Using Genealogy Gophers as a Research Tool

Most of our genealogy research follows the conventional wisdom of starting with what you know and linking back one generation at a time by linking documented facts together.  It is ok to break with tradition, occasionally, when you find a free database on the web you can search for surnames.  The potential for making a big discovery far outweighs the time spent searching.

Genealogy Gophers is a websites that allows free searches of its massive database of genealogy related books.  According to their website, “Genealogy Gophers provides you with access to one of the world’s largest collections of online, searchable, genealogy-only books and other family history publications.”

Through their partnerships with FamilySearch and many other major genealogy libraries across the country, they have access to more than 80,000 genealogy related books and are adding more all the time.  They act as sort of a middle man, pointing to digital books that mostly physically reside on partner websites.

In case you were worried about copyright issues, the books in their collection have either been knowingly released by their authors into the public domain or are old enough (published prior to 1923) that they are no longer protected by U.S. copyrights.

Business Model

You may be wondering how Genealogy Gophers is able to provide you with free content and powerful search tools to help you find your long-lost ancestors without requiring direct compensation.  At first, they relied solely upon revenue from ads displayed on the site and Google Consumer Surveys.  Now, they ask you to donate to receive unlimited access to view and download books.  You can still see search results and access a limited number of books each month for free.

Using Genealogy Gophers

You can do two types of searches on the website: for people or books.  To search for a person, enter any combination of name, date range, place or relative names.  You can also search for a book by supplying a title, author, publisher, subject or description.  The user interface is clean and simple to use.  Once you locate an item that interests you, click the title of the book or the thumbnail image.


Websites like GenGophers allow you to cast a wide net when searching for resources about your ancestors.  This website allows you to see actual images of book pages with your text matches highlighted and allow you to download complete PDF versions of many books.  As long as websites of this type allow free searches via the web, you would be wise to take them up on it before they decide to change their charging model.

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