Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where are the books? FamilySearch/BYU Historical Books Collection

For the last couple of years, on and off, I have been monitoring the BYU Historical Books Collection. At one point, the collection was growing rapidly and the counter on the startup page logged over 30,000 books. Today and for almost the past year, that counter has been stuck at 17,765.  Here is a screen shot of the page showing the counter:

One arrow points to the counter and the other to the FamilySearch logo. Recently, as I reported, a link to the Family History Archive was added to the Library Catalog Page on Here is a shot showing the links to the BYU Family History Archive:

The links to the Archive are in the lower left of the screen shot. So what is the status of the Archive? The second arrow above points to the FamilySearch logo on the startup page which has been added recently to replace the BYU logo. But it is apparent that the site is still considered to be a BYU project from the links from I realize that FamilySearch and BYU are both related entities, but the mystery is where are all the books?

For example, the Mesa Regional Family History Center has been scanning books for the project for much more than a year. I had a book for which I owned the copyright scanned almost a year ago. Very few of these scanned files have shown up in the collection. If you click on a few links, you can go to the BYU Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections page. In Collections by Subject, there is a drop-down menu item for Family History. Another click and you have a list including the Family History Archive. In very small letters it lists 37,584 items. This is a lot closer to the number at the time the counter stopped working. Unfortunately, clicking on that link takes you back to the same startup page for the Archive.

From my discussions with FamilySearch representatives at RootsTech, I understood that there was the potential of adding around 400,000 books to this collection, perhaps including the book I had scanned last year? I took heart when the link to the Family History Archives showed up on, but now there is a question about the rest of the books.

Just speculating, but there is always an issue with digitizing about copyrights and usage. Perhaps there was a question that could not be resolved easily or at all with adding books to the site? I can imagine many other reasons why there may be a problem, including working out the "ownership" or funding of the site between FamilySearch and BYU. It is always interesting to speculate, especially when you have no inside knowledge at all.

This is an extremely valuable resource. The participating libraries have thousands of unique or nearly unique items. Although printed family histories are not always reliable, they do give a huge insight into families that otherwise might not be possible and are often a good jumping off place for primary research.

As usual, just wondering what is going on. Just one small note, on the startup page the site is referred to as the "Family History Archives." On the older version of the menu item used the term "Historical Books." No problem, just noting.

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