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WorldCat is a cooperatively-created catalog of materials held in more than 10,000 libraries worldwide, including public, academic, state and national libraries; archives; and historical societies. These libraries have cataloged their regular collections as well as many special collections—including digitized materials—devoted to local history. This makes WorldCat a unique tool for your research into your heritage.
Because WorldCat is a "super" catalog of more than 1.4 billion library holdings representing more than 170 million items held in libraries, you can reduce the number of places you search to locate useful material. WorldCat complements tools such as the LDS Family History Library, Ancestry.com and ProQuest's HeritageQuest™.
Some examples of the types of materials you can find citations for in WorldCat:
Note that while many of the materials represented are held in U.S. libraries, there is a broad representation of non-U.S. materials from both U.S. libraries and non-U.S. libraries. For example, there are more than 69,000 non-English language newspapers cataloged in WorldCat.
Some of the most exciting things in libraries are the materials that were created locally and are now long out of print. With library digitization projects, or with most libraries being willing to photocopy or scan portions of materials, you can expand your access to research materials far beyond those libraries you can easily visit in person.
The easiest place to find WorldCat is at www.worldcat.org, on any computer with an internet connection. Simply enter your search terms and start getting results for libraries worldwide. You can then refine your query through the facets or scope results by geographies.
WorldCat is also available as a database within the OCLC FirstSearch reference service. Your library's Web site or workstations may point you directly to WorldCat, or first to OCLC or FirstSearch. You can ask your librarian or search your library's Web site, much as you do for Ancestry.com, HeritageQuest and other online genealogy resources.
Because WorldCat is also a general-purpose catalog, it may be listed under "Other Library Catalogs," "General Resources," or possibly with the other genealogical resources to which they provide access. In some libraries, a librarian might offer to search WorldCat for you, or give you instructions on how to use it.
WorldCat.org is free for anyone to use. You can create a personal profile on WorldCat.org, make lists, tag items, save complex searches, designate libraries as your “favorites,” contribute reviews and ratings—just to name a few!
The WorldCat database on FirstSearch is available exclusively through libraries or other organizations, and is not available for direct purchase by individuals. However, many libraries have access to it, and several states have purchased a WorldCat subscription for all of their residents. If you don't see it listed on your library's Web site, ask for it. The library may not yet have provided a link to WorldCat.
Finding materials in WorldCat is similar to finding materials in your local library catalog. Often, researchers can find pointers to useful material by simply searching for a family name or a specific location, alone or in combination with genealogy terms.
Learn more about options for genealogical research in the “Focus on Genealogy” Quick Reference PDF.
There are several things you can try: