The purpose of this guide is to aid genealogists in using the resources and services of Cornell University Library effectively. The library's primary function is to support the academic research needs of the Cornell community. There is no special "Genealogical Collection" and no staff genealogist. The burden is on the researcher to organize and carry out his or her research. With proper preparation the genealogist will find much useful material in the library, and a staff ready to help with specific questions. Please refer to the following contact information for specific assistance.

General Headings


Resources Covered in this Guide

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There are twenty libraries on the Cornell University campus. Almost all the genealogical material is held in the Olin/Kroch building. Visiting researchers should become familiar with library procedures and policies. Most information is available on the Library Homepage, and the following handouts are available at the reference desk:
  • Use of Cornell University Libraries by Visiting Readers
  • Olin Stack Directory

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The Cornell Library Online Catalog is the most important resource for gaining access to the collection. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For help please contact a local library with Internet access.

In addition to our local online catalog, CUL provides access to the following national online catalog, OCLC's WorldCat. This catalog provides records to all its members' holdings. OCLC has several thousand member libraries and around 40 million records. Many archival records have been entered. Note that these resources are restricted to the Cornell community.

Please note: The search results in these databases will not necessarily reflect Cornell's holdings. Do not hesitate to contact the Reference Desk if you need help interpreting Eureka and Worldcat search results.

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Most of the material is housed in the stacks by call number with access through the catalog. Some of the commonly requested types of material are listed here:

Family Genealogies

Family Search (Open Access to All) has to be your first stop in beginning your online genealogical research. It has several major services, which can all be searched at once. This is also where you can download Personal Ancestral File (PAF), a very good and inexpensive genealogical software package. Cornell has a very limited collection of published genealogies. Access is by family name in the card catalog, or using "Basic Search" in the online catalog, making sure to choose "Subject heading" from the pull-down menu.

For example, this next Basic Search in the catalog:

Search for:

willard   family

Search by:

Subject Heading

will point to the following entry (among others):

Willard, Joseph, 1798-1865. Willard memoir : or, Life and times of Major Simon Willard, with notices of three generations of his descendants, and two collateral branches in the United States; also, some account of the name and family in Europe from an early day. Boston : Phillips, Sampson and company, 1858. (Olin   C71 .W69 1858)

Remember only the major family lines in the genealogy are given a subject heading, and frequently only the title family.

Use our online "Help" or ask at the reference desk, if the results are confusing.

Note that most published genealogies are given the classification CC100 to CC200. It is possible to browse the stacks in this call number area. CC's are shelved on the seventh floor in Olin Library. It's also possible to browse the call number area online. Just enter the call number and choose the "Call Number" index from the pull-down menu on the right.

We shelve by size as well as call number, so remember to check both sides of the aisle, if you decide to browse the stacks. See "Olin Library Stack Directory" for help in using the collection. If you would like to know more about LC Classification see the handout " The Library of Congress Classification System."

County Histories

We have a strong collection of regional and county histories, particularly for the Northeast. Look them up by region, state, county or town using these most commonly used subdivisions: history, or biography, or genealogy.

For example, this next Guided Keyword Search in the catalog:


1st line
2nd line
3rd line
Search for:
centre county As a phrase
pa All of these
history biography genealogy Any of these
Search in:

will point to the following entry (among others):

Linn, John Blair, 1831-1899. History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania. Evansville, Indiana: Unigraphic, 1976. (Olin   F157 .C3 L75 1976+)

Many county histories are now available online. For example, excerpts of the Centre county mentioned above are available electronically through the Centre County Library System, or Centre County PAGenWeb Project Home Page.

Parish and other local registers

There are many series of registers of various kinds, usually prepared by English and American county historical societies. More and more, these societies scan parish history records, and make them available online. These records index and reproduce lists of deaths, marriages, tax payers, litigants, officials, etc. The contents of many parish registers is available through the International Genealogy Index (IGI).

