Family History and Genealogy Research Guide

Welcome to the Northwest Room's Family History and Genealogy Research Guide

Here you will find additional resources to assist you with your genealogical research.


Getting Started

Genealogy is the study of family history and the discovery of one’s roots. Tracing your ancestry takes research skills, patience, and time. Start at the beginning - with yourself, and your generation. Then 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. If you are new to genealogical research, begin by reading one or more how-to books, or visit an online tutorial. These can get you started:

Melnyk, Marcia Yannizze, Family history 101: a beginner’s guide 929.1 M491F / 2005
Best, Laura, Genealogy for the first time 929.1 B464G / 2003
Croom, Emily Anne, Unpuzzling your past 929 C882U4 / 2001
Szucs, Loretto, ed., The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy 929.1072 SO84S3 / 2006
Everton Publishers, Handy Book for Genealogists 929.1 EV27H10 / 2002
Smith, Franklin Carter, A genealogist’s guide to discovering your African-American ancestors 929.1 SM56G / 2003
Carpenter, Cecelia Svinth, How to research American Indian blood lines NWR 929.1 C225H / 1984


Genealogy Collection

The Tacoma Public Library’s genealogy collection is housed in the downtown Main Library’s Northwest Room. Materials in this collection do not circulate.
The 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 (personal and geographical); and heraldry books. Materials are available for virtually every region of the United
States, Canada, and several European countries.


Tacoma-Pierce County Obituary Index

The Tacoma & Pierce County Obituary Index contains thousands of records of obituaries and death notices published in local Tacoma newspapers. Please note this index does not provide full-text access to obituaries and death notices. The newspapers used for this index are available to search and view in Tacoma Public Library’s Northwest Room.


Genealogy Databases and Online Resources

The Library provides access to the following online genealogy databases:

Ancestry Library Edition (available in the library only)

Heritage Quest Database (library card required for access)

There is a wealth of genealogical information available online. 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 sources:

RootsWeb 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, and find guides for getting started.

The National Archives Few actual records are available online, but does include indexes to numerous materials, guides and research tips.

USGenWeb project A volunteer-based project providing free websites for geographically-based genealogical research
across the U.S.

Afrigeneas Website devoted to African-American genealogy. Includes research help, surname and vital records indexes, photo databases, and an online community.

Native American History and Genealogy Features include tribal histories, research guides, and some record indexes.


Community Resources

Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 1952
Tacoma, Washington 98401
253-572-6650

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

Heritage Quest Research Library
909 Main Street #5
Sumner, Washington 98390
(253) 863-1806

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

Washington State Archives
1129 Washington Street SE
Olympia, WA 98504
(360) 586-1492
(Also operates five regional branches)

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