The following list represents some essential reference books, most of which are from the period of 1880-1940. Generally, books from that era are out of copyright and in the public domain.
A number of large academic and public libraries have established consortia to digitize holdings that are in the public domain, so that they may be freely accessed by the public through the internet. I have attempted to identify those items that can be freely accessed online.
In addition to totally free online sources, there are fee-based subscription services (HeritageQuest, Perseus, Ancestry and others) that also hold digital libraries specifically focused on genealogies and family histories. However, researchers should be aware that many local public libraries (I use the Louisville Free Public Library) have subscriptions to these paid sites, and library patrons can often get access through these arrangements, either online or using computers on-premises in the local library.
I welcome suggestions regarding additions to this listing.
- Big Sandy Valley (The): A History of the People and Country from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. Ely, William, author (1887). Free e-book available via Google Books and other online sources.
- Big Sandy Valley (The): A Regional History Prior to the Year 1850. Jillson, Willard Rouse, author, (1923). Retail E-book available via Google Books and other online sources.
- Carolina Cradle: Settlement of the Northwest Carolina Frontier, 1747-1762. Ramsey, Robert W., author (1964). Print edition available at Amazon.com.
- Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish settlement in Virginia. Chalkley, Lyman, author (1912). Free e-book available via Google Books and other online sources.
- Encyclopedia of Virginia biography. Tyler, Lyon Gardiner, author (1915). Free e-book available via Google Books and other online sources.
- Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia. Green, R. T., author (1910). Free e-book available via Google Books and other online sources.
- German element of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia .., (The). Wayland, John Walter, author (1907). Free e-book available via Library of Congress Internet Archive and probably other online sources.
- History of middle New River settlements and contiguous territory (A). Johnston, David E, author (1906). Free e-book available via New York Public Library Internet Archive .
- Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants: A History of Frederick County, Virginia. Cartmell, Thomas Kemp, author (1909). Free e-book available via Google Books and other online sources.
- Virginia Germans (The). Wust, Klaus, author (1969). Print edition available at Amazon.com.