INDIA-L ArchivesArchiver > INDIA > 2007-11 > 1194078593
From: "Nick Balmer" <>
Subject: Re: [INDIA] Google Books
Date: Sat, 3 Nov 2007 08:29:53 -0000
Hello Lesley and the other listers,
Since posting about Google Books, I have received and seen quite a few posts
about the technical quirks of Google Books.
It appears that Google allows different levels of access to books in
different countries, so that whilst I can down load some books as full
texts, Indian friends of mine can't, whilst American friends can get at
texts I can't.
The snippet view is a pain, as often the snippet ends about a line above the
actual text it is intended to show. This raises my blood pressure to the
point that I now nearly always search on Full Text.
The earlier the reseach period you have, the better. Most pre 1850's books
are available in Full Text.
If your book comes up snippet only, try the Digital Institute of India site
at http://www.new.dli.ernet.in/ because it often has India related books
available that are of too recent a date for Google to wish to show, because
Google are concerned by the risk of infringing copyright on more recent
The Indian Library is much smaller than Google in its range at present, but
because one of the first libraries they scanned was the old Viceroy's
Library, it's coverage is particularly good on the subjects we like to read
Some of the best books in all of these libraries are the Asiatic Journals,
and the yearbooks of the Bombay, Bengal and Madras Scientific and Literary
These have a tremendous amount of detail on the comings and goings of people
to different posts. For some reason, it Google's search engine which relies
on optical character reading of the original document to convert it into
text files to provide the search, often fails to read early 19th century
text, so it is possible to find ones 3 x great grandfather, by chance when
Google had resolutely failed to do so.
It is really worth searching my your ancestors job title, because often he
will turn up in his post, but not by name.
Also search and search again by the locations he operated in, and follow
I recently found an account of my 4 x great uncle's butler being church
warden in a newly founded church at Cannanore. The Rev.d Spring wrote in a
letter to the Church Missionary Society in 1818 "Mr B informed me that his
butler who is a chief man in the flock considers Jacob Joseph as a very able
man." now, I happen to know that this butler was originally a child, one of
pair, a boy and a girl that Thomas Baber bought in 1803, when he had been
offered for sale by an Indian trader besides the road as slaves.
In 1833, he wrote of this event as being seminal to his understanding of the
horrors of slavery in this part of India. He recounted how he gave them
their freedom and brought them up in his house, the boy becoming his butler,
and the girl becoming an Ayah.
It is common in these books for men to be referred to as Mr. B or Colonel
Mars, or as the Collector, especially if they were still alive at the time
It is very important to keep going back to Google Books and repeating the
searches for common names in your list every few weeks, because so many new
books are being addes every month, that it is entirely possible to find your
ancestor even a few weeks after you had previously tried and hit a blank.
One of my non "Indian" ancestors was a solicitor and a banker in the period
from 1790 to 1820. I had searched many times for him with little luck, but
in the last few weeks Google have obviously arrived at the legal section of
a library, and I have struck gold dust, with about twenty hits on a single
night, which had not been there only weeks before.
So now I am in an Austenesque world of "breach of promise" cases where he is
prosecuting some cad who left Miss Dalrymple in the lurch, and studying
share investments in the Canal boom.
Another library site that is surprisingly good, is the French "Gallica"
library (http://gallica.bnf.fr/). This is a French Government initiative
started several years ago.
"Recherche" is the button you want.
Although a the vast majority of books are in French which will be a barrier
for many, there are a surprisingly large number of English books, especially
scientific journals, and travelogues.
Somebody in France was systematically collecting these throughout the early
and mid 19th century. There was an earlier version of the "Great Game"
going on between Britain and France. My 4 x great uncle John Croft Hawkin's,
a Bombay Marine officer took the first steam vessel up the Euphrates to Hit
in what is now modern day Iraq.
I knew he had done this, because it is mentioned in his obituaries, but do
you think, I could find an account of it in the British papers. No, either
it was so "secret" that the papers were hidden away and lost, or the ants
got it. Yet, I have found a nearly contemporary French account of his
I have found books there that are not available in Google Books, and some
that are only snippet view in Google Books are also available there.
When you have finished researching a particular subject. Try posting it on a
blog or website. I am amazed at how much interest this can generate
especially in India. There are many Indian's in smaller regional towns who
are fascinated by the old ruin or decaded fort in their town. If they find
your post about one of these places, they will offer to rush out and take
If you have old photos you can post, they will go and find their location
Suddenly you have much more information about your ancestors, than you could
ever have imagined possible.
I have recently come across two oral accounts from the early 1800's, one
from November 1809, and one only approximately dated, but with good
circumstantial evidence to back it up. To demonstrate how real these stories
can be to modern Indian's read the 13th paragraph down on the following
Many of you are getting on in years, but have vivid memories of places and
people. Please, please write them down now. In all too few years you will
disppear and your memories will go as well. In 100 years from now, people
will be wondering why this tea plantation was built here, and who those odd
people were who wore such funny hats.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lesley Thatcher" <>
Sent: Friday, November 02, 2007 11:54 PM
Subject: Re: [INDIA] Google Books
> Hello Listers
> Thanks for that, Arvind.
> I've had a couple of queries since I posted my first message.
> Although you will get titles in 'snippet view', at the top of the page you
> should find 'full view' which will display any and all those titles which
> are out of copyright and have been fully digitalized (in theory).
> Unfortunately, the copy of Bengal Obituaries listed appears to be
> and cannot be downloaded. However, it is possible to view all the pages
> the index at the end should indicate whether anyone you are searching for
> listed. Also look at the right hand panel to see local library copies,
> where to buy and, in some cases, other editions of the same book. I have
> found, in a couple of instances, that using another listing opens a better
> If any one does manage to download this book successfully, perhaps they
> would let us all know?
> Best wishes
> at the end of a sunny day in South Dartmoor
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