Saturday, September 15, 2007

Using Ancestry's BGMI has the Biography and Genealogical Master Index in the Reference and Finding Aids section of its Historical Records collection.

The database description on Ancestry says:

"This database is a compiled index to millions of Americans who have been profiled in collective biography volumes such as Who's Who in America, Women of Science, Who's Who of American Women, National Cyclopedia to American Biography, Directory of American Scholars, and American Black Writers. It includes information first published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to providing the individual's name, birth, and death dates (where available), the reference to the source document is included."

Obviously, this could be an important resource for finding 20th century persons, especially those who might have been in professional occupations or were notable in the arts, sciences, sports, entertainment, etc..

Here is an example of an entry in the BGMI (I was surprised to see this!):

Name: Seaver, Randall J.
Source Citation:
American Men & Women of Science. A biographical directory of today's leaders in physical, biological and related sciences. 21st edition. Eight volumes. Detroit: Gale Group, 2003. (AmMWSc 21)

So how do I find this particular entry in a copyright protected book? I could go to the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) Online Union Catalog - called WorldCat ( . When I do this, and input the title into the search box, I get a list of 42 libraries that have this work, listed by distance from my zip code.

Unfortunately, the closest libraries with this particular volume are the Santa Monica Public Library in Santa Monica CA (128 miles away) and the UCLA library in Los Angeles (also 128 miles away).

So how can I obtain this entry in the book? The possibilities include:

* drive to the Los Angeles area and visit the repositories.
* Go to my local library and see if they can obtain the volume by Inter-Library Loan (ILL).
* Contact the distant library by mail or email and see if they could make a photocopy of the article for me.
* Enlist a local genealogist society member to obtain the item for me
* Enlist a volunteer from the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness site ( to obtain the item for me.

I checked the Chula Vista Public Library online catalog for their holdings of "Who's Who ..." books available. They have a fair collection, but by no means a complete collection that covers the volumes and years that are mentioned in the BGMI for some persons.

Frankly, I don't remember submitting my biography to be published, but I imagine that I did submit it several years ago. I hope it is useful to my descendants! If they can find it - in Los Angeles, Malibu CA, Casper WY, Oklahoma City OK, or any of the other repositories that hold that particular volume.

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