The Hathi Trust Digital Library is just such a critter. The combined effort of dozens of universities around the US, the Hathi Trust boasts (and yeah...they're boasting!) of:
- 4,189,581 volumes
- 1,466,353,350 pages
- 156 terabytes
- 50 miles of materials weighing in at 3,404 tons.
Just one of the small treasures from Hathi Trust.
For family history researchers, this is an online goldmine...almost. Hathi Trust is still brand new, and not even formally launched yet. Think of it as a very powerful beta test.
To begin searching, go to the homepage and use the Catalog Search box. Search for anything (even the word anything)...it doesn't matter yet.
On their results page, upper right, you'll see text that says Try our experimental full-text search. That's the ticket! Click on that to get searching.
In searching for your family history at Hathi Trust, you can use both wildcards (? for a single character, * for multiple characters) and typical AND/OR Boolean searching. Thank the gods!
Like I said, a real gold mine, with presumably, much more to come. Start searching.
Visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.
And don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.