Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday's Tip~Gettin' By With Help from Our Friends~Lisa-Dawn Crawley!

This week we hear from Lisa-Dawn Crawley of the LDC: The Zombie Genealogist

Tuesday’s Tips for Locating Elusive Books

AWESOME!! You have just discovered the existence of a book which has the potential to unlock the secrets of a family you are investigating! Cue that ecstatic, vigorous yet silent *HAPPY DANCE* for which every genealogist longs. Careful! Don’t throw your back out!! You want to be able to devour the thing as soon as possible, not be stuck in bed with your heating pad for weeks.

Okay, deep breaths to recover composure. Now, typing fingers ready! You just have to get your grubby little paws on those secret-laden little pages…

Soooo... your local library sucks; Chapters-Indigo and Coles’ shelves are frustratingly barren; Amazon offers everything including the kitchen sink but, of course, not the one stinking book that could make your entire life.

What now????  

When the usual sources don’t pan out, as they are wont to do -- don’t despair! Refrain from letting your anger out on that poor laptop! There ARE other tricks you can try.

1. Give WorldCat.org a whirl!

WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content. You can search this database by keyword, title or author to discover which libraries across the globe hold particular books, music CDs, articles, downloadable audio books, digital books and more.

There are many useful tools this site offers that you should play with; however, for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the search results. Not every single library in existence is a part of this database but comprised are many collections from all over the world, including traditional public libraries and university libraries. If you’ve registered and logged in as a user or input your location, results should come up in the order of closest proximity to you.

In order to access any materials that come up in your search results, you must download (if available) the digital version or check it out with your active membership to that particular library. Sometimes, it is possible and affordable to purchase a membership to a library that is not local to you; but what does a desperate genealogist do when that is not the case?
2. Look into an Interlibrary Loan (ILL), that’s what!

If your local library belongs to a broader but still local network, as mine does, you will be able to order items within that network to be delivered to your local branch for check out and pick up. For example, the library that is physically closest to me is one branch on a tree of connected libraries (additional branches) that service my city. I can order any item from within this city-wide system with my membership but, technically, this is NOT an interlibrary loan since the request comes from one of the many locations of the same library.

An interlibrary loan comes into play when you want access to items not held in the collection of your local library system. This is where, after double-checking that your local library does not have your item of interest, you would use the information you’ve found via WorldCat.

Talk to your local librarian or review the library’s website to determine how to submit your request and, if applicable, how many requests can be made at once. Depending on the location and availability of your desired item, your library’s ILL service’s delivery can take a broad range of time (ie, from three to eight weeks) and be free or fee-based. My library, for example, charges between $2 for a simple return postage fee to $40 USD to cover loan fees from some American libraries. International loans may be even more expensive but patrons will likely be informed of costs before they are committed to the purchase. Expect strict loan periods and steep fees for overdue items and loss or damage as this affects your library’s reputation as well as your own.

Researchers would be wise to look into all restrictions on their local ILL service which could vary according to individual library policy and staffing issues. In particular, researchers should be aware that some items may be marked for “in library use only” which means that items cannot be taken out of the physical library location. In such circumstances, photocopying services may resolve this problem.
3. The Family History Library (FHL) catalogue and/or your local Family History Centre might also come in handy!

You might discover that the holdings of the Family History Library may show up in your WorldCat.org search results. In order to access these items, you will need to make a request through your local Family History Centre (FHC). There are almost 5000 individual centres in about 134 countries around the world, so I’m willing to bet that there is probably one fairly close to you.

Use the FamilySearch.org website to locate the Family History Centre (FHC) closest to you. Though all connected to the FHL in Salt Lake City, FHC’s are locally operated and supervised; therefore, facilities and resources differ by location and can range broadly in service ability and hours of operation. So, to avoid frustration and wasted time, you will want to contact your local centre in advance of visiting.

On top of access to what is available via the FHL catalogue (which researchers can search directly by clicking here: https://familysearch.org/catalog/search), each FHC usually has its own collection of location-specific materials and resources of interest to their particular patrons. For example, here in Ottawa where there is a large Irish immigrant population, the local FHC has a large collection of local Irish resources. Such special collections may include copies of rare or privately published books (like the one you’re looking for!) that could help your research but may not be found commercially.  You will want to make a point of investigating these special collections which may or may not be connected to the main FHL catalogue or otherwise searchable.

For more tips on how to locate elusive books, look for upcoming posts on Lisa’s blog.

Lisa-Dawn Crawley is the voice of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa’s member exclusive monthly eNewsletter. She also serves as BIFHSGO’s Youth Consultant and as part of their social media team. Lisa’s life-long interest in genealogy culminated in 2010 when she located and introduced her stepgrandfather's “first family” to his “second family”. 
Now, LDC finds herself working toward multiple certifications from the National Institute of Genealogical Studies with plans to graduate in 2017. A chronic insomniac, Lisa (aka The Zombie Genealogist) narrates this genealogical journey and her endeavours to bring the dead back to life on a blog of the same name. Her 2400+ Twitter followers enjoy a wide range of tweets illustrating LDC’s diverse background and interests.

Thanks so much for the fabulous book tips, Lisa!
What books are your favorite? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks so much for stopping by!


  1. Great post LDC and Cheri, great tips there. Thankyou.

    1. Alona, thanks so much for reading the post! Lisa's tips are great!

  2. WolrdCat.org is a great resource. Good to hear others using the site. That's a good tip.