WorldCat is a powerful tool to have in your genealogy toolbox! Spend time exploring what it has to offer. 
Genealogy Resources

How To Use WorldCat For Your Genealogy Research

Starting out in genealogy, I set out to learn more about my great grandmother Esther Richardson and the Richardson family of Pittsylvania County, VA.  I was new to genealogy and loving every minute of the search for records. I also enjoyed connecting to other Richardson researchers.  (I am so appreciative of their help!)

One query into a Richardson forum returned an intriguing response. My Richardson family history was documented in a printed family history book titled The Collie Family of Pittsylvania County, Virginia: Their Scottish Origins, Relatives, and Descendants : Including Connecting Families of Cornwell, Jennings, and Richardson by Betty Cox Collie and Robert E. King.

Unfortunately, the book was out of print and I was unable to obtain a copy.

But I wasn’t done!

Off to WorldCat I went……

What is WorldCat?

WorldCat  is essentially the world’s biggest card catalog for books, articles, etc. Using WorldCat a genealogy researcher is able to search libraries around the world for family history resources to advance your research.

Using the Collie/Richardson family book above as an example, let’s take a closer look at how to perform a search using WorldCat.

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1.On the WorldCat homepage, type the title of the book in the search bar. 

You can type in a partial title or even just general search terms here. Not knowing the title of the book, I could have typed in “Collie Family Pittsylvania County VA” or some variation.

Screenshot of search box in WorldCat

2.The Results

Two results came back with the second result being the book I was searching.

Search results page for Collie family in Worldcat

Clicking on the result reveals the entry page for the book:

Family history book entry on WorldCat

I’ve found the right book….now how could I get my hands on a copy?

3.Scroll down the page to the “Find a copy in the library” section.

Search results for libraries in WorldCat

A list of libraries or repositories appears with the closest to your location at the top. If one of these libraries is close enough, a road trip is in order.  Often the closest library is still too far away to make a trip, but you still have options.

4.Inter-library Loan

If you are unable to travel to a book’s repository, contact your local city or county library and pursue an inter-library loan for the book you need.  (You do have your library card, right?) I have done this frequently with fabulous results.

Take your genealogy research a bit further by continuing down to the “Similar Items” section.

Similar Items section of WorldCat search results

Here you will find related subjects to search. Some you may be familiar with, but others you may not. This is a great place to expand your research possibilities.

Other Types of Information Searches Useful on WorldCat

In our example above, we looked at a specific book. Using more general terms, you can explore WorldCat for books and other material on:

  • Local area histories
  • Specific family histories
  • Records to Southern Plantations
  • Religious records in a region (Ex. Methodist records in Pennsylvania)

Tip: Your local librarian can assist you in searching WorldCat.

Your Take Away

WorldCat is a powerful tool to have in your genealogy toolbox! Spend time exploring what it has to offer.  Don’t hesitate to experiment with different types of searches.

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