It is possible to search by series, using the Guided Keywords catalog search. For Example:


1st line

Search for:

sussex record society All of these

Search in:


will point to the following publication (among others):

Sussex Manors, advowsons, etc., recorded in the feet of fines, Henry VIII to William IV (1509-1833). London, Mitchell, Hughes and Clarke, Printers, 1914-15. (Olin   DA670 .S97 S97 v.19-20)

A Basic Search by Subject Heading will generally require information about the place and subdivision, as in:

(county, town or parish) (state, if US, or country), with the subdivisions: history   sources.

For example, this next Basic Search in the catalog:

Search for:

essex england history sources

Search by:

Subject Heading

will point to the following entry (among others):

Erith, E.J. Essex parish records, 1240-1894. Chelmsford, Essex County Council, 1950. (Annex   DA670 .E7 A17 no.17)

Frequently a keyword search will be easier than a subject search which requires some knowledge of Library of Congress subject headings.

A different way to do the same search using Guided Keywords only, might be:


1st line
Search for:
essex sources All of these
Search in:
Keyword anywhere

To learn more about searching the catalog, go to Online Catalog Help.

Colonial and State Records

The official papers and archives of many colonies and states have been, or are being, published and indexed: Check the catalog under the name of the colony or state, and the subdivisions:   history and/or sources.

For example, this next Basic Search in the catalog:

Search for:

virginia history colonial period ca 1600-1775 sources

Search by:

Subject Heading

will point to the following entry (among others):

Fleet, Beverly. Virginia Colonial Abstracts. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1988
(Olin   F225 .F29 1988)

Genealogical Periodicals

There are many periodicals devoted to genealogical research. Most guides give complete lists. Cornell's collection of state and regional genealogical association periodicals is very strong, but there are few popular popular periodicals. We do not, for example, subscribe to Genealogical Helper. For Cornell holdings of a particular journal, look in the Online Catalog under the title, or if published by a society or association, under the association's name. For a general overview of our titles, search the online catalog as follows:

Starting from the Basic Search in the catalog:

Search for:

genealogy   periodicals

Search by:

Subject Heading

One of the best known example of a genealogical publication is:

New England Historical and Genealogical Register. vol. 1-. 1847-. (Olin   F1 .N534).

Also available online, in the Cornell Catalog, for the following years:

Cornell patrons can find further information about people and places, by selecting "Search PERSI," available at HeritageQuest Online.

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The Reference Division is located on the first floor of Olin Library. For your convenience, our Reference hours are readily available. It is best to check the schedule in advance, as staffing varies on weekends and evenings, according to the academic calendar.
Phone: (607) 255-4144

The Reference Department has much of use to genealogists. For the beginner, there are many guides and introductions. Some examples:


Doane, Gilbert H. and James B. Bell. Searching for Your Ancestors. 5th ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980. (Olin Ref   CS16 .D63 1980)

The Source : a guidebook of American genealogy, edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997. (Olin Ref   CS49 .S65x 1997+)

Please check the Olin Library Reference collection, under the call numbers starting with CS to find more genealogical guides.

Biographical Dictionaries

Tens of thousands of biographical dictionaries have been produced over the years. They can be based on geography or occupation, or many other characteristics. Please not this excellent biography in our collection:
Slocum, Robert B. Biographical dictionaries and related works: an international bibliography of approximately 16,000 collective biographies. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., c1986. (Olin Ref   Z5301 .S63 1986+)

This next networked index allows the user to search a combined index of many standard biographical dictionaries, or encyclopedias, by personal name:

Biography and genealogy master index. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., c1993-.

A representative biographical encyclopedia (among many in Reference) would be:

National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White. 1898-97. (Olin Ref   CT213 .N27+, and supplements)


Matthew, H.C.G., and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: in association with the British Academy: from the earliest times to the year 2000. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, c2004. (Olin Ref   DA28 .D4 O95 2004)
Also available online Oxford Dictionary of national Biography.

There are also many biographical resources that might not be immediately apparent to new users. K. G. Saur has produced several large microfiche collections of national biographies (US, British, German). These consist of entries from dozens of biographical dictionaries, re-arranged in a single alphabet:

American biographical archive [microform] London; New York: K. G. Saur, [1986-]. (Olin Ref   CT213 .A51). Located in the Reference Microfiche drawers.

