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3 Things to Know About Using Hathi Trust for Genealogy Research

3 Things to Know About Using Hathi Trust for Genealogy Research

Are you using the website Hathi Trust for your research? Hathi Trust's mission is "…to contribute to research, scholarship, and the common good by collaboratively collecting, organizing, preserving, communicating, and sharing the record of human knowledge." They do this by providing digitized books and periodicals scanned from partner institutions. Like any website, diving in and exploring is a great way to learn more, but here are three things you need to know as an introduction.

Hathi trust

#1 Hathi Trust is a collaborative website

Two hundred member libraries worldwide help Hathi Trust users access 18 million digital items. Member libraries include "research libraries, community colleges, liberal arts schools, government agencies, and more." If you want to see if one of your local libraries is a member, visit their Member List web page.

#2 Membership has its privileges

Hathi Trust is not a subscription website. Individuals cannot pay for a subscription. Users accessing Hathi Trust from a member library or with a library card from one of those libraries benefit by being able to download digital items and having access to the entire collection. Don't worry if you do not have institutional access. 40% of Hathi Trust is available to anyone. You do not need to sign in to the website. This chart on the How to Search & Access web page breaks down what public users can and cannot access.

Hathi Trust chart

One tip I have is that because Google digitized 95% of the collection if you come across an item you cannot access, go to Google Books and see if you can find it there.

To learn more about accessing the collection, see the web page How to Search & Access:

#3 Hathi Trust is more than books, but it's not Internet Archive

Unlike Internet Archive, Hathi Trust does have limits in regards to what materials are available. Hathi Trust includes "Books and book-like items. This includes books, magazines, newspapers, sheet music, journals, and government documents. (There are no audio/visual files.)" Internet Archive is a collaborative website, but anyone, libraries, museums, and even individuals, can contribute. Internet Archive also includes video and audio files.

Hathi trust search

To start searching Hathi Trust, consider a keyword you want to use. This could be an ancestor's name, a location, or any keyword that describes them or their life. Search using the top search toolbar. Once you have your results list, use the left-side menu to narrow or focus your search. You can also access an Advanced Search tool at the top of your results page.

Access to multiple digital collection websites can help you find the needed resources. If you haven't used Hathi Trust before, try it and see what books you can find that can help with your research.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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