Google Books Just Got WAY Better! New Features Tutorial

Google Books Just Got WAY Better! New Features Tutorial

Show Notes: I’m excited to share with you my favorite new tool at Google Books. This is a game changer for utilizing the information you find on the digitized pages. Plus I’ll show you other new features recently added to Google Books

Why use Google Books for genealogy? Well, Google Books features over 10 million free digitized books, most of which were published prior to 1927. That makes Google Books a gold mine for genealogy research. And when you visit Google Books, think “published on paper” NOT just books! In addition to books, the collection includes newspapers, magazines, journals, almanacs, city directories, catalogs, court papers and so much more!

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Why use Google Books for genealogy?

Google Books features over 10 million free digitized books, most of which were published prior to 1927. That makes Google Books a gold mine for genealogy research. And when you visit Google Books, think “published on paper” NOT just books! In addition to books, the collection includes newspapers, magazines, journals, almanacs, city directories, catalogs, court papers and so much more!


Access Google Books at

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members.

Filter to Free books only

  1. Conduct a search.
  2. On the results page look for the filter menu. If you don’t see it, click the Tools
  3. Click the down arrow for Any View
  4. Click Full View
  5. Now your results list only include free fully digitized materials.

If you haven’t been over to Google books for a while, this is going to look a little bit different. A while back they launched a new user interface. They’ve now made some improvements. The main difference is we’re going to see this menu along the bottom of the screen.

My favorite new feature: convert image to text

Before we even look at the new menu, I promised you my favorite item that they have added to Google Books.

In the upper left corner, click the three vertical dots icon. This reveals a menu that gives you access to a lot of items that typically are kind of ‘behind’ the book. If you were to close this book, you would see the catalog entry for it.

New menu at Google Books

New menu at Google Books

My favorite new feature here is View as Plain Text. Click the toggle button to convert the entire book to plain text. This makes the digitized images of the pages usable in many other projects and programs. Google applied optical character recognition to the books to be able to read the words on the images to make the books keyword searchable. In the past, we had to use the clipper tool to capture a bit of the image and convert it to text. The box was really small and inconvenient. This new feature provides the ability to instantly use as much of the text as you want.

Convert image to text new feature in Google Books

Convert digitized books to text in Google Books

Because this book is fully digitized, it’s already been cleared for copyright. These books are in the public domain. They are available to use for free, copyright free. You are free to copy the text and include it in your projects, in your genealogy database, in a family history book, and so on.

Download a book

Back over at the three-dot menu in Google Books, you can also:

  • download the book as a PDF or EPUB for free,
  • find the book in a store, if you need a hard copy
  • find the book in a library at WorldCat.

Keyboard Shortcuts Hot Keys

Another new feature is keyboard shortcuts.

Google Books shortcuts hot keys

Google Books shortcuts / hot keys

Find Book Catalog Entry

I mentioned that the catalog entry for this book is sort of ‘behind’ the book. To access that, click the X in the upper right corner of the screen. This removes the view of the book. We haven’t lost access to the book. You can still access it by clicking the blue Read free of charge button.

The nice thing about the book catalog entry page is that it contains all the details about the book such as where you can purchase it, finding copies at the library, and additional editions.

Source Citation Tool at Google Books

Also on the catalog entry page is the Source Citation tool. Click create citation to reveal the options. Click the desired style, and then copy the citation and paste it in your family tree database, or other places where you are referencing this book. So, there’s no reason not to cite your source for any book found at Google Books. Source citation is very important, because down the road you might discover something more about your family and realize that you need to access that book again. Without the source citation you may not remember where you got the original information. The source citation is your breadcrumb trail back to the previous research that you’ve done. Also, if anybody ever has a question about what you have put in your family tree, you can point them to the sources that you used.

New Google Books Menu

The final new feature at Google Books that I wanted to draw your attention to  is the main menu for this item. It used to be at the top of the screen, but now you’ll find it at the bottom. At the top of the screen, we now have a search box that allows you to search the entire Google Books collection. But oftentimes, when you’re looking at a book, you’re going to want to be able to search for particular names, places, dates, events, topics. You will find the search field for that in the new menu at the bottom of the screen. Type in names or other words and press enter. You’ll be given all of the pages in the book that mention those words. Also, in this menu are:

  • zoom buttons,
  • chapters menu (if available for the book you are viewing)
  • page views (single, side by side or thumbnails.)

