Thursday, February 4, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Week 5

We are already on week 5 of 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy, a series written by a vertically challenged book nerd and graciously hosted at

This week's task is as follows:

Play with WorldCat is a massive network of library content that the public can search for free (user name and password not required). Not every library is a part of WorldCat, but the vast size of the network makes it an important genealogy tool. If you are looking for a specific book or publication, enter the identifying information into the WorldCat search box and see which libraries hold the item. You may even find that you can get the item through your library’s inter-library loan program. Don’t forget to search for some of your more unusual surnames and see what comes up. The goal is to play with WorldCat and examine its possibilities for your own research. If you’re already familiar with WorldCat, play with it again. The network and collection grow and change constantly. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with searching WorldCat for this exercise

One reason I wrote this task was to introduce others to the magical WorldCat tool. The other reason I wrote it was to force me to spend some time browsing the site without a specific search need. I always go in to WorldCat, get what I need and leave. This task made me explore more, and I found some real gems.

1. I found my mom's dissertation. The school where she got her doctorate has a copy in the library.

2. I put the surname "Baerecke" in the search box for fun. There were articles and books authored by people named Baerecke, but I found something else. There was a publisher 190 years ago in Eisenach, Germany named Baerecke. Well, I have clues that my own Baerecke came from Eisenach in 1850, so there's an avenue to explore.

3. I found a music file for a song written by someone with the surname Lenertz. The file was from an Australian Library and it's an old radio jingle. I've knew about the song, but it was really cool to hear it. WorldCat led me there. The jingle is for Aeroplane Jelly and it was written by Albert Lenertz. I have no idea if we're related or how. You can hear it too, at the official Aeroplane Jelly web page (the song will start on its own).

4. For libraries and archives that don't have an online catalog (Louisiana, I'm talking to you), WorldCat is a great substitute. I plan on exploring these collections further, so I can finally plan a research trip to the LA state archives. 

5. I found several digital images through WorldCat. Again, I've been so busy just getting what I need from WorldCat, that I never really took the time to explore. I've had so much fun looking at old Louisiana pictures.

WorldCat also led me to an awesome newspaper find. It's so good, it's worth it's own post.

So what did I learn from my own challenge? Don't just go to WorldCat when you need to find something. Sometimes the best time to explore is when you have nothing to find. That's when the best treasures make themselves known.


  1. There are many libraries in Louisiana and they do have online catalogs.

    Which library would you be interested in?

  2. Hi Amy,
    I checked out and did a blog post about using it for my Quebec genealogy. What a great resource!

  3. Louisiana Genealogy Blogs,

    Thank you for the comment. I am referring to the state archives, and this page that states finding aids are not online:

    Nowhere on the Secretary of State web site do I see a search box. WorldCat has helped me visualize the Louisiana archives, and plan my research.

  4. I have been wanting to try it at a local university. I suppose I should before it closes in the next months to come for the summer. I was glad to see your article on it.

    And some kind of book loan or locator. Lke genealogy books from Madison or even Indiana libraries. good ones that you can not find easily.

  5. The Louisiana Secretary of State Archives holdings are NOT the Louisiana State Library Archives or the Louisiana Libraries holdings. Maybe you should look here for the Louisiana State Library online catalog:

    I hope this helps.

  6. Thank you for the clarification. This is the complete opposite of the information I was given at a NATIONAL conference. I'm kind of relieved.

    I need to go back and find that syllabus and check out the presenter. Maybe you should make a presentation setting the record straight. :)