Explore the Collection

Our Genealogy Collection, located on Level 9 of the Central Library, is the largest and primary genealogy resource in Washington State and consists of more than 40,000 bound volumes as well as periodicals, pamphlets, and microfilm. Read historical and census records, immigration lists, military records, genealogy guidebooks on various topics, and more. The reference collection is not available for checkout but can be used in person during Central Library open hours. Circulating handbooks on genealogy are available for check out.

Genealogy Librarians offer free one-on-one help with your genealogy and family history in-person, on the phone or virtually. You can request an appointment with a genealogy librarian who can help direct you to the best resources for your research. After you submit a request we will contact you to schedule a time for your 30-minute appointment.

Preview the Collection

Materials in the Genealogy Collection are discoverable using the library’s catalog. Use these strategies to search.

Finding a book about your family: Using the library’s search field use the drop down menu to select ‘Subject’ and enter the family surname + the word family. For example, Abbott Family.

Finding a book of records:  Using the library’s search field use the drop down menu to select ‘Subject’ and enter the place + the kind of record. For example, Maine births

General search to see what we have on a topic: Using the library’s search field, type in your keywords. For example, genealogy DNA

Use your Library card to research the past online with historic books, periodicals and records through HeritageQuest online. Delve into historic newspapers via America's Genealogy Bank, The New York Times (1851-2011), Seattle Times (1895-Current) and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (1901-Current). Review Sanborn maps (1867-1970) of Puget Sound and other North American communities. Explore genealogy records from around the world using Ancestry Library Edition in a library branch.

About the Collection

The Genealogy Collection officially began in 1926 as the Seattle Genealogical Society (SGS) collection. They had no place to keep materials so the Library agreed to house them. Many of the items in that collection are still at the Central Library. In the 1950s the Washington State Library gave all non-Washington genealogical materials to the library with an agreement in place that the library would be main genealogical resource in Washington.

The collection has largely grown through gifts and donations, and in more recent years, through purchases with library funding. In the early years, the library accepted nearly anything donated to the collection. The collection includes genealogical and historical material from the U.S. states and territories, the Canadian Provinces, the British Isles, and a variety of other places. It also includes handbooks and other resources to support researchers with ancestors from all over the world.