Real Books and Fake Books--A Guide to using Google Books and WorldCat

Today I want to post about a match made in heaven. If you want to move into a position where you can do genealogy yourself, instead of paying someone/something else to do it for you, these two tools are pretty indispensable. 

Thor thinks your brick wall is LAME!

If only, right?

If we're going to have the success we want in our research, we need to embrace both old and new technology. When we're able to navigate them both, it helps us to have the maximum number of results.

The first tool is Google Books. There are plenty of tutorials on how to use Google and Google Books in genealogy. It helps you find digital copies of books. For clarity purposes, I will call these fake books. Here are some YouTube videos that explain how to navigate fake books if you need a place to start. If not, skip this part and go to....

This one takes less time to get a basic idea of what Google Books is and how to use it. However, Google Books has changed a lot since this video was made, so what you will see when you are using the site is different.

This tutorial is much more up to date and inclusive. It's a little long, but he covers all of the functions of Google Books and how to read fake books.

Here... This next tool will help you find real books in the libraries closest to you. It's called WorldCat.  Every fake book you find in Google Books is linked to WorldCat. WorldCat will allow you to search millions of libraries all over the world to find real copies of those same books.

Let's say you were looking in Google Books and you found a copy of a real book you really want to use. I'll show you one of mine, The Bartlett Tree & Thee by Hope Bartlett Taylor.

 On the left hand side, there is a link that says Find in a library. Click on it, and it will take you over to WorldCat.

It will take you to a page that looks like this.

At the bottom of this page, you will see a Find a Copy in the Library section. It's the second thing I have circled in green above. If you continue to scroll, you will find a list of all the different locations closest to you which have a copy of that real book. Make sure that the zip code or postal code listed there is the most accurate one in relation to where you are living, or your results will not be as accurate.

World Cat has a useful feature where it allows you to add your results to a List, organized however you may wish. You can organize it by surname, by time period, by project, or by the library which has the real book. If you look at the image above, you'll see another green circle around a link for Add to List. Click on it, and this screen will appear.

An orange box appears, and this is where you can make a new list, right from your search result. You can also add this result to a list you have already created. Make sure you have either logged in or have created a log-in username for this site, or you won't be able to save your list.

Type the name of your new list in the box where the green circle is. I prefer to organize my results according to the library which holds the information. Now if you wanted to add that result to a list you have already created, you can do that by clicking on it in the list inside the orange box.

There are two organization methods I would recommend. Organize your list either according to your family surname, or according to library. If you list it according to library, you will have a complete list of all the books you need in that location. You can print the list and take it with you. The problem with organizing your list this way is if you forget for which family you wanted the book. (I did that once.) That was how I discovered that when you go to your actual list, there is a note feature for each book where you can record that information.

To get back to your list, log in and click on your name at the top of the screen. Your lists will be in the middle of the screen, under a heading that says Lists. Click on the list you want to view.

Note how the list page has your results. Under each result, there is a little Note button. Click on it and add whatever information will help you remember why you wanted the real book. If you organize it by library, it may be helpful to include the names of the family members that appear in it. If that's too much information, you can use the name of the county or state together with the time frame of the information included in the real book.

Some people like to keep all their lists together with the rest of their research notes in a tool like Evernote or OneNote. Personally, I find using WorldCat to be easier for me because I think there are better ways to use my time than copying and pasting information. Plus, as new copies of the real books are purchased, or old copies are moved or removed, you'll have the most up-to-date information available to you in WorldCat.

As you build your WorldCat lists, pay attention to other libraries that may not be the closest, but may also have the real books you want to use. If you can identify one library that appears for all of your real book results, it may be better to make one longer trip to a single library than five or six shorter trips to smaller libraries. You have to be the judge of that for yourself. As you can see, I had an extensive list going for the Library of Congress because it had all of the books I was looking for. But as I kept searching and finding more obscure real books, I noticed that the New York Public Library had just as many of the results--including some things the Library of Congress didn't have.

I keep both lists updated with the real books I find. That way, whenever the opportunity presents itself to make either trip, I will be ready.

Some of you will want to note that the real books from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City do not appear in WorldCat. They have their own websites here and here which you can use to search their collection. Those sites don't have a list function, but I could just as easily create one on WorldCat! Note that on the second link, they are beginning to digitize and make fake books too!

Times are changing. Those who like to keep their work strictly old school with real books are going to miss out on so many opportunities they will never even see passing them by. Those (like me) who have been relying too heavily on the digital tools are missing out as well, wasting time doing work that has already been done, making the same mistakes that have already been made.

To be a more complete genealogist means to change with the times in appropriate ways. Using Google Books and World Cat wisely has helped me to achieve that balance more completely.

 And now, as a reward to making it to the end of this post, here's something that can make us all feel better.