How to use the FamilySearch.org Catalog
When is a catalog more than a catalog? The answer: when it is the FamilySearch.org Catalog. Obviously, the first use of any library catalog is to look up items that are in the library's holdings. But the FamilySearch.org Catalog is so much more.
Genealogists and family historians have as their main activity looking for and documenting their ancestors. So the Catalog needs to be a finding aid. This is more than merely looking to see what is in the Family History Library and other Libraries, in assisting in this way the Catalog becomes an integral part of the research process. If this type of use of the Catalog doesn't occur to you as being obvious, then perhaps you need to view the Catalog in a new way. Let's go through the processes and see how this works.
If I am in the Family History Library and want to find a book about the history of a specific county, say, Grayson County, Texas, I can search in the Catalog to see if there is such a book in the Library. Here is a screenshot showing the first of my searches.
I could also do a similar search under the subjects of keywords and titles. If I were in the Library, I could also physically go to the section of books for Texas and search mechanically through the titles.
Here are the results of the search:
Now, this listing does more than just show me what is in the Library. It also informs me of items that I may not have found by searching for keywords and/or titles. The last item on the list does not have the word "history" in its title. In addition, I have no idea what keywords were used for this topic. I did my search using the Place field. This gave me the broadest possible return of items that were associated with this particular county. I can now go to the individual entries and decide which of these items I want to view on the shelves.
When I click on the first item, I see the following:
This item is certainly in the Library, but I find out that the item is also available in a digital copy. When I click on the link to the digital copy this is what I see:
There are 54 other locations where the book is located. If I were not sitting in the Family History Library, this would be very helpful information. Even if I did not live near to any of the listed locations, I might still be able to obtain a copy of the book through my local library using Interlibrary Loan.
As I look down through the list of items for Grayson County, Texas in the Catalog, I find the following book published back in 1936.
Now I can go to the same to searches; Google and WorldCat.org. WorldCat.org is the largest, online catalog of libraries around the world with over 2 billion catalog entries (more about WorldCat.org and ArchiveGrid later). I find a large number of responses and a lot of additional books and records using the name of the book as a search term.
While I still have the entry in the Catalog, I can also view the list of other Family History Centers and Libraries that have the same item.
What I have shown so far is that when I find something I am interested in listed in the Catalog, I can then use the title of the items as a further search term to find even more resources than those limited to the Family History Library.
Here are the previous posts on this subject.