LDS Family History Books Online
The LDS Family History Library has announced that it has begun the process of digitizing and making available on the Internet all of the Family History books in their collection. These are primarily books in the "929.273 Series" that are currently housed on the first floor of the Family History Library (previously housed on the fourth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building). At the present time (September 2005), about 5000 books have been digitized and are available, and they have announced that they are adding about 100 titles a week to the on-line collection. Copyright issues are playing a role in determining the order in which they progress through this task; books out of copyright are being done first.
As these Family History books are digitized and placed on-line, an entry is being placed in the Family History Library on-line catalog with a hyperlink to the digitized image. By going to the FHL On-Line Catalog, you can search for a specific name, find a book that has been indexed using the name, and view it on-line, flipping through the pages as separate "*.pdf" images, much the same as if you were on the first floor of the Family History Library. Of course, the indexing that is available through the FHL Catalog is only as good as the human indexers made it; typically they only include the "top" 4 to 6 names that appear in each book in their indexing efforts.
But there is even better news!
The digitized images of these Family History books are actually being stored on the electronic servers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. By going directly to the Brigham Young University web site to view the images, there are several additional possibilities that provide genealogists functionality that they have never had before. You are now able to do full-text searches on each book, and on every digitized book in the collection. Now you can locate the small two-paragraph entry on Grandpa Ebenezer McGarrah that is buried in one of the Family History books that you would have otherwise never thought to look at before. This can open up a huge new possibility for extending lines, getting past brick walls, and uncovering new relatives!
How to Find The Digitized Images?
Go to the web site of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University at http://lib.byu.edu and on their home page, follow the links "Find Other Materials/Electronic/On Line Collections at BYU". Click on the "Text Collections" tab and select the "Family History Archive" from the list of collections that are displayed. You may also go directly to the search page at http://www.lib.byu.edu/fhc .You would then normally want to use the "Search All" feature with the "Search Full Text" box checked, although the "Advanced Search" will allow very high-powered searches that will allow certain phrases to be searched for and other words to be used to exclude potential hits. As you make selections from the "hits" that are displayed, you will need to use the "Click Here to View Item" button near the top of the screen to display the actual image of the page. You can page through the entire document using the index displayed on the left side of the screen. Each page may be printed after being viewed.
One interesting sidelight is, when you are at the first web page for the Family History Archive (the page that lets you begin a search), click on the "Browse the Collection" button. This will display every Family History book that has been digitized and is available in the collection. You can scroll through this list much the same as if you were walking up and down the stacks at the library. At the top of the first page of the search results, it displays the number of hits, which (in this case) is the number of books in the collection. If you keep track of this number, you can get a pretty good idea of how fast they are adding titles to the collection as you revisit the web site from time to time. I think you will want to visit this site often as the collection grows!"