Monday, July 18, 2005

Getting to those obscure surname books

RE: OCLC What is it and how can it help genealogists?

Well, you've done it again! Now I know a lot more about this valuable tool and found that I should have asked you first! I did try questioning two different reference librarians as suggested by Walt Stock, but that wasn't successful. I can't wait to try accessing the system as you and Kevin Beach outlined.

Myrt we do have one tiny little point of disagreement. I see OCLC as something far more useful to genealogists than a "last resort" tool. I know there are a few, very few, libraries that will lend the very valuable original old genealogies published in the mid to late 19th century. The short list I have of OCLC microfiche contains only those publications. For example, where could I find a copy of one fot he books I would find most useful in my research "A Historical and Biographical Genealogy of the Cushmans.......," by Henry W. Cushman, 1855? OCLC has it on it on 7 fiche under their no. 11822646. Or another, "Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America" by John H. Bliss, 1881 - OCLC #17237957, 10 fiche. Or another that Kevin Beach might also be interested in "The Beach Family in America," by Elmer T. Beach, 1923 - OCLC #17224185, 2 fiche.

I'll report back. -- Thanks for the help.

My previous columns did not mean to put down OCLC by any means. You are absolutely right about searching for a surname book using any library catalog (or OCLC) to locate that obscure, one-of-a-kind book. This IS an important thing for genealogists to do. Now that catalogs are online, this is a much easier task to accomplish. May I recommend searching every 6 months, in case additional items have been cataloged that might aid your genealogical research? Keep a "major surnames I'm working on" checklist, and work through it routinely.

OCLC is the original source for searching multiple library catalogs at once. I was accustomed to doing this through, where library catalog material is derived from OCLC. I think that Yahoo (or Google) is easier for the average person to use, because you don't need to sign in as a "member library" as with OCLC. The OCLC website explains this "Open WorldCat" approach: "A Web user visits a site such as Yahoo! Search or Google and enters a search phrase that matches the title of a library-owned item. The returned search results include a link to the Open WorldCat "Find in a Library" interface, where they can enter geographic information that helps them locate the item at a library in their city, region or country."

When planning a research trip to several towns and counties, I would typically work through individual library catalogs that I located through, because the libraries are in the same places where I plan to do courthouse and cemetery research.

Please DO tell us more about ordering the microfiche you found listed in OCLC. I wasn't aware that OCLC was actually creating the microfiche of old books, but I could be wrong. I see "your" microfiche as similar to any other library materials listed in OCLC. It’s a matter of borrowing the item through the local library system, IF both libraries participate in the ILL Inter Library Loan program.

By the way, to newbie researchers: some major genealogical collections, such as the FHL Family History Library, do not lend books. The FHL will lend microfilm and microfiche copies when available. In this last case, you'd need to check the surname section of the FHL Catalog online at: and order the material through your local FHC Family History Center. The FamilySearch website also contains a searchable listing of FHC addresses.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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