Thursday 4 February 2021

Virtual Bookshelves for Genealogy

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Collections in LibraryThing

A lively discussion on #ANZAncestryTime about genealogy books prompted me to revisit a 2018 post Once upon a shelf wherein I discussed the use of LibraryThing and its associated OPAC TinyCat for listing both personal and institutional collections of books. Tim Spalding, the founder and LT guru, just mentioned this feature again on Twitter.

In the last 12 months my local genealogy group, Cooroy-Noosa Genealogical & Historical Research Group, approved the move to to this online catalogue and one can now search the collection through the TinyCat OPAC. or view the traditional LibraryThing entries. Some other Australian groups I have found using LibraryThing include:

My own genealogy books and genealogy based fiction titles I have enjoyed, feature as links on my TinyCat page. If I have them stored in Evernote they have a tag to indicate that. I have very few paper books as I find membership at a range of libraries provides me with access to a wide range of both paper and ebooks. But what does one do with purchased or free ebooks once downloaded? 


Calibre is a free, open source cross platform program for storing ebooks that come in a variety of formats. This is always my first port of call and books stored here can be read on the computer in a wide range of formats or transferred to other devices. There is a built in function for converting books to alternative formats, e.g. PDF to ePub is one of the many conversions available.

Calibre Companion app for both iOS and Android enables the transfer of ebooks to your device where they can be read with your preferred ebook reader.


When I wrote about Evernote in 2016 the basic version allowed one to sync notes across several devices so I put it on my Android phone, my iPad, and laptop as well as being able to log in to a web version.

The basic version of Evernote is still free but time moves on and now one needs pay $A89.99 per year to use Evernote on more than 2 devices. I am currently reviewing the frequency of my Evernote usage on various devices.

Evernote for storage of ebooks 

Evernote has an excellent search function which retrieves tags or titles of notes or words within notes.

3 methods of getting files into Evernote
  • PDF ebook files can be sent to Evernote via one's own Evernote email address. 
  • PDFs open on the web can be saved to Evernote via the web clipper extension available for most browsers 
  • Files on computer - Start a new note then drag and drop the file into the note
Any other formats will need an additional app to open them but PDFs can be opened and searched within Evernote. 
Either allocate each book a tag of 'book' or place them in a single dedicated notebook, depending on your preferred method of working within Evernote. 
I have allocated a tag book so they are all easily retrieved.

Each book is stored within an individual note.
Each note has an individual address within Evernote so it is simple to create a separate Index note to list all the books stored within Evernote. 
  • Create a new note, name Index Genealogy Books
  • Go to the note where an individual book is stored
  • On Desktop version choose Share and under More Sharing - Copy Internal link 

Desktop sharing options
  • On mobile version go to share note and under More sharing options or the three dot (hamburger) menu choose - Copy internal link
  • Paste the link just copied into  Index Genealogy Books note
  • repeat for all the other books to generate a simple clickable list for quick access to any one title
Sample from my Index of Genealogy titles in Evernote

A brief list of free sources I find useful for family history and genealogy related titles

1. Local Library collection -  242 titles listed under genealogy Search by Family History, filter with topic History, sort by date latest, first or newest. 
2. NLA via Trove Digital Library, many historic digitised titles now available e.g. A Genealogical History of the Pioneer Families of Australia 
3. Internet archive - texts e.g. search genealogy or history, narrow by location - Free login to borrow or download depending on title.
4. BorrowBox for general limited time ebook borrowing- via local library Browse by category - History, many Australian titles
5. Google Books - Use drop down menu to choose Free e.g. Australian history then download as PDF or ePub

No matter the source of the book, I try to remember list it in LibraryThing with an appropriate tag so that I know whether I own it, whether it is an ebook or paper copy, where it is stored or whether I have just read it. 

How do you keep track of your family history/genealogy related titles and do you distinguish between those you own and those you have just read?

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1 comment:

    I appreciate you sharing your knowledge, thank you, Chris


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