52 weeks to Better Genealogy – Challenge 6 Online databases

16 March 2010

Challenge 6 in the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy challenge is about using online databases at your local library. I never seem to get time to go to the library much less spend time there doing research. The best time of the day for me to research is between 4-6am and libraries aren’t open then. At that time of day, the family is still asleep, the house is quiet, I can simply please myself, so it is the perfect opportunity for a little research.

That is why I like the ability to search library online databases at home whenever I want. I have both a State Library Victoria (SLV) and a National Library of Australia (NLA) membership card which allows me to access most of their subscription online databases at home. There are some that I can’t access but overall this is a fantastic free service.

Some of my favourite databases from State Library Victoria are:

19th Century British Library Newspapers – contains 48 British metropolitan and regional newspapers published between 1800 and 1900.

Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 – complete content of the London Times, fully searchable and viewable as images.

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers 1801-2003/4 – contains fully searchable, full-text British Parliamentary Papers from 1801 to 2003/04 sessions.

Informit Complete – indexes Australian magazines, journals and newspapers on a wide range of topics.

EBSCO Historical Abstracts – annotated bibliography of the history of the world, excluding the United States and Canada from 1450 to the present.

Oxford Reference Online Premium – History – extensive collection of online encyclopaedias and dictionaries covering various periods of history.

American National Biography Online – profiles of more than 18,000 men and women from all walks of American life, from the well-known to the infamous to the obscure.

Biography Resource Centre – information on famous figures from around the world and throughout history.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – an illustrated collection of more than 55,000 biographies of people from around the world who shaped the history of the United Kingdom, from earliest times to the year 2002.

The above are just some of the available titles from the Newspapers, Genealogy and History sections but there are a lot more available in other categories so have a look and see what interests you. To be able to access them at home you have to be a resident of Victoria, Australia.

The National Library of Australia has a similar E-Resources section and the criteria for access is that you live within Australia. I have only recently applied for my NLA access card because I was content with the SLV card and there are only so many hours in a day. While recently up in Darwin giving my Online Trends in Family History talk, I realised I should have one too and it arrived in the mail this week.

There are 150 online genealogy E-Resources listed in the NLA collection and some of these are free to view on the web, some only available with the access card and some only available onsite, similar to SLV. When browsing the list I was surprised to see some free sites that I wasn’t even aware of so that in itself was a plus. The genealogy list is subdivided into Australian states, New Zealand and overseas.

There are a range of other categories and sub-categories and I plan to explore in the first instance the 23 titles listed under Biography, 50 under History, 10 under Military History, 14 under Geography and Mapping, and this is just a sample of my interests.

Visiting a local library and using online databases is very worthwhile but if, like me, you find it hard to get there during normal opening hours, apply for a free online library card from your State Library and/or the National Library of Australia. My research has benefited significantly just by using the Times at home and having the ability to search it thoroughly without worrying that someone else wants to use the computer or finding that critical bit of information just as the library is closing!  The only downside is that not everything is online (and we should always remember that) and not having enough time in the day to look at all these fantastic resources online.

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