FamilySearch Family History Books was created over 10 years ago to facilitate usage, sharing, and preservation of genealogy and family history books, said Dennis Meldrum, partnership manager for FamilySearch Family History Books. Dennis spoke to the topic “Finding and Sharing Your Family’s Story in Family History Books” at the 2015 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.
The Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU), forerunner to FamilySearch, was organized in 1894. By 1907 the GSU library contained over 800 books. By 1920 the library contained over 5,000 books. In 1928, Boston bookseller, F.J. Wilder, wrote, “Within ten years your Society is destined to become the largest and strongest in the world…You will see in years to come people from all parts of the West and the East flocking to your city to spend days and weeks studying.”
FamilySearch Family History Books (FHB) at books.familysearch.org has 55,000 visitors a month, with 30% coming from outside North America. It has 220,000 books.
FHB contains many compiled family histories. In 2012 managers questioned the value of family history books compared to vital records. FHB did a statistical analysis to determine the average number of names on a page and how many already existed in FamilySearch Family Tree. They found that the average book contained 11.5 names per page and only one-third were in the New FamilySearch tree (now Family Tree).
Back when the library microfilmed books, it would not keep them. As FHB has scanned books, most have come off the shelf, some for copyright reasons. FamilySearch lawyers have said that a library’s fair use rights allows scanning copyrighted books so long as only one person is allowed to view the book or its copy at one time, and access is restricted to the library or a family history center or an affiliated library. Consequently, once scanned, copyrighted books are removed from the library, but are preserved in case FamilySearch ever has to show that they own a copy. Only one person can use the digitized book at a time unless the author has given permission otherwise, or the book is not protected by copyright. Even though FamilySearch could legally do so, it does not digitize copyrighted books whose author or publisher has requested their books not be digitized.
FHB has 14 digitizing operations throughout the United States. They have 36 production scanners, with over 150 volunteers who work more than 90,000 hours each year. FHB has just 5 professional staff.
Opportunities to volunteer are available at many locations. Volunteers don’t have to work full time. You need basic computer and internet experience. Good eyesight is critical.
- The largest scanning center is in West Valley, Utah. There FamilySearch has two full time missionary coordinators and over 50 church service missionaries working part time.
- There is a need for a couple of volunteers in Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- They need a couple at the Midwest Genealogy Center at the Mid-Continent public library in Independence, Missouri.
- They need a couple at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- They need a couple now in Syracuse, New York at the Onondaga County Public Library and will need another in January.
- They need volunteers in Pocatello, Ogden, and (maybe) San Diego.
In 2014, FHB had 16.9 million images, 185 million names, and 67,700 books. That was a 69% increase over 2013. The main goal for 2015 is to improve the user experience. They want to get a new book viewer. On FHB today, you have to download an entire book. By contrast, on Internet Archive you download one page at a time, which gives a much quicker user experience.
Dennis demonstrated how to use the FHB website. I’ve already written about that. See “FamilySearch’s Electronic Books - #BYUFHGC” on my blog.
FamilySearch’s Record Search does not currently search FHB. Record Search depends upon fielded information. FHB book indexes are every-word indexes that are not fielded. FamilySearch is performing a pilot where several stakes are creating fielded indexes so they can be searched in Record Search. Record Search will then be able to reliably find people mentioned in FHB’s digitized books.