©2018 by Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2018-10-22.  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 the books 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 and other related information, all with active Internet links, is 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 -- reading hard copy vs reading on your mobile device or computer -- ebooks are about half of all books sold in the US now (From Statistica); data is probably the same for other countries
  7. Formats for online books
    1.  Most common format of scanned online books is pdf (Portable Document Format); format is used world wide; makes pages appear exactly the same on any device or operating system, but text size can't be changed - you can only make the entire page larger or smaller to increase or decrease the text size; the format shows pages exactly as in printed book, including page numbers 
    2. For small-screen devices (smartphones and tablets) standard formats are ePub, Azw3 (Kindle), and Mobi; allows the text itself to be changed in size, unlike pdf, hence no page numbers since those would vary by the size of the text  
  8. Many free ereader programs for all formats -- Examples: ADOBE READER , SUMATRA READER , NITRO READER , and  CALIFRE; for info and links to 15 ereaders, some commercial, see  
  9. PDF -- Adobe's Portable Document Format
    1. Has become a standard in many organizations for books, newspapers, articles, magazines, and handbooks; types of pdfs include image-only and image-with-text-layer 
    2. Image-only pdfs
      1. Is a picture of the page only with no text layer to show that the symbols represent words; hence, NOT text-searchable
      2. Generated by flatbed scanner, camera, or screen capture programs 
      3. Copying and pasting from this type only gives an image and is not text-searchable 
      4. To make these text-searchable you OCR the file, Optical Character Recognize it -- see below  
    3. Image-and-text-layer pdfs
      1. Has both image and text-identification layers, so these are text-searchable 
      2. Can OCR an image-only pdf to make it into this type -- see below 
      3. This is the format when you save or export as pdf from a word processor, e.g. LIBREOFFICE, WORD, and EXCEL   
      4. Can copy words, paragraphs, or pages, and you get both layers, so these remain text-searchable 
  10. OCR programs -- Optical Character Recognition
    1. Use one of these to form the text layer of an image-only pdf so the symbols are recognized as words; after OCR'ing, you can copy and paste individual words, phrases, or paragraphs, etc.    
    2. Several free or commercial OCR programs with various languages
    3. Adobe Reader (free) does some OCR'ing online; commercial version (very expensive) has a good OCR program; some flatbed scanners come with an OCR program, check your manual; also some libraries, e.g. the BYU Library, has a good commercial OCR program you can use there for free
    4. A good free-for-private-use OCR program is in PDF-XCHANGE EDITOR (old version was called PDF-XCHANGE VIEWER); has OCR for many languages -- -- accuracy usually depends on how clear the image is
    5. After running OCR, save the new pdf with a new name, so you don't overwrite the 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 -- last free version of FASTSTONE CAPTURE was 5.3 and is still available - do Google searches; later versions are better, but are shareware and cost a one-time fee of $20 
  12. CALIBRE -- -- free and very helpful to catalog, read, and convert ebook formats; good short video about CALIBRE on the home page; CALIBRE will convert a pdf to ePub format, but only so the pages can be read in an ePub reader; i.e., it doesn't OCR it and the text size is not changeable 

  14. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is digitizing and currently has posted online more than 350,000 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
  15. For digitized books the FamilySearch Catalog (FSC, sometimes still 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
  16. 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
  17. When downloading a book, if you have to do it in parts and the parts come with the same name, be sure to change the names of the parts or you will just overwrite what you have already downloaded 
  18. Some books can only be read and/or downloaded in the FHL, FHCs (Family History Centers), or partner libraries -- see -- See the statement there that if you are at such a library and you get the message that you don't have rights to read this book, try again in an hour, since someone else world-wide may be using it at that time and only one person world-wide can use it at a time, just as though it was a hard copy book on the shelf; such libraries are scanning their books and taking the hard copies off the shelves, so they will be available online, but to only one person at a time world-wide
  19. The FamilySearch digital books search box searches every word in every book since they are OCR'd, so you can find the books containing the search terms and then where those terms are in the book  
  20. The Genealogy Gophers search website at  makes searching the FHL's book collection easier -- it leaves out hits that are not the name, e.g. when I search for Snow it does not give me snow storm, snow fall, etc., but at present it only searches 80,000 of the 350,000 FHL books; it also includes searches for other forms of a name, e.g. for William, it also looks for Wm and W.; Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter blog had an article about it at  
  21. The BYU Harold B. Lee Library (the main BYU Library) has many online FH digital collections including books and photographs and some are already in the FamilySearch Books collection -- see and

