©2016 by Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2016-10-27.  Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don Snow's Class Listings Page .
Abstract:  Millions of books, family history and otherwise, are posted online. Large collections of genealogy books are on FamilySearch, Google, the Internet Archive, HeritageQuest Online, and many other websites. Many of the online books are every-word searchable, so you can find books that have information about you or your ancestors. We will discuss how to find ebooks you may be interested in and how to download and show them on your computer or mobile device.  The most common ebook formats, pdf, ePub, Kindle, and mobi, will be discussed, and what to do with non-searchable pdf's, i.e. the pdf is only a picture of the printed page and not the text itself. These notes, as well as other information from Don's Freeware Corner articles, are posted on .


  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( of Provo and St. George, Utah .
  2. The notes and related information in other article is posted at , all with active Internet links.
  3. Tips:  (1)  To put an icon on your desktop for these notes, or any webpage, just drag the icon from in front of the address in your browser onto your desktop.  (2)  To open a link, but keep your place in these notes, hold down the Control key while clicking the link.
  4. The problem for today:  Finding and using the millions of books available on the Internet.  

  6. Reading vs eReading -- hard copy vs reading on your mobile device or computer- ebooks are about 25% of all books in the US now (From Statistica)
  7. Formats for online books
    1.  Most common format is pdf (Portable Document Format) -- used world wide by many organizations, including the LDS Church -- allows page to show exactly the same on any computer or device
    2. For small-screen devices (smartphones and tablets) standard formats are epub, azw3 (Kindle), and mobi -- these allow the text itself to be changed in size, unlike pdf where only the entire page size can be changed to increase or decrease the text size
  8. Ereader programs exist for all formats on all computers and devices -- Examples, mostly free, to work with these formats,  Adobe Reader , Sumatra Reader , Nitro Reader , and  Calibre -- for info and links to 15 ereaders, some commercial, see --
  9. Adobe's pdf  (Portable Document Format) has become a standard in many organizations, including the LDS Church, for books, articles, magazines, and handbooks
    1. About Type (1) pdfs -- image-only pdfs -- they only have the picture layer and don't include the text identification layer
      1. Generated by a flatbed scanner, camera, or screen capture program, e.g. scanned pdf's 
      2. Consists of just an image (photograph) of the printed page without the text layer that identifies the symbols as words 
      3. Not text searchable -- copying and pasting from this type only gives an image
      4. To make them text-searchable you must OCR the file (Optical Character Recognize) to form the text layer identifying the symbols as words; can be done with free or commercial programs (see below) 
    2. About Type (2) pdfs -- image-and-text-layer pdfs -- they have both image and text identification layers 
      1. Generated by word processors and other programs, e.g. Word, LibreOffice, and Excel, when you save or export the document as pdf
      2. Includes the text identification layer overlaying the image layer, so they are text searchable  
      3. Copying paragraphs or pages from this type of pdf gives you both layers, so they are searchable
  10. OCR programs -- Optical Character Recognition
    1. Adobe Reader (free) does some OCR'ing online -- commercial (expensive) version has a good OCR program; some flatbed scanners come with an OCR program, check your manual; some libraries have OCR programs you can use for free
    2. PDF-XChange Editor (supersedes their PDF-XChange Viewer); free for private use and has OCR -- -- accuracy usually depends on how clear the image is
    3. After running OCR save the new pdf with a new name, so you don't overwrite your image-only pdf
  11. FastStone Capture will do screen captures, including scrolling windows, and will save in various formats including pdf, but must be OCR'd to be searchable -- old free FastStone Capture version 5.3 is still available; later versions are better, but not free; can make a pdf with FastStone Capture, then OCR it with PDFX-Change Editor

  13. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is digitizing and currently has posted online more than 300,000 out-of-copyright and permission-granted FH books -- ; these are from large libraries such as the FHL, BYU Library, and Allen County FH Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana), and from personal collections; for still-in-copyright books the copyright holder must sign an agreement to allow the FHL to digitize and post them
  14. For digitized books the FamilySearch Catalog (FSC - used to be called the FHLC, Family History Library Catalog) shows the words in red: "To view a digital version of this item click here." which takes you to the digitized image to read and/or download
  15. Many of these books can be read and/or downloaded by anyone anywhere -- Examples:  Valiant in the Faith: Gardner and Sarah Snow and Their Family, 1990  and  A Blanchard Memorial  by Arthur William Blanchard, 1935 -- for books where you can only download parts at a time you have to rename each download piece so you don't overwrite parts you have already downloaded 
  16. Some books can only be read and/or downloaded in the Family History Lib or FHCs -- see -- Example:  The Snow-Estes Ancestry by Nora Emma Snow and Myrtle M. Jillson -- but you can usually go to a FHC and download it to a flashdrive to take home 
  17. On FamilySearch all digital books are every-word searchable, i.e. they are OCR'd and the text layer downloads with the book, so downloads are completely searchable for any name, location, date, or word in the entire book; Google book downloads don't have the text layer and must be OCR'd to make them searchable (see below) -- Book searches on FamilySearch  search through the entire book so you can find all books that have your name or an ancestor's name and then download the book
  18. A new website has a contract with the FHL to make these searches easier, e.g. if you search the the name May on FamilySearch you also get all books with the month of May in them; Genealogy Gophers at -- will now search 80,000 free ebooks for any name, location, word, etc., and eventually will search all the FHL books online; their search engine can also include other spellings, such as Wm when you search for William -- more information on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter blog  
  19. BYU Library has many related online FH digital collections including books and photographs -- see and

