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Explore your fam,ily history @ the Library! Charting your past: Your guide to the Tacoma Public Library's Genealogy Collection

The Tacoma Public Library's genealogy collection is housed in the Main Library's Northwest Room / Special Collections. Materials in this collection do not circulate.

The Library's collection contains more than 5,000 titles including bound volumes, microfilm, microfiche, compact discs, and periodicals.  Resources include: censuses (1800 - 1930), death indexes for Washington, Oregon, and California; local obituary indexes and city directories; passenger lists; county histories; maps; cemetery, church, courthouse, and military records; biographical indexes; family histories; books on names (both personal and geographical); and heraldry books. Some materials are available for virtually every region of the United States, Canada and several European countries. 

Although library staff cannot do the actual research for you, we will assist you in learning to use the extensive resources of the Tacoma Public Library as you embark on your voyage of exploration and discovery into your family's past.

Getting Started!

Genealogy is the study of family history and the discovery of one's roots. Tracing your family's ancestry takes basic research skills, patience and time. Start at the beginning - with yourself, and your generation. Then just keep working backwards - generation by generation.

Talk to your older relatives and ask about their own older relatives. Gather and document materials such as scrapbooks, photo albums, and military records to learn basic facts about family members. Document vital statistics, such as birth, marriage, and death information.

Organize your data as you go along. Take good notes and keep records of the resources you use. This will save time and avoid repetition as you continue your research in libraries, archives and county courthouses. Be sure to use a pencil as it's easier to make corrections and additions when you find new information. A variety of free forms are available to download here.

If you are new to genealogical research, begin by reading one or more how-to books, or visit an online tutorial. Here are some examples to get you started:

(To check availability and location, please search our online catalog)

Family history 101 : a beginner's guide to finding your ancestors
Melnyk, Marcia Yannizze. 2005.
929.1 M491F

Genealogy for the first time : research your family history
Best, Laura. 2003.
929.1 B464G

Unpuzzling your past : the best-selling basic guide to genealogy
Croom, Emily Anne. 2001.
929 C882U4

Organizing your family history search : efficient & effective ways to gather and protect your genealogical research
Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo. 1999.
929.1 C21O

First steps in genealogy : a beginner's guide to researching your family history
Allen, Desmond Walls. 1998.
929.1 AL53F

Ancestors : a beginner's guide to family history and genealogy
Willard, Jim.1997.
929.1 W661A

Finding Oprah's roots : finding your own
Gates, Henry Louis. 2007.
929.1072 G223F

A genealogist's guide to discovering your African-American ancestors : how to find and record your unique heritage
Smith, Franklin Carter. 2003.
929.1 SM56G

Black roots : a beginner's guide to tracing the African American family tree
Burroughs, Tony. 2001.
929.1 B945B

How to research American Indian blood lines : a manual on Indian genealogical research
Carpenter, Cecelia Svinth. 1984.
NWR 929.1 C225H

Free Online Guides for Beginning Genealogy Research

Introduction to Genealogy: an online course

Genealogy Learning Center

Beginner's Guide to Family History Research

Family Tree Maker's Online Genealogy Courses

Tacoma Public Library subscription-based online databases (requires valid TPL card):

Ancestry.com (available in the library only, or by personal subscription from home)

HeritageQuest (available in the library, or from home with a valid TPL card)

Internet Resources

There is a wealth of genealogical information on the Internet. This list is not comprehensive; rather, it is designed to be a good place to start and will lead you to other, more far-reaching sites.

Popular genealogy website with links to both free and subscription databases, research guides, and an online community.

Cyndi's List
Comprehensive directory of links to a wide variety of genealogy websites.

Family Search
The official LDS Church genealogy website. Search the vast online catalog of the Family History Library, explore numerous indexes, find guides for getting started and free software downloads.

Inludes guides for beginners, an online community, and indexes.

The National Archives
Genealogy information from the U.S. Archives and Records Administration.

National Genealogical Society
National society for genealogists.

Other Community Resources:

Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 1952
Tacoma, Washington 98401

LDS Family History Center
5941 South 12th Street
Tacoma, WA 98465
(253) 564-1103 

National Archives - Pacific Northwest Region
6125 Sand Point Way N.E.
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 336-5115

Washington State Library
Point Plaza East, 6880 Capitol Blvd. Tumwater
PO Box 42460, Olympia WA 98504-2460
(360) 704-5221

Seattle Public Library
Genealogy Department
1000 Fourth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 386-4629


Last Updated 04.09.2013
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