search default).
  • Oldest items (based on book and map publication dates).
  • Newest items (based on book and map publication dates).
  • Once the search default is changed, the current selection will remain the default until it is changed again.

Searching Historical Books & Maps by Date Range

  • If you know the specific date of the historical book or map you are looking for, use the "Date" search box:
    • Enter a specific date or a date range&mdashseveral date formats are accepted.
    • Examples: July 4, 1807, or 1807 - 1876, or July 1807 - November 1876.

Search for Old Historical Books & Maps Using Colonial English Variant Spellings

Many of the historical books and maps in the archives database are extremely old, so these searches must account for Colonial English.

  • In several Colonial English texts, the long "s" character was nearly identical to the "f."
  • If you are looking for old historical books and maps on words containing the letter "s," use the "?" for "s."
  • Note: this can occur whether it is the first letter, a letter within a word, or at the end of a word.
  • The double "s" in keywords like Missouri should be replaced with two wildcards in historical books and maps searches.

Old Historical Books & Maps Colonial English Query Examples:

Modern Spelling Colonial Spellings Suggested Search
Spanish Spanifh Spani?h, ?pani?h
Boston Bofton Bo?ton
Missouri Miffouri Mi??ouri
  • In old Colonial American books and maps, type was set was by hand and printers often didn't always have all the type pieces needed to correctly spell a word. These limitations resulted in letters sometimes being omitted from words, or letters that looked similar being used in their place.
  • Several of these old books and maps did not use standard spellings.
  • Here are a few examples of conventions that were common in old American books and maps:
  • Examples of interchanging the use of the letters "i" and "y":
    • adjoining - adjoyning
    • Pennsylvania - Pensilvania or Penfilvania
    • rails - rayls
  • Use of name variants: Smith or Smythe
  • Use of "e" in word endings: Chesapeake or Chesapeak
  • Dropping the letter "h": Philadelphia or Philadelpia
  • Examples of irregular vowel usage:
    • clerk - cleark
    • color - colour
    • Delaware - Deleware
    • Elijah - Elifha
    • Israel - Ifreal - Ifral
    • Jehovah - Javovah
  • Examples of adding the letter e to word endings:
    • Brown - Browne
    • Chesapeake - Chefopeak or Chefopeake
    • Clark - Clarke
    • highways - highwayes

Colonial American Books & Maps Search Notes:

  • Use wildcards such as the question mark "?" or the asterisk "*" in your colonial books or maps searches.
  • A question mark is a single-character wildcard and an asterisk is a multi-character (allows for up to 5 characters) wildcard.
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