  23. Google books and searches are at , and  
  24. Wikipedia article on Google Books, , gives history of Google Books and related operations; info on using Google Play Books is at  
  25. Google has contracts with large libraries to digitize and post their books online, both full-text and partial text postings, for out-of-copywrite or permission-granted books 
  26. In 2010 Google estimated there were about 130 million different books ever published -- see  -- and as of Oct 2015 they had scanned and posted more than 25 million books -- /google_129_million_different_books_have_been_published.html  
  27. Google book searches
    1. To find a specific book search for the title in quotation marks, e.g."The Snow Genealogy"
    2. Two ways to find a specific name or term in a book:  (1)  Go to  and search for the term, and  (2)  Do a Google search and then click on Books, e.g. "brigham young" (Remember taps are not required in Google); then, on the results page at the top you see All Images News Shopping Maps More  -- click on More > Books  to see the hits in books  
    3. When 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
  28. Downloaded pdfs of scanned books from Google do NOT have the text layer and must be OCR'd to make them searchable
  29. When 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 whereto find or purchase a copy -- Remember that you may still be able to find the full text book for free on some other website; or you can use a screen capture program to save off just the part you are interested in

  31. Website is -- Goals include preserving an electronic copy of every book ever published anywhere and a "snapshot" of the entire Internet every few days; also to preserve all audios, videos, and movies, and have them free for everyone to use; to get to books click Texts
  32. See  Internet Archive FAQs  and  Wikipedia article about Internet Archive 
  33. Internet Archive scans 1000 books per day, according to ; more than 15 million books and texts scanned and freely available to search and download; has contracts with many libraries, large and small; a major source of FH information
  34. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library has contract for them to store and show all old LDS magazines, conference reports, historical books, etc., all completely searchable
  35. Can read texts in your browser or download them in various formats; downloaded pdf's have the text layer, so are searchable, unlike Google
  36. Links to many libraries world-wide for scanning, e.g. see the scanned books from European libraries --
  37. Internet Archive also has
    1. Genealogy Collection at 
    2. Open Library (to check out books) at 
    3. The Wayback Machine -- "snapshots" of the entire Internet every few days since 1996 -- has old websites not on the Internet now -- lots of good FH information from the past
    4. Archive of recorded sound and movies, e.g. lots of old 78 RPM records and old radio broadcasts 


  38. -- a partnership of academic and research institutions with millions of volumes in their catalog
  39. Can search and  see All Items or just Full Text items
  40. Can refine your search to selected authors, publications, locations, languages, types of books or journals, etc.
  41. Items are downloaded as pdfs with the text-layer, so they are searchable, but OCR might not be completely accurate; can build your own collection of downloads from them    
  42. See Search Tips at  for helpful advice
  43. If you are with a partner institution (many universities world-wide), log in from them to get more results, but you can get many results without being logged in at all and can log in from Google, Facebook, etc. - see 

  45. HQO is a genealogy database only available to use at home through a library's website when they have a subscription and many U.S. public libraries do have such subscriptions; check your state and local area
  46. For information about HQO see -- it contains all U.S. Censuses, a large genealogy book collection, U.S. Revolutionary War records, U.S. Government Serials, and more
  47. In Utah you can get to it with any public library card through ; with a Washington County public library card you can use 
  48. HQO is owned by Ancestry and uses that same search engine; Proquest used to own it  
  49. HQO has more than 40,000 FH books in pdf format
    1. Can search their entire online collection for any name, word, place, etc.
    2. 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 into one pdf; you may have to OCR it to make it text searchable  


  50. For LDS history and family history books see many links on my LDS and Utah Records notes on
  51. The free book program CALIBRE ( ) will search many free websites including Internet Archive for words in books 
  52. Digital Public Library of America --  and -- an umbrella organization to list all online digital items in America -- see FAQ at  
  53. World Public Library -- -- commercial site; more than 2 million book pdf's online
  54. WorldCat by OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) -- -- searches library collections of 10,000 libraries worldwide 
  55. Project Gutenberg -- -- 42,000 free ebooks and an additional 100,000 through their affiliates
  56. Virtual Reference Shelf by the Library of Congress --
  57. University of Texas --
  58. University of Pennsylvania Library -- -- lots of early LDS books and periodicals; also see their Books Page website -- -- major list of book websites and indexes
  59. World Vital Records --
  60. Mocavo -- -- Do a search, then click on Documents (left hand side) -- recently bought by FindMyPast
  61. Feedbooks - Public Domain Books --
  62. Free History and Genealogy Books Online --
  63. Genealogy Book Links -- 
  64. List of 40 ebook websites --
  65. DjVu Books --
  66. FullBooks --
  67. World E-Book Fair --
  68. --
  69. ReadPrint - Free Online Library --
  70. Forgotten Books Online --
  71. e-Books Directory -- -- many good pdf format text, math, science, and other books
  72. Online Books eTexts/eBooks --
  73. To find many other such websites do searches for things like “free online full-text books genealogy” (without the quotes) in search engines like

  75. Kimberly Powell article on sources of online books --
  76. articles --  and
  77. USA Today article on Online Books (13 Jul 2010) -- 
  78. pdf Search Engine -- very helpful for genealogy
  79. e-Book Search Engines --
  80. 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"

  82. To find a book online check several websites since none lists everything and the same book may be available elsewhere; maybe even for free 
  83. Helpful to attach links for sources in online books to people in FamilySearch Family Tree, but tell why you are linking and include page numbers  
  84. There are millions of free genealogy and other books to read online and/or download.

  85. Return to the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page or Don Snow's Class Listings Page .