The Exact Editions platform makes it easy for publishers to offer free searching of their titles. The publisher can decide how ‘restrictive’ the search results will be, but even on the most restrictive view, the search results can be quite informative. For, example if you search in Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage on your own name, (click on the Debretts link if you wish to see any of the links which follow) you will find out whether you have aristocratic connections. As I expected, the Hodgkin links to the aristocracy are very tenuous. But a search for ‘Thatcher’ gets 19 hits, mostly for Margaret, which shows that she made quite an impact on the higher echelons of British society.

Searching Debrett’s Peerage is a free offering. It should be a useful first step for any keen family historians and amateur genealogists. The publishers are happy to provide limited free research because the snippets with which the results are presented are helpful, but do not give the game away. Here is one of the 19 fragments which the ‘Thatcher’ search threw up:

That is a very small fragment of a page, but the selection of JPEG fragments which come with any search should in most cases be sufficient to alert the family historian to some basic guidance and, if a vein of blue blood is struck, the possibility of consulting the book in a library, or to obtaining a subscription.

Now comes the difficult part. How does the publisher alert the public to the fact that this limited but useful free service is now available? That is the challenge of the web….