Unlock Hidden Family History Gems with these Free Genealogy Resources in Libraries

Welcome all genealogy enthusiasts in search of African American family histories.

Whether you are a newbie to the African Diaspora trail searching or a veteran who can quickly guide through genealogy online searches.

Let’s get started:

My all-time favorite source: Public Libraries

For those who know, it’s your county library system.

Since I am based in the Atlanta area, I regularly utilize the Fulton County Library System that serves Atlanta and 12 other cities. It includes the historic Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History. The collection was a trailblazer among library systems in the United States when became the first public library in the Southeast to provide archival and reference materials that focused on the historical aspects of African American culture. In 2016, it re-opened after a $20 million renovation.

I am also a member of the DeKalb County Library System,  which is located in the metro Atlanta area.  My unique setting is that I have an Atlanta address while being situated in DeKalb County. Why are libraries my all-time favorite genealogy sources? It’s simple. Libraries are as close as down the street from your home and are long-time collectors and organizers of information that are useful to the general community. Holding residence in a community allows most persons to receive a “free” library card and that leads to access to other free online sites such as Ancestry.com, HeritageHub, Census.gov and thousands of more.

Libraries offer free and fee-based genealogy researchers, lectures, linkages with genealogical societies, affinity groups that include ancestry researchers and myriads of other free and special offerings. Other notable library sources for African American ancestry researchers include:

Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Its Fred J. Reynolds Historical Genealogy Department is a centerpiece of the library with special collections of African American and Native American genealogies.   Wikipedia describes this historic collection of genealogy materials best. The Allen County Public Library houses  “the largest public genealogy department in North America, home to more than 350,000 printed volumes and 513,000 items of microfilm and microfiche.[4][5] Only the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a private institution, is larger.[6] Allen County Public Library is also a partner of WeRelate, a collaborative online genealogy database currently providing access to over one million records and two million person pages.”

One of my favorite quasi private/public libraries to visit is the National Museum of African American History & Culture Library. Spoiler alert: It takes 2 – 3 days to fully tour and experience the museum and library. It is focused on African Diaspora and African American culture, history, and lots of displays. I especially appreciate its collaboration with an ancestry research service and the U.S. Census to offer genealogy and family history assistance.

The National Archives Black History collections are my epic winners for original, unusual, and special research in areas that include photographs, military, culture, and state, regional mega libraries and archives. Its online resources offer federal and non-federal associations, groups, agencies.

The U.S. Library of Congress, Washington, DC. This free public library is a collection of libraries within libraries. Its African American History Online resources are phenomenal in that many of the documents are originals, or primary, as it is notated in the library collections. Its extensive pictorial, other artifacts, books, audio and video recordings, and so many more rare resources are widely available through the LOC.

Denver Public Library, Denver, CO’s Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library  is the creation of the city’s first African American Mayor, Wellington Webb and his wife, Wilma Webb. They wanted to highlight the history of African Americans in the American West. From the couple’s 1999 conception of it, the library collection opened in 2003 and serves as a research library. It states as its mission, to “collect and preserve the history and culture of African Americans in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain West.”

The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture is the New York Public Library’s research library. Named for Afro-Puerto Rican Scholar, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the library is situated in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The massive library and archive collections has five separate divisions that provide superior data, visuals, and other resources for African Diaspora descendants who are interested in global historical facts. The library is also known for hostings celebrity and local creative artists, art exhibitions, theatrical events, and notable discussions.


Other Public Libraries featuring African Diaspora Research, Archives

The point of this blog is to heighten your interest in utilizing research libraries to gain free resources. Please search for great research opportunities in special collections in both public and private libraries.

Bonus freebie

The National Genealogical Society offers a free membership for senior citizens 65 years and older. The membership value is up to $100. Check out how to take advantage of this offering:


Happy researching!