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.”
Other 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.
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.
Now this is a fun find and I had a great time playing with it. Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome! I can’t wait for them to add even more books!
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.
That’s great! (And isn’t “finding the time to read” always the challenge? 😉 )
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…
Thanks for the post…will be trying this next.
Love, Love, Love this site. Found lots of good info and I have only entered one surname. Can’t wait to search the rest.
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.
thank you for sharing this, very excited about spending some time here.
Thank you Amy! What a nice review!
I’m continuing to work on the site; searches should get even better over the next several months.
Thank you for building such a great site!
Thanks, Amy for the great review.
Thanks for posting this, Amy. I spent about 3 hours yesterday checking this out! Sigh. The laundry will always be there!
I’ll have to try it again. I tried it last week and spent about 10 minutes and didn’t find anything related to my family. I know that isn’t much time to try and give up, but I’d tried multiple people. Thanks for sharing your review.
Great review. Are most of the books American? Thanks.
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.
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!
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.
I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/03/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-march-13.html
Have a wonderful weekend!
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Hi Amy, This is very helpful. Thank you for posting it. I wanted to let you know that I’ve included it in my NoteWorthy Reads post this week: http://jahcmft.blogspot.com/2015/03/noteworthy-reads-6.html.
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