Under the General Interest and Reference section in Database Names by Subject, select biographies to see a list of electronic resources to biographies.

Census Materials

Census information is also available online. A search for "census" on this Electronic genealogy at Cornell will point to relevant searchable databases.

For example, Ancestry, and HeritageQuest Online are now available to the Cornell Community and our campus visitors.

Peerage Lists, Heraldry

Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage, Baronetage, and Knightage 105th ed. London: Burke's Peerage Ltd., 1970. (Olin Ref   CS420 .B95+)

American and British Genealogy and Heraldry. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1983. (Olin Ref   Z5311 .F47 1983)


U.S. Library of Congress. Genealogies in the Library of Congress. 2 vols.
Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1972. (Olin   Z5311 .U54++ 1972).

with its supplements

Genealogies in the Library of Congress: a bibliography. Supplement, 1972-1976,
Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1977. (Olin   Z5311 .U54 1972 Suppl.++).


Genealogies in the Library of Congress: a bibliography. 2nd Supplement, 1976-1986,
Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1987. (Olin   Z5311 .U54 1972 Suppl.2++).

Electronic Text Center (ETC)

The ETC is open during the Olin Library hours, and is located behind the Olin Library Reference Desk. It now includes an Assistive Technology Workstation to provide access to handicapped students.

It holds our CD-ROM collection. This is a self-service facility. The disks are on the shelves in the center, and can be read from ETC computers 2,3,4 and 6. The software is easy to use, but don't hesitate to ask for help if you have trouble finding or loading the disks, or using the software.

Many of these disks, and more, are also available at the LDS Family History Library in Ithaca (see Non-Cornell Local Resources).

Many Census indexes and indexes of other resources have become available on CD-ROM through Automated Archives, FamilyTreeMaker, and other genealogical publishers. The reference department has selected those of research interest for New York and the Northeast. There are indexes for the US Censuses from 1790 (the entire US) to 1870, most for NY only. Other indexes are for birth and death lists, marriage records and Social Security Death records.

For example, this next CD includes information from most towns in Upstate New York counties, with the following vital records: church, cemetery, Bible, census, school, tax and military. There are ca. 300.000 individuals listed for upstate New York. The time period covers the late 1600's to the early 1900's. This data is unique, and not available online.

Valley quarterlies upstate New York. Orem, Utah: Automated Archives, Inc., c1994. (Olin Ref   Disk HA218 .CD160)

This, of course, is only a sample of the materials available in the Reference Division. Many commonly used genealogical reference books are not housed in the Reference Department but in the stacks. For example:

American Genealogical-Biographical Index. Middletown, Connecticut: Godfrey Memorial Library, 1952-. (Olin   Z5313 .U6 A51+)

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 3 vols. Detroit: Gale, 1981. (Olin   CS68 .F47+)

and its supplement:

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. vols 1982-2006. Detroit: Gale, c1982. (Olin   CS68 .F47 Suppl.+)

Ancestry, Ellis Island Records, and Castle Garden provide extensive immigration and passenger lists.

The Reference Services Division staff can help with using the catalogs, locating and using reference works, checking on recent acquisitions, explaining library procedures, etc., but there is no trained genealogist on the staff. Please try to make your questions as specific as possible.

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Lower Level B of Olin Library
9:00 - 6:00   Monday - Friday
1:00 - 5:00   Saturday (While classes are in session--No Saturday hours in the Summer)
(607) 255-7557

Please Note: Hours vary with academic calendar and staffing levels -- please call ahead. For general information and policies, go to the Maps and Geospacial site.

County Atlases

County atlases are an excellent source of information on land ownership. These nineteenth century maps and atlases are detailed enough to locate by name property owners in towns and in the surrounding farms and villages. They are shelved in the Map Collection stacks (particularly paper copies of NY county atlases), in the general stacks (many counties from other states), and also as microfiche. For a complete list see the LC G & M Land Ownership Maps (Library of Congress Geography and Map Division) in the map room. Land ownership maps are increasingly becoming available online.

