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

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Genealogical Explosion of Digital Books

If there is one single trend in the worldwide digitization of genealogically important documents, the vast collections of digital books will probably contribute the most to the fundament changes in the way genealogical research is conducted. As I have recently observed, books are almost uniformly ignored by genealogists. Books are generally mistakenly viewed as out-of-date and unreliable. Even with the popular emphasis on memories and stories, books were essentially forgotten and left out of the promotions. Notwithstanding this almost universal antipathy, books are a rich source of genealogical information and have an undeserved reputation in our mad rush to online sources.

One notable example of the attitude towards books and other printed material is the digitization effort of the website. Historical Record Collections are highlighted and the subject of a huge indexing project. However, there is almost no mention of the ongoing genealogical book digitization project and many people are surprised to know that the Books section of the website exists. The books are not incorporated into the Historical Record Collections, neither are they offered as record hints to users of the Family Tree notwithstanding the fact that currently there are 277, 304 digitized items in the collection in over 120 different languages. In fact, the list includes 13,823 items of undetermined language origin.

Here are the numbers of books digitized from the various contributing libraries.
The items are broken down as follows:
The "Other" category seems to include an awful lot of books. Granted, many of these books are old, but in genealogy, old is good. Many of these books were written by people who were contemporaries with the very ancestors you are searching for. 

Of course there are huge online collections of more digital books containing information about subject vital to genealogical research. The vast online collections on have recently added a major collection of books and other publications consisting presently of 91,470,246 pages in 447,870 sources. These books and publications have been hand selected by to contain valuable genealogical information. This almost doubles the number of books and other published material in the collection. In addition, is searching every page of every book and producing record hints for every person in the users' family trees and translating the information when possible. Due to this and other additions to, my record hints have jumped to 21,761. 

Currently I have 1,479 matches in published sources. What treasures are there for your research in these collections?


  1. The Arizona Genealogy Library was dismantled last August much to the dismay of Arizona genealogists. Fortunately, two things happened that salvaged some of the books. An agreement was made between Family Search and the Az Library (LAPR) for pre 1924 books to be digitized by FS. That has since happened and the books have returned to Arizona. The second fortuitous event is that AzLAPR has turned over these books to the newly formed Action Committee for Genealogy Library Preservation (ACGLP). This committee, under the auspices of the Arizona Genealogical Advisory Board, now has the task of finding funds and/or a repository for these books. While most of us prefer to use an actual book when researching,a digitized book is better than no book at all. For that, we are grateful to FS for their generous offer to digitize the books and then ship them back to Arizona.

    1. Thanks for that update. I was aware of the issues with the "Genealogical Library" at the State Capital and there were a lot more issues that the preservation of the collection. I am glad to see that some of the issues have been resolved.

  2. In the LDS spirit of free data, we have produced a transcript of archival prisoner records for 18 men involved in the Canadian 1837 Rebellion. 8 of the 18 men followed were American-born. The transcript is free. Entitled "Penitentiary Patriots: Upper Canada Rebellion, 1838, James Nickalls Report", it is available as a free download from It includes the names of many ordinary people near now-Toronto, Ontario who signed (often their first writing attempt) petitions for clemency, forming a mini-census of the area before any formal census was taken. All names are indexed.
    Brian Latham
    Linda Corupe