  21. Wikipedia article at  gives history of Google Books and related operations -- info on how to use Google Play Books --
  22. Google has contracts with many large libraries to digitize their books and post them online, including both full-text and partial text postings; as of Oct 2015 Google estimated they had scanned and posted more than 25 million books already out of copyright or else Google has permission to post them; Google estimates there are about 130 million different books in the world and they hope to scan all of them.
  23. Google book searches
    1. To find a specific book search for the title in quotation marks, e.g."Documentary History of the Church"
    2. Do a Google search for someone, e.g. "brigham young" (Remember that caps are not required in Google); on the results page at the top you see "Web" "Images" "Videos" "Books" "News" and more -- click on Books to see the hits in books
    3. You can also get to the Books Search page in other ways, e.g. clicking on the small 3x3 "App Launcher" icon at top right, or go directly to it at
    4. If you see the red icon "EBOOK - FREE", you can click on it and put it in "My Library" where you can read it or copy parts or all of it for free -- Example:  for Erastus Snow's  One Year In Scandinavia , hover your cursor over the red "READ EBOOK" icon and you see options about reading and/or downloading it in various formats; downloading in pdf does NOT bring the text layer with it from Google, so it is not searchable until you run it through an OCR program -- see above for programs to do this
  24. When you download the pdf of a scanned book from Google, it does NOT have the text layer and must be OCR'd to make it searchable
  25. If Google doesn't have permission to post the entire volume you only see a snippet of the page with the search term highlighted and information about where you can find or purchase a copy -- may still be able to find the full text book on some other website or you can use a screen capture program to save off just the part you are interested in

  27. See Wikipedia article at   Internet Archive -- Their goals include preserving an electronic copy of every book ever published anywhere and preserving a "snapshot" of the entire Internet every few days; also preserving all audios, videos, and movies
  28. A major source of FH information -- -- for books click on Texts
  29. Has 4 1/2 million books scanned and contracts with links to many other libraries, e.g. the LDS Church History Library where you can find all the old LDS magazines, conference reports, etc.; has many FH books; they scan 1000 books per day according to
  30. Their books are all searchable for any word, name, place, event, etc, and you can read them in your browser or download them in various formats
  31. Their download pdf's have both the image and the text layers, so are searchable without OCR'ing, unlike Google's
  32. Internet Archive also sponsors
    1. -- a wiki where you can find information about books, their editions, libraries which have them, and where to buy hard copies -- 20 million books listed so far
    2. The Wayback Machine -- "snapshots" of the entire Internet every few days since 1996 -- has old websites no longer on the Internet -- lots of good FH information from the past
    3. Great archive of recorded sound and movies, e.g. 78 RPM records and old radio broadcasts 


  33. See Encyclopedia of Genealogy article at -- article has pages with links of libraries in various US states with access to HQO -- HQO was recently purchased from ProQuest by Ancestry
  34. HQO is only available through libraries where many have subscriptions which allow home access through the library's website with a patron's library card barcode or access code -- many people in Utah can use it through -- -- with their local public library card or an access code; many other states have similar websites -- Washington County Library website is 
  35. HQO has 28,000 FH books in pdf format
    1. When Ancestry bought HQO a couple of years ago, they had to drop some of the books since they didn't have the same permissions that ProQuest had
    2. Can search their entire online collection for any name, word, place, etc.
    3. Can download parts or entire book, but usually has a limit of number of pages at a time, so you have to download in pieces and use a freeware program such as  to put it all in one pdf; it may not be text-searchable without OCR'ing
  36. HQO also has all U.S. census images up through 1940, Revolutionary War Records, PERSI (Periodical Source Index), and other records -- their census images were done in black and white, not grey scale like Ancestry's and the LDS Church's and therefore are sometimes more readable, but this may not be the cast now that Ancestry owns it

  38. For LDS history and family history books see many links on my LDS and Utah Records notes on
  39. The free book program CALIBRE ( ) will search many free websites including Internet Archive for words in books 
  40. Digital Public Library of America --  and -- an umbrella organization to list all online digital items in America -- see FAQ at  
  41. World Public Library -- -- commercial site; more than 2 million book pdf's online
  42. WorldCat by OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) -- -- searches library collections of 10,000 libraries worldwide 
  43. Project Gutenberg -- -- 42,000 free ebooks and an additional 100,000 through their affiliates
  44. Virtual Reference Shelf by the Library of Congress --
  45. University of Texas --
  46. University of Pennsylvania Library -- -- lots of early LDS books and periodicals; also see their Books Page website -- -- major list of book websites and indexes
  47. World Vital Records --
  48. Mocavo -- -- Do a search, then click on Documents (left hand side) -- recently bought by FindMyPast
  49. Feedbooks - Public Domain Books --
  50. Free History and Genealogy Books Online --
  51. Genealogy Book Links -- 
  52. List of 40 ebook websites --
  53. DjVu Books --
  54. FullBooks --
  55. World E-Book Fair --
  56. --
  57. ReadPrint - Free Online Library --
  58. Forgotten Books Online --
  59. e-Books Directory -- -- many good pdf format text, math, science, and other books
  60. Online Books eTexts/eBooks --
  61. To find many other such websites do searches for things like “free online full-text books genealogy” (without the quotes) in search engines like

  63. Kimberly Powell article on sources of online books --
  64. articles --  and
  65. USA Today article on Online Books (13 Jul 2010) -- 
  66. pdf Search Engine -- very helpful for genealogy
  67. e-Book Search Engines --
  68. Digital Book Index -- -- "A Union Catalog of Electronic Books, Texts, and Documents" -- Click on Search: Simple + Advanced and in the Query box type in something like "family history"

  70. To find a book online check several websites since none lists everything and the same book may be elsewhere; may even be free 
  71. Helpful to attach links for online books to persons in FamilySearch Family Tree, but tell why you are linking and include page numbers; RecordSeek helps link sources
  72. The Internet has millions of genealogy and other books with many completely free to read online and/or download.

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