Main Library · History and Genealogy Department

The History & Genealogy Department service desk closed in October as part of the Main Library for the 21st Century reorganization. The collection has been split between the Genealogy and Local History Department and the Information & Reference Department.

Third Floor—South Building

Manager: Patricia Van Skaik

About the Department

The History and Genealogy Department traces its origins back to the 1890’s when it was part of the Reference and Registration departments. In 1953 the History and Literature Department was created which included a newspaper desk. When the Main Library addition was completed in 1983, the department split and the current History and Genealogy Department was formed, bringing the newspaper collection with it. Because its subjects are of high interest and its holdings are both wide and deep, the History and Genealogy Department draws a diverse and loyal patronage from the Cincinnati area and beyond. The department covers its subject areas of history and geography with a large collection of popular and reference materials spanning the period from the early 1800’s to the present. In addition to a comprehensive collection of American and foreign histories, customers can find works on current events, American presidents, military conflicts and regimental histories, and state and county histories. Books on trivia and unexplained phenomena are also included in the collection. The extensive genealogy resources in the department are heavily used by local customers and visitors from out of town.

The Collection

The department houses a large collection consisting of over 260,000 print volumes, 45,400 bound periodicals, 100,000 reels of microfilm, and almost 200,000 microfiche. The reference collection includes 530 directories, 160,000 maps, 2,375 atlases, 470 gazeteers and 230 carto-bibliographies. In addition, the department carries current subscriptions to 1200 journals. The reference collection includes a number of encyclopedias of historic interest, general encyclopedias in major European languages, and a broad collection of biographical dictionaries.

Special Collections

Genealogy Collection
With one of the oldest and largest genealogy collections in the country, the History and Genealogy Department offers materials from all 50 states and some foreign countries, including passenger lists, city directories, military histories, maps, church and cemetery records and slave and freedmen records. Of special note is the complete U.S. federal manuscript census for 1790–1930.
Map Collection
The map collection holds current maps for U.S. cities with populations of 20,000 or more, state and regional maps, and maps of foreign cities and countries. Library holdings include land ownership and historical atlases which are of particular use to genealogists.
Travel Collection
The department maintains an extensive collection of travel guides, including indexes to hotels, bed and breakfast inns, campgrounds, and state and national parks.

Reference Service

The History and Genealogy Department provides in-person reference service to assist customers in locating and using materials. Ready reference is offered by phone. The staff does limited research in response to mail requests. Customers engaged in genealogical or other extensive research are encouraged to visit the department to learn its resources. The department offers indexes to the U.S. Census, genealogical materials, and travel information. Other indexes, including Family Surname, are accessible through the Library Catalog. Customers may also use indexes on CD-ROM, which include FamilySearch, an extensive list of genealogical records developed by the Church of Latter Day Saints; and TripMaker, a Rand-McNally tool for trip planning.


The department creates publications to support use of its collection. Currently these include brochures on genealogical research, the U.S. Census and its use in research, a list of city directories from 1813 to 1935, and a description of African-American family resources. Copies are available through the department.

  • Ships’ Passenger Lists at the Public Library
  • Using the 1930 Census
  • City Directories


Departmental staff present regularly scheduled programs to assist in the use of the collection and to provide information on topics of high interest. Programs are offered on the genealogy collection, local history, African-American history, and the map collection. Special lectures on historical figures and subjects may be scheduled as requested if staff expertise is available.