Thursday, March 08, 2007

Digital Books Available Through Microsoft & Google Search

I want to share something very exciting with you - digitized books. These projects are not new, but how these projects benefit the genealogy community is becoming more evident. I spent several hours last night exploring both of these projects and downloaded several books that were of interest to my research.

I was blown away at the books available. Many of them are available for you to download, free, while others can be purchased and/or it will list a library where you can check them out.

When you click on the book title, it will take you to the actual page in the book and show you (highlighted) on the page/s where the name is located. In the Google search site, you can even use a search box on the page to search within the book for a more complete search.

I found books dating back to the 1700's and published in England and America. I found a couple of books with details of Gamel de Penitone and his descendants as well as the story behind Muncaster Castle. There were images of the Coat of Arms as well.


Gene Pennington (Group 7)
Research Director
Pennington Research Association, Inc.


Dick Eastman's blog ( just posted this important message.

Microsoft Books to Challenge Google Books

Microsoft has launched an online library in a move to compete against Google's controversial project to digitize the world's books. Consumers benefit any time when two industry giants meet in head-to-head competition.

In this case, genealogists will benefit as they have even more free genealogy and local history books to search.
Microsoft launched a U.S. test version of Live Search Books a few weeks ago.

The new service already has tens of thousands of out-of-copyright books, including works held by the British library and major universities in the United States and Canada.

I checked Live Search Books and found several hundred genealogy books are already available, although not nearly as many as are available at Google Books. The several pages from the Microsoft site that I displayed on my computer all seemed to be crystal-clear and easily readable. I was also able to download and save entire books as PDF files.

The search page on Microsoft's Live Search Books is simple and uncluttered.

However, the search results are not nearly as accurate as that of Google Books. A search on "Eastman genealogy" (no quotes) on Google produces a long list of genealogy books that contain the name "Eastman" somewhere within the pages of each book. The same search on Microsoft's Live Search Books seems to produce a list of books with either word alone. In other words, it finds many genealogy books that do not contain the word "Eastman" as well as many books that do mention that name but do not have the word "genealogy" anywhere between the covers.

Even with this limitation, Live Search Books is a good service for genealogists. Keep in mind that its limited search capabilities may limit its effectiveness for anyone searching for surnames that are also common English words, such as Green, Black, or Town.
Microsoft has book-scanning partnerships with New York Public Library, the American Museum of Veterinary Medicine, the University of California system, and the University of Toronto, according to Microsoft project director Cliff Guren.

Live Search Books "was created with copyright laws in mind," according to Guren. "It is focused on scanning and indexing out-of-copyright books or books where we have the express written consent of the copyright holder to scan them."

You can search and read genealogy and local history books right now on Microsoft's Live Search Books at

You can do the same thing on Google's website at --> . Go to their website and then click on "More" then click on "Books". Enter "Pennington genealogy" (no quotes) in the search box. Or you can just enter "Pennington" (no quotes) to see a long, long, long list of books in which Pennington appears.