I was surfing Pinterest today and found “The Servantless House” by R. Randal Phillips, written after WWI, when many women had transitioned to factory jobs and there was a shortage of domestic help and increased costs for anyone hiring domestic help.
“Already we have a Women’s Legion which demands not only a very much higher rate of wage for domestic work than ever was paid in the old days, but also makes it a stipulation that a girl shall have specified times for her meals, during which she is not to be disturbed; two hours off every day; and every Sunday off from after dinner till 10 o’clock at night…”
Not only did servants start demanding breaks for meals and a few hours off each day, they also now demanded,
“proper sleeping accommodation and adequate food.”
“All this, quite obviously, intensifies an already very difficult problem, and seems likely to make still more people decide to do without servants. … since servants became unobtainable by reason of scarcity of them, or through lack of sufficient income to bear the cost of them…”
The unapologetic truth of how servants were treated was a jaw-dropper for me. The book goes on to explain how one can manage a home without domestic help, including eating in the kitchen instead of the dining room and keeping only one fire in the home instead of three, etc.
Old, digitized books give us such great insight into how people lived (and this was just a century ago).
Here are some tips for where to find historical books for genealogy and family history research.
Pinterest is a site where people curate collections on virtual bulletin boards. You can search Pinterest for anything and likely find someone who has “pinned” an article or image relevant to that topic. Visit this Historical Books board at Pinterest, select one of the books, and then let Pinterest display pages of books, “more like this,” that you can save to your own boards at Pinterest.
Or try this Historic Recipes & Vintage Cookbooks board at Pinterest or search Pinterest with #HistoricRecipes or #VintageCookbooks and find long-forgotten recipes your family used to make or get ideas for how your ancestors prepared food. If you select a book, Pinterest will provide you with a list of similar titles.
Google has many free, digitized books available for online reading. Here’s an explanation of how to search Google Books for ONLY those books that are free. You can also purchase copies of old books. Google Books allows you to have multiple bookshelves where you can store digitized books for future use.
- My Books on Google Play – Private
- Purchased – Private
- Reviewed – Public
- Recently viewed – Private
- Browsing history – Private
- Favorites – Public on Google+
- Reading Now – Public on Google+
- To Read – Public on Google+
- Have Read – Public on Google +
- Books for You – Private (this list is generated by Google based on your past reading preferences)
Internet Archive has the largest collection of free digitized books in the world. They categorize their collections in many different ways and some helpful collections include:
- Family History Library
- US Census
- Allen County Public Library Collection
- and nearly 5,000 other collections
I love searching Internet Archive for lineage books for different ancestral lines. I still verify lineages with records but using a published lineage is easier than hunting in the dark.
At Internet Archive, you can create a list of “Favorite” books, etc for future reading. I prefer to use a “Pin It” button and save my favorite books to boards at Pinterest but I created a “Favorites” collection at Internet Archive as an example of the service they offer.
HathiTrust publishes digitized content that is out of copyright. Many of their books are on other sites, like Google Books and Internet Archive, but they also have collections not on those sites, so it’s worth checking HathiTrust for volumes of historical books you don’t find elsewhere. Everything at HathiTrust is free.
FamilySearch has more than 350,000 free, digitized books and publications online. Their books include family histories, genealogies & pedigrees, county and local histories and much more.
I love to search FamilySearch books for pedigrees and genealogies of ancestors and use these for descendancy research.
DPLA, the Digital Public Library of America, is an aggregator that links to historical books and material at other sites. If you’re searching for a book in an institution in the United States, DPLA is a great place to start.
If I have a book title in mind, I usually start my search at DPLA and let DPLA link me to Google Books, Internet Archive, HathiTrust, or another hosting site with that title.
Europeana has many free collections online including books, music, art, and more. I love using Europeana to find background information for my ancestors. Because I enjoy gardening, my all-time favorite book at Europeana so far is a book about how residents from my ancestral county of Devon, England planted and harvested crops. Some books are free to read online, others permit downloads but not republishing, etc.
BAnQ, the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
BAnQ has many free city directories online. They also have other collections including vital records, journals, photos, & music. The site is in French and is free to all Quebec residents. Many digitized collections are free to everyone (non-residents included) but some collections require a fee for non-residents.
Héritage is a collection from Library and Archives Canada and includes books and other archival materials. They have multiple collections, but the one I most frequently use is their Genealogy collection.
MyHeritage Compilation of Published Sources
The Compilation of Published Sources and other book collections at MyHeritage are no longer free, but you can search the collection for an ancestor’s name and then when a book title appears in the search returns you can search other free sites, like DPLA, Internet Archive, or HathiTrust and see if they have that title.
Best in your research!