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 Geneabloggers.com.
This week's task is as follows:
Play with WorldCat.org. 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.