When you can't go to a library, let the library come to you. Flesh out your ancestor's history with a quick and free search at Google Books. Just type in an ancestor's name in the search box and hit "enter". Your results could net you valuable genealogical information.
A search of Gen. Nathan Ranney of St. Louis, Missouri, netted over 1650 hits packed with biographical information, his part in the Yellowstone Expedition, an entire speech he gave on the plight of American 1812 war veterans, an account of Ranney's military service at the battle of Plattsburg, and letters Gen. Ranney wrote to Presidents Polk and Lincoln. Granted not all searches are so revealing and not all the 1650+ hits are relevant to the ancestral search, but a simple Google Books search may help you reclaim forgotten and lost genealogical paths. If the number of search results is too overwhelming, it's simple to narrow your search. Just enter quote marks around your ancestor's name like so: "Gen. Nathan Ranney." Even a few books can push through genealogical roadblocks.
The Google Books' library is primarily broken into three types of books: 1) books that offer "full view" of text (complete text pages), 2) "snippits" that provide only a small sample of the book's content, and 3) "no preview", books that are unavailable to view online. Books that offer "full view" can be added to your library, read online, linked, and downloaded as PDF files. So the next time you pine about living to far away to take advantage of great genealogical libraries in person, turn on your computer and experience Google Books search. It's another fine example of how the internet has made genealogy more productive without ever leaving the house.