How and Why to Use Genealogy Gophers

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 ( comes in.


What Is Genealogy Gophers?

Genealogy Gophers is a new (FREE!) site developed by Dallan Quass, the mastermind behind 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.

Genealogy Gophers search box.

Genealogy Gophers search box.

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.”

genealogy-gophers-geoOther full-text searching would have missed this entry because it isn’t exactly “George.” I cannot stress how super cool this is!

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.


The top of the image page allows you do do a search just within that book. You can also download a PDF of the entire book.

My Review

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.

24 thoughts on “How and Why to Use Genealogy Gophers

  1. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

    I tried the site out several days ago. I don’t know why I chose the ancestor I did but hit the jackpot! Honaker Family in America (book) and Honaker Family Newsletter 1992-2008. I was missing newsletters for 1992-2003. Now I only need to find some time to read.

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      That’s great! (And isn’t “finding the time to read” always the challenge? 😉 )

  2. Celia Lewis

    Oh dear – first I lost a weekend to free FindMyPast, and now I’m going to lose more hours on this site!! Oh well – a lovely way to be on the hunt! Thanks Amy – I had heard about the site, but was hoping someone would do a review first…

  3. Tina

    Love, Love, Love this site. Found lots of good info and I have only entered one surname. Can’t wait to search the rest.

  4. Charity Johnson

    Thanks Amy. For the blogging, I “totally” tapped into Internet Library Archive for some of the same (Open Library), but getting the information is more hit-or-miss with that. The search tools look fantastic! Can’t wait to try it out.

    1. Gail Dever

      Re my earlier comment, in the FAQ, I just read that the repositories are all American, which sort of answers my question above. I expect the majority of sources are American, but you never know what you will uncover until you search.

      1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

        True, the original repositories are all American, but many of them have an international scope to their collections. You never know what gem will pop up!

  5. gengophers

    We’ll be adding another 60,000 books over the next few months. They’re coming from the same sources as the current 40,000 though, so mostly American. I’m looking for sources of out-of-copyright books covering Europe. I’d appreciate any leads if anyone has them.

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