Today, I spoke to the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (http://www.cgssd.org/) on Using Google for your Genealogy. I love speaking on this subject because Google is one of those websites that is so important to genealogical research yet it isn't a genealogical website.
There just isn't enough time to go over everything Google does in the span of 1 hour , but one important part of Google that I forgot to mention was Google Scholar.
Google Scholar allows you to search for "scholarly literature". Their "about" page explains that "From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. " To read more about Google Scholar check out http://scholar.google.com/intl/en/scholar/about.html.
So what does this have to do with you, the family historian? Everything. This is yet one more tool that can assist you in searching for information about your family. Now, true you probably won't find info specifically on your surname but when researching you should be looking at the era that your ancestor lived (to better know what other resources would be available to you), the community, and aspects of their lives like occupation. Remember these scholarly articles are going to be by historians, those in the field of religion, economics, etc-they are going to be histories that will provide you more understand of your ancestor's time period and life experiences.
Now in some cases, the articles might be available through services that are subscription based. That's ok-just jot down the name of the article, author, publication title, volume and number and pages. Then go to your local library and explain that you need an inter library loan on an article. Basically, they can then find the article and ask a library that has that journal to copy the appropriate pages for you.
I conducted a search on Google Scholar on the term "Coal Mining" and "Coal Mining History" and below I've pasted in some of the results. All of these article would provide some great background information on an ancestor that would help you better understand their life as a coal miner.
[BOOK] Coal is Our Life: An Analysis of a Yorkshire Mining CommunityN Dennis, F Henriques, C Slaughter - 1969 - Tavistock Publications LtdCited by 76 - Web Search - Library Search
BOOK] History of the Coal-mining Industry in OhioDL Crowell - 1995 - Ohio Dept. of Natural
Resources, Division of Geological SurveyCited by 18 - Related articles - Web Search - Library
[BOOK] The History of the British Coal IndustryMW Flinn - 1984 - Clarendon PressCited by 17 - Web Search - Library Search
[BOOK] The Coal Industry of the Eighteenth CenturyTS Ashton, J Sykes - 1929 - Manchester University PressCited by 31 - Related articles - Web Search - Library Search
BOOK] Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal IndustryP Long - 1989 - Paragon House PublishersCited by 17 - Web Search - Library Search
[BOOK] Economic Development of the British Coal Industry, 1800-1914BR Mitchell - 1984 - Cambridge University PressCited by 31 - Related articles - Web Search - Library Search
There is so many other great histories that you can find using these two search terms. While Google Scholar is not specifically a genealogical source it can definitely help you gain some knowledge about your ancestors occupation, religion, circumstances or era.