There’s a problem with OCR (optical character recognition). Yes, it helps us find text that is buried deep in the pages of an unindexed book or newspaper. The problem is that OCR is literal. Search for “William” and it will look for “William,” but not “Wm.” (Did you just think of how many references to your “Wm.” you’ve missed over the years? Kinda scary, isn’t it?)
That’s where Genealogy Gophers (gengophers.com) comes in.
What Is Genealogy Gophers?
Genealogy Gophers is a new (FREE!) site developed by Dallan Quass, the mastermind behind WeRelate.org. Dallan is one of the sharpest, smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. So when I saw that he had a new site, I had to check it out.
The site searches 40,000 genealogy books that have been digitized by FamilySearch. Most are books that were published prior to 1923. They range from county histories to city directories to family histories. There’s a little bit of everything.
Using Genealogy Gophers
It is super easy to use — just type in a name.
There are two ways to search: Texts and Titles. If you want to look for references to your ancestors, start with the Texts search. You’ll need to enter either a first name or a last name. You can narrow your search by entering a place, time period, and the names of relatives (great for helping you narrow down your search for those ancestors with common names.)
Here’s the cool part: It’s smart about how it searches. I did a search for George Debolt. With other full-text searching, if I searched for George Debolt, it would give me just that — pages with “George” on the same page as “Debolt.” Genealogy Gophers does that, but also finds “Geo” and “G.”
Searching by Title
This is kind of a misnomer. Yes, when you search by title, it includes the title, but it also includes the description. You can find some real hidden gems this way!
I did a title search for Sherrick family. Here’s one of the results:
The title is History of the Stemen Family, but there are enough Sherricks in the book that they were added as a subject. If the Sherricks I’m researching had ties to the Stemens, this is a book I want to look at!
Looking at the Books
You found something you want to look at (chances are that you will!) Click the title of the book or the thumbnail image. You’ll be taken to a page like this:
Genealogy Gophers uses Google Surveys to generate revenue. (They have to pay the bills somehow!) For each survey completed, they get a nickel. You should get a survey once a day; if you get one every time you try to read a book, check out their FAQ page for steps to fix it. (Also, they are considering an optional annual fee for those who don’t want to answer surveys.)
After you fill out the survey, you’ll see the image. If you had done a text search, it would take you to the specific page you found. If you had done a title search (like with the Sherrick family), it would take you to the title page.
While you’re looking at a book, you can do a search just within that title, using the search box above the image. You can also download the entire book as a PDF.
Genealogy Gophers is easy to use and gives great results. They already have 40,000 books and are planning on adding another 60,000 in the coming months. Its intelligent approach to full-text searching will help researchers find things that have previously been hidden by traditional OCR. For the price of filling out an occasional survey, Genealogy Gophers is well worth your time. Go dig in!
I used to be an admin on WeRelate and I know Dallan personally. However, he did not ask me to do this review, nor have I been compensated in any way for doing so.