There is a microfiche set of NY county atlases cataloged by county, Microfiche 647, and another set of county atlases for the Eastern US cataloged by state, Microfiche 1523(CT) - 1545(WI) and 1553(PA). Access in the catalog is by county name (for printed atlases and the NY state set of microfiche) and the subdivision:   maps

For example, this Basic Search in the catalog:

Search for:
staten island new york ny maps
Search by:
Subject Heading

or, this Keyword Search:

Search for:
staten maps
Search by:

will point to the following entry (among others):

Beer's new map of Staten Island [microform]: from careful surveys. [Washington]: Photo duplication Service, Library of Congress, [1984]. (Olin   Microfiche 647 no. 553)

We also have a collection of ward and census district maps for major urban areas, available in paper or fiche format.

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Lower level B of Olin Library
Hours - Same as Olin Library hours


Microform reader/printers
Assistant on duty to retrieve documents and help with equipment
Photocopy machines nearby

City Directories

There is an extensive collection of city directories on microfilm (Film 4104 --New York cities 1860-1900) and microfiche (Fiche 23--US Cities to 1860) in the Newspaper and Microform Room. The guide to the collection is in Reference:
City directories of the United States, 1860-1901: guide to the microfilm collection. Woodbridge, CT : Research Publications, 1983, c1984. (Olin Ref   Film 4104 Guide)

This microfilm set contains directories for U.S. cities through 1860, but only major cities in NY State from 1861-1901.

We also have a scattered collection of original city directories in the stacks. To locate such directories, search the online catalog, as well as the card catalog under the heading:   city (state) directories

For example, a typical Basic Search in the catalog would look like this:

Search for:

ithaca (n.y.) directories

Search by:

Subject Heading

If you do not get any results, be sure to try variations of the state abbreviation, as shown here:

montgomery (ala.) directories, or washington (d.c.) directories.

There is a small un cataloged collection of city directories from the US and Canada in the Annex Library. These are very scattered issues from 1920-50. There is an inventory in the Reference Division vertical file s.v. "City Directories."

The International Genealogical Index (IGI)

The International Genealogy Index (IGI) is an important index for genealogists. It indexes the millions of pedigrees that have been submitted to the LDS Temple. It also extracts and indexes millions of entries from thousands of parish registers and other lists and documents from around the world. It is unparalleled for locating English parish record entries. We have the 1984 IGI guide in the Olin Reference area, in the microform guides section, under Fiche 736.


Finding newspaper coverage of events can be complex and confusing. There exists a variety of sources, and you will use different sources depending on the date of an event and the geographic location of the event, the perspective desired, and availability and format of indexing.

Cornell has a substantial collection of NY local newspapers, both in paper copy and microform. Newspapers from major U.S. cities have the most complete representation. We also have a more or less complete collection of many local papers. In addition, Cornell has the microprint collection of early american newspapers covering 1704-1820. The best way to search for these newspaper is by newspaper title in the online catalog.

For a geographical index of newspapers, it is best to go to the Olin Reference Desk, and ask for help.

We have some obituary indexes, notably for the New York Times, but also for the Ithaca Journal:

Ithaca journal obituary index. Ithaca, N.Y.: Joan E. and Julian C. Smith, c1986-. (Olin Ref   CT100 .I89+).

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Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
Lowest level 2B of Kroch Library
9:00-5:00 Monday - Friday Saturday hours vary with academic calendar
(607) 255-3530

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections currently includes 300,000 printed volumes, more than seventy million manuscripts, and another million photographs, paintings, prints, and other visual media. The Division also houses the Cornell University Archives.

The collections are open to the public. Public services staff can assist you in finding resources relevant to your project. Assistance is available during public hours and by mail, telephone, and fax. For more in-depth needs, subject specialists are available by appointment. There is a large reading room. Needed materials are paged by the staff.

Photocopies of research material can be made, depending on the physical condition and donor restrictions. Photographic scanning services are also available. There is a charge for these services.

