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Borrowing Genealogy Books from the Internet Archive

Internet Archive is a great place to search for books for your research. Their diverse collection has been digitized with the help of libraries, archives, museums, and individuals, as well as the books the Archive has collected and digitized. In these cases, you can look at the book online or download it via numerous formats, including PDF and eReader versions.

But what if the book you want is newer or unavailable to download? That's when you will want to take advantage of borrowing the book.

Internet Archive

Borrowing a physical book from a library requires a library card. To borrow a book from the Internet Archive, you will need an Internet Archive account first. Signing up for an account couldn't be easier. At the top right of the website, click on "sign up." You can either use your Google account, or you can enter your email address and a password. Once you've done this, you'll have an account and can take advantage of the borrowing library.

Sign up for an account

As you search Internet Archive and click on books of interest, you might notice a blue button at the top indicating you can borrow the book.

Borrow for 1 hour
You can select 1 hour or 14 days by clicking on the drop-down menu. (14 days might not be an option for all books). If all of the virtual copies of a book are loaned out, you can join a waitlist. If the book you've borrowed is only available for a 1 hour loan period, you can check it out again after you have returned it. There are no renewals. According to their Lending Library web page, there is no waitlist for books available for a 1-hour loan. Unlike a brick-and-mortar library, there are no late fees (the book is automatically "returned.")

Internet Archive does have a Books to Borrow collection that houses over 3 million books to choose from. A search for the word "genealogy" in that collection showed over 3,000 results, including some of my favorites.

Genealogy books to borrow


I have found this service a lifesaver when I've needed a book not available at my local library. This service expands the selection of "library books" available to me without leaving home.

To learn more about borrowing from the Internet Archive, including a video tutorial, see their website Borrowing from the Lending Library . Some books require a download of Adobe Digital Editions. Instructions for this are available from the link above.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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There is no question in my mind that this is one of the most valuable resources available for Genealogists who are able to trace their families back beyond the early 20th Century. Many libraries are reducing hardcopy storage costs by providing scanned images of old books to for perpetual storage. This has become a treasure trove of materials that might otherwise be unavailable for research.

I began building my personal library in a folder I called "Source Library" I saved in the "Legacy Family Tree" folder. The Legacy app is unaware of my addition and has no problem with it being there. Eventually my source library grew too large and I moved it to a network drive.

I make it a point to rename the files I download from archive to make them easier to recognize later. "Genealogical and Family History of the State of New Hampshire - Vol 1 - pp i-464 - Stearns - 1908" for example. This volume is part of a multi-volume set. I put enough information in the file name to identify the set and also to tell me where to look when I find something in the index at the end of volume 4 to check out. I only collect books when I find members of my extended family in them, or when the books help provide background and context for their lives.

Thank you for an interesting and informative article.

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