A FIM system integrates data from a plurality of interconnected local databases to provide users with access to a virtual database. The FIM includes a user interface for generating a global query to search the virtual database, a smart dictionary database (SDD) that contains configuration data, a data information manager (DIM) that decomposes the global query into local queries, and a plurality of local information managers (LIMs) that execute the local queries to search for and retrieve data from the enumerated databases. A filter generates a list of those local databases that contain information relevant to the global query. As a result, the DIM only generates local queries for the enumerated local databases. An input translator converts the global query into the respective local formats for the local databases so that the FIM provides true integration of heterogeneous databases. An output translator converts the data retrieved from each local database into a uniform i/o format so that the data presented to the user is integrated. The user typically selects the i/o format as his or her local format or a global format associated with the virtual database.