Amazing how quick the weeks go by when you are enrolled in the 52 weeks to better genealogy challenge. I love doing the challenges, but I am not so good on writing up the results. Challenge 4 was exploring a library’s inter library loan (ILL) policy and how you can use ILL’s for genealogy research. As a librarian I was aware of this and have used it on many occasions in the past. However I looked through some new references on one of my convicts and there is a book I haven’t read so I will be getting my local library to get it in for me.
Challenge 5 was to explore WorldCat.org which I was aware of but don’t use nearly enough. As the challenge said, WorldCat is a massive network of library content that anyone can search for free. Not every library participates but it is still useful for locating which libraries may have a particular book you are after. Then you may be able to request the item on inter library loan depending on where you live and who holds the item. The challenge was to explore WorldCat and see how relevant it is to your own research.
I am researching a Trevaskis family from St Hilary, Cornwall who migrated to Australia in the 1860s so I simply entered the surname Trevaskis into WorldCat. There were 202 results in 42 seconds which is pretty quick. Obviously it picks up any books written by authors with the surname Trevaskis but I was surprised to see Item No 7 by Bessie Trevaskis – A Bush Girl: The Story about Life in the Otway Ranges Between 1897 and 1912 published by the Apollo Bay & District Historical Society in 2001. I know some of the Trevaskis family settled in the Ballarat area of Victoria and I don’t think this is a connection but it is worth checking out further.
Item 12 was Trevaskis – Directory of a Surname by published by AE Trevaskis and RJ Trevaskis in 1973 and I purchased a copy of this book in 1977 when I first started researching my family history. When I entered Australia into WorldCat it told me that there are 4 libraries in Australia that hold it – the National Library in Canberra and the State Libraries of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. So if I didn’t have my own copy, I could go along to the SLV and see it. Interestingly I used to work at the State Library of Queensland and I know they had a copy of it but they may not contribute to WorldCat or they have lost their copy. I made a note to explore this further but found the answer at item 16 – SLQ has a copy that was published only in the USA.
I didn’t want to go through all 202 entries so in the Refine Your Search option it said there were 4 in the Biography category so I selected that option, one of which was the Bessie Trevaskis story mentioned above. Other ways to refine the search include Topics, Language, Year, Audience, Content, Format and Author. The family histories were under the topic History and Auxiliary Sciences.
Another surname I am currently interested in is Cree so I tried that and had 27,739 hits which was too many so I added Devon (where the family are from). This returned 9 hits and a reference to the Cree Family History Society which I then Googled. This turned up not only the Cree FHS but a one name study and various other Cree links so lots to explore online now without even having to go to a library.
Because three times proves it, I then searched for Rosewarne, another one of my Cornish families from St Hilary (it helps if the surnames are unusual). There were only 558 results and Item 10 was Romance of the Rosewarnes: An Ancient and Modern History of the Rosewarne Family of Kadina, South Australia. I purchased this book in 1979 when it was first published. It is held in six Australian libraries – the National Library of Australia, the National Museum library in Canberra, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide University, State Library of NSW and University of Melbourne. So you can see the diversity of libraries that are linked to WorldCat.
There were 17 entries for Rosewarne after refining the search to History topic and most of these were family history related with reference to Canada, Cornwall and Australia. Another short list of books to follow up when I have time!
These three examples show the value of using WorldCat to help identify published books on families that you might be researching. It can also be used to find places and other topics. I searched for Brackley Northamptonshire and turned up 123 hits but all the books were held in the UK. There were 31 Internet references which were mostly photos. When searching for a place you also get references to maps which can be useful.
In short WorldCat is a wonderful place to lose a few hours but the chances are that you will also find some interesting items to assist with your family history research. If you haven’t tried WorldCat you are missing out!