Clip and download an image from a book

Also in the new menu is the clipper tool. The materials in Google Books contain maps, drawings, photos and many other types of imagery that you may want a copy of. Or perhaps you just want an image of a section of text. The clipper tool allows you to capture it and save it to your computer as an image file.

  1. Click the scissors icon, and your mouse cursor will turn into a clipper.
  2. Draw a box around the desired area
  3. In the pop-up box click to copy the link to the clipped image.
  4. Open a new web browser tab and paste the link. (You can also paste the link into notes in your family tree, and other programs and documents.)
  5. Press enter and the image will appear in the browser tab.
  6. Right-click on the image.
  7. Select Save Image As to save it to your computer’s hard drive.

There you have it, some of the exciting new features over at Google Books. There’s never been a better time to search for information about your family history in Google Books.


AI Update! And should you use ChatGPT or Bard for genealogy research? Audio Podcast Episode 278

AI Update! And should you use ChatGPT or Bard for genealogy research? Audio Podcast Episode 278

AUDIO PODCAST SHOW NOTES: Get the very latest on the major update Google has made to Bard, and the answer to the question “Should I use Bard, ChatGPT, or any of the other chatbots for genealogy research?” I’ve got some surprising answers for you!

Listen to the Podcast Episode

To Listen click the media player below (AUDIO ONLY):

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You can watch the video version: SHOCKING RESULTS! Should you use AI Chatbots for Genealogy?

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Download the handy PDF show notes that complement this podcast episode. 

Also covered in this episode: Google just announced an update to Bard. New features include:

  • Pin and rename conversations
  • Export code to more places
  • Share responses with friends
  • Images in prompts

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Clean Up Your Act! How to start cleaning up your genealogy database.

Clean Up Your Act! How to start cleaning up your genealogy database.

Live Show 7/13/23. PREMIUM Show Notes: Genealogy clean-up is a challenge we all face. In this episode of Elevenses with Lisa, we’ll talk about how to start and execute a family tree clean-up plan.  I’ll be using RootsMagic as an example, but the plan can be applied to any family tree, whether in another genealogy database software program, or online.

Watch in the Player Below

The video replay is available immediately after the live show ends. You can watch it in the video player below. You can join the conversation in the Comments section at the bottom of this page. 

Show Notes

Genealogy clean-up is a challenge we all face. It varies depending on how we got started in genealogy and our habits along the way. If you started before the internet, then likely you started on paper and eventually used a genealogy software program. If you started after online trees began, chances are you started with an online tree, and you then may have seen the wisdom in getting your genealogy into a software program on your own computer. I still consider having your master family tree in a software program on your own computer the best practice. Along either of these paths, our genealogy skills have increased. So, we can always look back at things we did in the past – or didn’t do – and see room for improvement and clean-up.

Some of the most glaring issues can include a lack of source citations, or irregular data entry that happens over the years, or from trying to import your online tree into a database. While that option is possible, it’s not ideal. And genealogy companies aren’t in the business of facilitating that. They obviously would like you to work solely on their website.

A recent email I received from a Premium Member named Rebecca illustrates many of these points. She writes:

Rebecca’s Question

“I started with version 7 of RootsMagic when I was beginning to do genealogy research. I downloaded my tree from and have since learned about citing sources. My RootsMagic tree has a number of errors and lacks a lot of citations, and I’d like to fix it now that I know more about good genealogy practices. Also, I  switched to version 8 but have never felt comfortable with it.

Now RootsMagic is on version 9, which I don’t have yet. I don’t know whether it makes sense to upgrade to version 9 and start fresh with a new tree that is not carried over from Ancestry, fix the tree I have in version 8 first and then upgrade, or fix the current tree once I have upgraded to version 9? What do you suggest?”

My Answer:

Let me first address the question of whether to stick with RootsMagic 8 or upgrade to version 9.

There isn’t one right answer, but I can tell you what I would do. I would stick with version 8 and get used to it. It’s always challenging to change versions, but version 8 was a total rewrite of the program, and in the long run, I do like it better. Version 9 is not a full rewrite. It includes tweaks and new features. Unless one of the new features is a “must-have” on your list, I wouldn’t worry about it right now, particularly if you are hesitant about the cost.

An easy way to figure out if you need the changes that are included in Version 9 is to check out RootsMagic’s video What’s New in RootsMagic 9? You don’t have to watch the whole video. Instead, click the video description below the video on YouTube and you will see the “chapters” that describe each of the new features. This will quickly give you a list of the features without having to watch the entire video. 

