Have You Used the FamilySearch Digital Library?

Here is a quote from https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/:

“The Family History Library sponsored by FamilySearch is the largest genealogical library in the world. The Family History Library is actively digitizing its family histories, local histories, and other collections to make them searchable and available online to researchers worldwide. Together with other world-renowned genealogical research partner libraries, the Family History Library is pleased to make its collections and its partners’ collections available together in the new online digital library.

“The FamilySearch Digital Library offers a collection of more than 440,000 digitized genealogy and family history books and publications. Here, you can dive into family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines, gazetteers, and even medieval histories and pedigrees! “

Indeed, I have used the FamilySearch Digital Library a number of times and have been pleased with the results. Of course, I probably could have achieved the same results had a I purchased airline tickets to Salt Lake City, spent money on taxis or Uber, spent money in hotels and restaurants for a few days, and paid whatever other miscellaneous expenses are incurred on a multi-day trip. Besides that, such a trip also involves an “investment” of several days of my time. There has to be a better way.

The FamilySearch Digital Library is available free of charge. That’s great, but the real “bottom line” financial benefit is even more impressive. Remotely accessing the Digital Library actually SAVED me hundreds, perhaps a thousand, dollars or so when compared to the traditional method of using my hard-earned money to pay for a trip to Salt Lake City to use a library there.

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Note: “A penny saved is a penny earned” is a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but it appears that he never wrote those exact words. Instead, he originally wrote, “A penny saved is two pence clear.” Later, he wrote a version closer to the saying we know: “A penny saved is a penny got.” He never used the word “earned.” However, a number of other authors have written the familiar version, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

The digital library at https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/?cid=bl-fsb-8007 is a powerful resource for finding family history books and learning about families and places all over the world. Not only are the books and microfilms stored in Salt lake City, but digitization is also taking place at other major genealogy libraries, including:

Allen County Public Library (ACPL) Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Arizona State Library

Southern History Department of the Birmingham (Alabama) Public Library

BYU (Brigham Young University0 Family History Library

Houston Public Library

Dallas Public Library Genealogy & History Division

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Midwest Genealogy Center of Mid-Continent Public Library (MGC

Onondaga (New York) County Public Library specializing in the history of Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York State, the New England States, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Ontario Ancestors (The Ontario (Canada) Genealogical Society)

History & Genealogy at St. Louis (Missouri) County Library

University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries

Searching the FamilySearch Digital Library also includes searches of all the above libraries, resulting in saving even more money: I don’t have to travel to all those libraries!

There is one major downside, however: the digitization of the genealogical works at all of these libraries is still a work-in-progress effort. That is, none of the libraries have yet had all of their collections completely digitized. Digitizing crews are presently active in these libraries and more digital documents are being added weekly to the FamilySearch Digital Library’s web site. If you don’t find what you seek today, come back again every month or two and search again. The information you seek may have been added since your last search.

You can find the FamilySearch Digital Library at https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/?cid=bl-fsb-8007.

To learn more, you need to read the articles in the FamilySearch Blog at: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/.

To access the library, follow the instructions at: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/family-history-books/.

Have fun at the (digital) library!


Unfortunately, the search function is so poor, it’s extremely difficult to find relevant material without a lot of scrolling through lists.


    Caroline, very true, if I put in a particular county and state name, it brings up everything but what I am looking for.


Could not enlarge copy so I could read what I found. Could not download entire pdf file, just one page.


I found a book I was interested in and was able to download the entire file.


I am very grateful to have access to the digital library. I have used it successfully many times. Yes, I have had to scan through unindexed collections. Most recently I located information in tax lists and probate records. A plus is that there is no cost.


Remember the family history books on the first floor at Salt Lake are gone, and are now digitized. I always look in the catalog online to see if a certain name has already been published. And this is where I put my own books that I’ve done on Family Tree Maker for anyone looking for it years from now – I want it found – my work is not on Ancestry or Family Search but can be found in my own format in their digital catalog. In fact, I just found my friend’s grandmother’s family notes that she did in 1918 which I brought up to date in FTM format.


I was disappointed to find that about 75 % of the 300 results to my first query were “protected” and could not be viewed.


    —> I was disappointed to find that about 75 % of the 300 results to my first query were “protected” and could not be viewed.

    Not being able to easily view records that you know are available elsewhere is always a major disappointment. However, we all must also realize there is a very good reason for these limitations.

    Due to legal issues, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Findmypast, Ancestry.com, and all other online sources of genealogy information may only make records available online when they have LEGAL PERMISSION FROM THE ORIGINAL SOURCES OF THE INFORMATION.

    In almost all cases, the information collected by these online sites came from government agencies, religious organizations, various societies, and other online archives of historical information. Years ago, FamilySearch sent teams to these various archives and asked permission to microfilm these record collections. A few years ago the acquisition teams switched from microfilm to digital cameras.

    IN ALL CASES, at the time the original records were microfilmed or digitized, a written, legally-binding agreement was signed by both parties (FamilySearch and by the archive that has possession of the original information). These legal documents specify what FamilySearch (or MyHeritage, Ancestry.com, Findmypast, and others) may do with the information. Can they give the information to the general public? Is the information to be made available only to relatives of the person(s) listed? Is the information to be kept secret for 72 years? Or 100 years? If the information came from a religious organization, should access to the information be restricted to members of that religion? Are there other requirements?

    In all cases, the written agreements provide the rules over both online and offline availability of the information. FamilySearch and the other providers MUST abide by the written agreements. There is no other choice.

    Agreements made in the past few years usually include provisions that specifically allow or prohibit online distribution. However, older agreements that were signed years ago, before the invention of the World Wide Web, usually don’t mention online distribution at all. These older records, usually on microfilm, MAY NOT be placed online without an updated written and signed amendment to the original agreement(s).

    FamilySearch’s employees have gone out and contacted the holders of the older written agreements and asked for written permission to place these older images online. In most cases, the current managers of the original archives have given permission but there have been a few exceptions. In some cases, managers of older archives cannot be found today. Perhaps the archive is out of business or has had a name change or has since been merged or acquired by a different organization or perhaps the managers have reasons to not give permission today.

    Sometimes, the original archive has already placed the same information on their own web site and may even charge a fee for access. As a result, they will not sign a new agreement that allows for free access to the same records that are now a source of revenue for that archive.

    While most of the older records are becoming available online, there are exceptions and I suspect there will always be a few of those.

    In these cases, you usually can go (in person) to a Family History Center near you or to the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City to view the records because written permission for that access was given many years ago. Despite that, if written permission has NOT been given for online access, FamilySearch has no option other than to restrict online access to whatever is allowed in the (old) written agreements.

    Obtaining agreements for online access is an ongoing activity. FamilySearch has not given up. FamilySearch representatives today are still contacting various archives and other holders of old records, negotiating new or updated agreements.


    There are many affiliate locations where you can view records that are digitized and online. For instance, I just visited the Minnesota Genealogical Society (I joined but you can pay a small fee to research). I brought my laptop, logged onto their WiFi, and was able to view Digitized films from a parish in Scotland!


Thank you for your comprehensive reply.


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