Finding Your Ancestor Inside a Book

What are the chances that your Civil War ancestor might be mentioned in a book about the Civil War? Probably slim, unless he was a general or other high-ranking officer. It is always possible, since more primary source material like diaries and letters are getting published plus an abundance of new research. Your ancestor may turn up in print some day.

That’s why when I see a book on Amazon about the war or a history topic, I look for the names of my ancestors.  Not all books have the LOOK-INSIDE-THE-BOOK feature, but it only takes a minute to search when you find one that does have it.

The preview feature usually shows the table of contents and a few pages from the first chapter. See the screenshot below to see how the search function can turn up valuable information. In some cases, it shows the index. You’ll want to scan that for events and names that are important to you.

Put the Amazon Search Inside a Book to work for you.

Put the Amazon Search Inside a Book to work for you.

For this book, I put in the name Walsh and the search brought up 5 page links. By clicking on each link, you can see the whole page with that name highlighted on it.

It’s a little bit like searching for a needle in a haystack, since there are 284,298 books under the topic “Civil War.” More are being added all the time. I look for books relating to areas of the war where I know my ancestor might be (Andersonville, Vicksburg, Brice’s Crossroads). I also use this search for books on Indiana and Kansas history where I might find Abraham Tower before or after the war.

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