Don’t delete your existing tree. I would use the tree I currently have in RootsMagic, start with myself, and go through each generation filling in gaps and fixing issues. The advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to stop everything and not do additional research or “fun stuff” until you’re done. Clean-up should be an ongoing part of our research, so we need to pace ourselves and still have fun!

I did ask Rebecca what it was about RootsMagic 8 that she wasn’t comfortable with, and it was mostly centered around the struggles of converting her online tree data into the program, particularly media and source citations. If it were me, I wouldn’t try to do anymore “converting.” Re-entering the source citations will give you a chance to review them and make them consistent. And when it comes to media like attached photographs, this is a great opportunity to attach the ones you have control over on your own computer. And to download any photos from your online tree that you don’t yet have on your computer. We may not have a subscription to that genealogy website forever, and in fact, websites may not be around forever. But we do have control over your computer files and passing them to others.

Since Rebecca’s question involves RootsMagic, and that’s the program I use, my examples will be in RootsMagic. However, the process and the criteria for decision-making along the way is universal. Even if you use another genealogy database, this session will give you lots of ideas of tools to be looking for in your genealogy software.

Goal Setting

I always like to think consciously about what my goals are before I take on a big project. That way I don’t get too sidetracked, and it doesn’t drag on forever. You can do clean up in phases or stop everything and do a total cleanup. Either way, you will want to do regular maintenance clean-up as you research.


  • Accuracy
  • Verification of the pedigree chart.
  • Being able to continue to have fun doing research.
  • Decide the degree of perfection vs. time.

One question that plagues most genealogists is whether or not they need to go back and add a source citation for every item in their database. Or perhaps you’re worried that your source citations are inconsistent. We want to do our best work, but we also want to be realistic about our time and our personal reasons for doing genealogy research. Here are some of the top reasons to stop everything and go back and cite every source:

  • You feel like you’re done and don’t need to continue researching
  • You want to publish a book about your family.
  • You are just about ready to hand off your research to the next genealogist in the family.

There is no one answer that is right for everyone. And that’s OK. The important thing is to think through your goals and make a conscious decision about what’s best for you.

If you don’t want to stop researching and only work on sources, but you do want to dedicate a portion of your time to making improvements, then you’ll need to decide which ancestors you are going to focus your citation efforts on. Here are factors to consider when deciding where to spend your citation efforts:

  • Ancestors or facts you’ve had doubts about.
  • Ancestors with extremely common names.
  • Ancestors with very few records or known facts.
  • If no particular area of your tree is screaming for citation attention, start is on the first ancestor going back in time starting with you, that you did not know personally. Also, concentrate on citing direct ancestors as far back as you’ve taken your tree. Then go back and fill in the citations for collateral people.

We’ll talk more about sources and other specific tasks in a moment. But first, you need a way to keep track of your clean-up project.

Keeping Track of Your Progress

Database clean-up is a big job no matter what degree of perfection you decide on. It’s very unlikely that you will complete it in one sitting. That means you’ll need a way to track your progress so that you don’t miss things or duplicate your effort.

Over the years I’ve heard a variety of methods for doing this. You could track it on paper, but that’s not that easy to do – it’s not very visual – and paper gets lost.

I’ve seen videos where people suggest adding dots or emojis to ancestors. That’s OK for this project although if the person’s name is long the dot might not show up in the pedigree view of your family tree. And worse yet, at the end of it, you have a database or online tree full of dots. If you have 1000 or 5 or 10 thousand people in your tree, that’s a ton of work to remove those when you’re done.

In Ancestry, you could add a tag, but that tag is only meaningful for this clean-up project. What about a year from now or later down the road when you realize there’s something else you missed or need to clean up throughout your tree? Tags can get confusing. So, I’m not a big fan of adding any markings or artifacts to your tree no matter where it is. I think of this clean-up project the same way I do about a research project. And that means we need a research log of sorts suited for what we are tracking.

When faced with a question like this, I think about the tools I have at my disposal, and which is best suited for the job. I like the idea of being able to see visually the pedigree chart and my progress. I use Snagit, which is a screen clipping program, to grab an image of my pedigree chart. Then once in Snagit, I can mark it up and make notes about my progress to my heart’s content. (Get Snagit with my 15% off coupon code: GENE15)

If you don’t use a web clipper tool with annotation capabilities, another option is to generate a Pedigree chart report in your software. You can print that out, or Print-Screen it on your computer and then bring that into a program that allows you to annotate it. (In RootsMagic’s menu click Publish > Reports & Charts > Pedigree Chart.

