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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

How to Find and Search Books on FamilySearch for Free

Do you like free genealogy resources? If so, check out the FamilySearch Books resource with digital genealogy books, histories, and periodicals. Then, attach your discoveries to the family tree and organize your family history research.

How to Access the FamilySearch Digital Book Collection

The direct link to the digital library books is simply

Or, you can use the menu bars to navigate to Search > Books.

Search Digital Books For a Surname

Most of us want to find our family in published books and journals. On FamilySearch, it's easy. Type in a surname. In this video, I shared several examples of books and periodicals I discovered after typing "Geiszler."

Be advised. You won't always find books that say, "The Family History of Joseph Geiszler." That would be too easy.

However, I should probably share the book I wrote with FamilySearch about Joseph.

You might find something like the title The Grueneich Family Tree. Although that surname may not seem applicable, look at the description after clicking on the book title. Review the terms in the subject field. Perhaps Geiszler appears as a subject and warrants further investigation.

You might also see some periodicals, such as The Humble Area Genealogical Society newsletter. When I clicked through to the newsletter, I saw my article about visiting George Joseph Geiszler's gravesite. Periodicals might have your ancestors, so do not overlook these entries.

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Fingers typing on keyboard with title 10 Online Genealogy Resources You Have to Try

How to Navigate the FamilySearch Digital Book Viewer

Once you find a book on FamilySearch, how will you navigate it?

First, you must sign in to FamilySearch. Then,

  • Click on the book's title of the book.

  • Check the Book Access Level:

    • Public or Full Permission: You can view the book online.

    • Limited Permission: You can view the publication online but can not print or download it.

    • Member Permission: You may view the digital book at the Family History Library, a family history center, or the partner library.

    • Protected: You cannot view the book online.

  • For books you can access from home, click on " View All Pages."

Currently, in the book viewer, you'll see a menu bar above the item with navigations back to the book search results. You'll also see options to see the previous and next results. These navigations apply to the initial book search results, not search results within the item.

FamilySearch Book Navigation Bar
FamilySearch Book Navigation Bar

The bottom menu bar has several icons. Become familiar with them. You can always hover over them to find out what they do.

  • Thumbnail - this looks like a nine-square icon. This tool will give you snapshot views of the pages within the book. From there, you can click on individual pages to view them. You'll find this helpful when looking for when chapters begin or to find maps.

  • Facing Pages - This is a three-block icon. It will show two facing pages.

  • Picture - a single rectangle icon. This view shows you one page at a time.

  • Information - the circle with an "i" inside opens a panel with the citation information.

  • Print / Download - The square with an arrow into it icon takes you to the screen to print or download the book or individual pages if allowed.

Additional icons appear at the bottom. Refer to this page to learn more about them, or again, hover over the icons for an onscreen text prompt.

How to Search Within a Book

The beauty of digitized books is the ability to search the text!

Use the magnifying glass icon in the bottom menu to open a search panel.

  • Type in a search term, such as the surname Geiszler.

  • Click "OK"

You may see search results with snippets of text and page numbers. Click the text block to jump to the referenced page.

In this video, I further walk you through navigating the entries. You'll want to pay attention to how to jump ahead in an online book.

What Books Should You Search

There are several types of books that appear in the FamilySearch digital library. Try these terms in the search box:

  • Surname + Location: for example, Townsend Family + New Jersey.

  • Record Types: such as probate, land, city directory, or tax records. For example, probate + Essex County.

  • Specific Book Titles: Search for a full title such as The Comfort Families of America or a partial title like "Reinhold and Matthew Marvin family."

  • Churches: St. Mary's in Elgin, Illinois, or Catholic Church in Fort Wayne.

  • Ethnic groups: Any ethnic group plus a location makes a great search term, such as Native Americans of New Mexico.

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How to Save Book from FamilySearch Digital Library to Family Tree

When you want to save an entry from the Digital Library to the FamilySearch family tree, it's not as easy as clicking a Save to Tree button.

Instead, follow these steps:

  • In your browser's search bar, copy the URL for the page.

  • Find your ancestor's source's page in the family tree.

  • Click Add Source.

  • Click Add New Source.

  • Under Web Page (Link to the Record),

    • click the dot beside Web Page URL.

    • Paste the URL in the field.

  • Complete the remaining Source citation field using information from the book found on FamilySearch.

  • Enter a reason to attach the source.

  • Click the boxes beside each event the book page references.

  • Click Save.

There are many things I could tell you on what to do to find your family in the books on FamilySearch. But I think that's enough to get you started.

If you have more questions, make sure you put them in the comments section below. Also, share with us the type of books you're finding in the FamilySearch Digital Book collection. When I know what other people have seen, they give me more ideas for my research.

For more FamilySearch Tips and Tricks

Read the following blogs for more tips on using FamilySearch

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