In addition to the University Archives, the department houses a regional history collection. The collection's strengths are in upstate NY historical documents and records. A sample of the kinds of material available:

  • Family papers, including diaries and letters

  • Unpublished genealogies

  • Church, school and business records

  • Cemetery inscriptions and marriage and death notices

  • Land holdings (John Greig, Pulteney Estate)

  • Deceased alumni records, University biographical file

  • Photographs, broadsides, maps

Collections are cataloged (in the division, and, increasingly, in the online catalog) by surname, subject, and geographical area. Restricted collections are marked as such. Some collections are housed in the Annex Library and require at least a day's notice to retrieve. This service is not available on weekends. The division provides a brochure with more information.

The best way to use the collection is by personal visit. Because staff time is limited, service must be confined to providing information on collections and giving guidance in their use. If the staff feels a question can be answered by more extensive searching, and the inquirer wishes, the question will be turned over to an outside researcher, who will charge for his or her services. For additional information on collections and policies please contact the division office.

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The New York Historical Resources Center is no longer at Cornell. The center produced a series of county guides to historical resources in New York. These can be helpful for genealogical research. A sample title :
Guide to Historical Resources in Tompkins County, New York. Ithaca: NYHRC (n.d.)

The Guides are available in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and in the stacks. Guides have been completed for all NY counties. For similar guides in other states do a subject search in the catalog under state, or county name, and the subdivisions:   history   sources   bibliography.

For example, the following Basic Search in the catalog:

Search for:

wisconsin   history   sources   bibliography

Search by:

Subject Heading

Would retrieve this guide (among others):

Guide to the manuscripts of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Supplement.
State Historical Society of Wisconsin: Madison. no. 1-   1941/56-. (Olin   Z6621 .W771)

The NY guides can be ordered from

New York State Archives and Records Administration
Cultural Education Center
Albany, NY 12230

Order forms and additional information are available from the Archive's web site.

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The History Center
401 E. State St,
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 273-8284
(607) 273-6107 Fax
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday   11:00 -5:00

Steele Memorial Library
One Library Plaza
Elmira, NY 14901
(607) 734-5572
Steele Memorial Library Genealogy Room

The Steele Memorial Library is one of the few public libraries in the State of New York to maintain a Genealogical Collection. This special collection is located on the second floor of the library and offers a wide range of genealogical resources. The staff is trained to assist you, and although they do not perform individualized research, they will direct you to locating desired materials or information.

Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
Family History Center
114 Burleigh Dr.
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 257-1334
Wednesday   9am-12:30pm & 6:30pm-9pm
Thursday   9am-4pm & 6:30pm-9pm
Closed for 2 weeks in December

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The Internet has become an important resource for genealogists. Numerous discussion groups and Usenet newsgroups have been formed to share genealogical information. There are several specialized databases for submitting records. A good place to begin exploring the internet is through a general genealogy "home page" on the World-Wide Web. There is public access to the World-Wide Web in all Cornell Libraries.

Electronic Genealogy at Cornell We've prepared a special page for doing genealogical research on the Web. The page collects the most popular top-level sites and gives beginning researchers a good jumping-off place for electronic genealogy. In addition to general web site, the page includes some advice for beginners, a brief bibliography and a review of useful site only available on the Cornell Campus.

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  1. Prepare. If you have never done genealogical research, read one of the many available guides and introductions. Come to the library with a plan for research, perhaps a list of the family line you're tracing, of material you think will answer your questions.

  2. Ask for help with specific questions about library policies, organizations, card catalogs, citations, etc.

  3. There is no "Genealogical Section" set aside for research; no special genealogical collection; no staff genealogist.

  4. The U.S. Census schedules are available online through our Cornell subscription to Ancestry. Cornell doesn't have the schedules for the New York State censuses. They may be borrowed from the LDS's Family History Center, and from HeritageQuestOnline.

  5. Visit the library for your research. Letters asking the staff to do genealogical research receive lowest priority. No attempt is made to answer those too general or excessively time-consuming. Phone requests for anything but specific information cannot be answered.

  6. Interlibrary lending services are available for the Cornell community only. In general, genealogies are not lent or borrowed.

  7. Some materials may not be immediately available. Much archival and book material is housed in the Annex Library and generally requires a day's notice or more for retrieval. There is no access on weekends.
    Call for current hours 607-255-4144

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