General Genealogy Database Housekeeping

I’ve been working on my clean-up plan. My data goes back to the Generations software of the late 1990s, so there are definitely some issues! Here are some of the basic things I focused on:

  • Set Root Person (Me)
  • Clean up names and add Alternative Names correctly
  • Add a profile photo for each ancestor
    • Fixed old image file extensions
    • Enhanced / Improved photos
  • Standardize place names. RootsMagic will prompt you when entering place names (no forced standard – the software decides, or you can decide)

Your time is limited, so going back and adding a source for every “fact” in your tree at this time may not be realistic or desirable, depending on the goals you set. So, in addition to these basic clean-up tasks, here are some of the other top things to be tidying up:

  • Add Birth, Marriage Death records for every direct ancestor. (Preferably, everyone!)
  • Add clarifying notes. (Hypotheses, nicknames, questions you still have, etc.)
  • Make sure you have at least one census record source cited for every ancestor. The census is a common thread and will help others who review your work to know which “Martin” family you think are your Martins.

Using The Software Program’s Cleaning Tools

RootsMagic’s DataClean provides two parts, NameClean and PlaceClean, which will go through your names and places looking for things which may need addressing and will optionally fix the issue for you.

  • DataClean is intended to point out possible issues that you can choose to either fix or ignore.
  • NameClean has an additional option where you can select the people to clean. This lets you focus on a smaller group of people. You choose the people to be cleaned from a list of named groups which you have created.


NameClean looks for problems to clean such as:

  • Names in all uppercase
  • Improper spacing
  • Improper punctuation
  • Misplaced prefixes
  • Misplaced suffixes
  • Misplaced nicknames
  • Alternate names inside a name
  • Invalid characters
  • Abbreviations
  • Descriptions instead of names
  • Wife shares husband’s surname
  • Improper capitalization

You can choose whether to clean just the person’s primary name or also alternate names. Activate NameClean by clicking the Tools icon in the upper right corner of RootsMagic, select DataClean from the menu, and in the dialogue box click NameClean.

RootsMagic will display a list of any names where it detects one of the selected problems. When you highlight a name in the list, RootsMagic will show you the name as it exists in your database, as well as the “cleaned” version of the name.

You can choose to accept the suggested changes by check-marking that row. If you only want some of the suggested name changes, uncheck problems at the bottom of the NameClean screen and that particular correction will be removed. You can deny or accept RootsMagic’s suggestions, as well as edit them. You can also manually edit the “Cleaned Name” and RootsMagic will make those changes for you if you check that row also.


PlaceClean looks for problems to clean such as:

  • Names in all UPPERCASE
  • Improper spacing
  • Improper punctuation
  • Blank pieces
  • Improper capitalization
  • Invalid characters
  • Abbreviations
  • Misplaced place details

You can also choose whether to add or remove countries from places, and whether to replace <brackets> with something else. Activate PlaceClean by clicking the Tools icon in the upper right corner of RootsMagic, select DataClean from the menu, and in the dialogue box click PlaceClean.

RootsMagic will provide you with a list of places where it detects one of the selected problems. When you highlight a place in the list, RootsMagic will show you the place as it exists in your database, as well as the “cleaned” version of the place. You can choose to accept the suggested changes RootsMagic by check marking that row. If you only want some of the suggested changes, you can uncheck problems at the bottom of the PlaceClean screen and RootsMagic will remove that particular correction from its suggestion.

As with NameClean, you don’t have to accept only what RootsMagic suggests. You can manually edit the “Cleaned Place” exactly the way you want it. RootsMagic will make those changes for you if you check that row.

If you clean a place to make it exactly match another place in your file, you might end up with duplicate copies of the same place. If that happens, do Lists > Place List from the menu and use the place merging features to combine the duplicate places.

Additional RootsMagic Cleaning Tools

RootsMagic has tools to help you check and clean-up your database. If you don’t use RootsMagic, look for tools like these in your program’s menu and documentation.

To access RootsMagic’s database tools, select the File page, then Tools. Tools include:

  • Test integrity– Checks that the basic structure of your data file is ok.
  • Clean phantom records– Cleans up phantom records of various types, such as blank children in a family, families with no people in them, etc.
  • Compact– Removes deleted and unused records from the database, saving space by making it a little smaller.



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