This week FamilySearch and the other libraries involved in their book digitization project (BYU, Allen County Public Library, Clayton Library, and Mid-Continent Library) announced a milestone of 100,000 books published online. The effort to digitize books that are out of copyright, and make them available on FamilySearch.org has been ongoing for several years, but has picked up speed over the last two years.
As a comparison, The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has one of the largest family history book collections in the world. There are nearly 400,000 volumes in this Library.
The collection is significant for a few reasons:
1. Focus – unlike many of the digital book collections online, the FamilySearch collection is focused on only family history related books. There is no other place where you can search such a large collection and be assured that the results you get back will include genealogically relevant books and not include fiction or other types of books.
2. Size – This is the largest collection, by a wide margin, of family history books online. It means that when you are searching you are more likely to find your ancestor in this collection.
3. Types of books – There are a number of types of books, including published family histories and local histories. The books chosen initially by most of the libraries are those that will be most likely to include ancestral names.
4. Every word search – The books have been made every word searchable. One of the problems with the physical books is determining which volumes will contain your ancestral information. While the book search is far from perfect, the ability to search across all of these books for names and places makes it much more likely to find an ancestor in them.
5. Use from home – In order to use all of these books a researcher would need to visit multiple cities and spend many hours in the libraries during the hours they are open. These books are all published online, can be used from home, and can be used at the hours that are convenient for you.
6. Free – The books are available for free on FamilySearch.org.
More books are being added each day. Over time all of the out of copyright books from all of these libraries will be available. I estimate that this will be between 200,000 and 300,000 volumes. Most of the books that are in copyright will also soon be available online in family history centers worldwide with a virtual checkout system. It is very likely that if you have US or European ancestry that you will find research about at least one of your family lines in these books. I would encourage you to have a look at these resources. The book collection can be found at: books.familysearch.org .
Over the past few weeks, FamilySearch has added a number of new features to their photo experience. It is important to note that FamilySearch can offer many of these experiences because of their collaborative tree. The FamilySearch tree is nearly unique in the genealogical marketplace. First, it contains nearly a billion unique individuals, linked into families. Second, the families have been assembled into a large set of trees that attempt to link everyone possible together. Third, I can take advantage of research done by others. Their work adds to mine and my work adds to theirs.
The nature of this collaborative tree means that unique experiences can be created. The latest and most fun of these experiences is that I can now see photos that were added to my ancestors by others. When I visit FamilySearch.org/photos, log in, and then click on the people link, I see more than 116 ancestors with photos. What is truly amazing, however, is that if I click on the drop down box at the top of the screen I can select “people added by others.” This then shows photos of my ancestors that have been added by others. Cool!! Even better, if I click on the little family icon in the lower right hand corner of the photo it will show me how I am related to this person.
I currently have more than 60 photos of my ancestors that were added by others. This is all made possible by the nature of a collaborative tree, and by a large community who is collaborating together to find out more information about our collective ancestors.
I encourage you to go to photos and have a look. I will be shocked if you don’t find photos of your ancestors added by others.
If you do find some photos of ancestors I would love to hear about your experiences. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.