Since first opening its doors to the public in 1873, the Chicago Public Library has maintained its status of one of the City's most democratic of institutions — providing all Chicagoans with a free and open place to gather, learn, connect, read and be transformed.
The 79 locations of the Chicago Public Library are at the forefront of providing innovative library services, technologies and tools Chicagoans need to achieve their personal goals and to establish the City's role as a competitive force in the global marketplace. Since 1989, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Public Library have opened 52 new or renovated neighborhood libraries — unprecedented public library growth. These new libraries are that special third place — beyond home and work — where people come to improve their lives, nourish their intellect or simply to be entertained. The library is where people of all ages and backgrounds gather freely. Through its rich and current book collections, state of the art technology and cultural and public partnerships, the Chicago Public Library is a thriving, engaged leader in Chicago's diverse neighborhoods.
Although the Chicago Public Library has changed dramatically since its beginnings in an abandoned water tower after the Great Chicago Fire, its mission has remained constant:
"We welcome and support all people in their enjoyment of reading and lifelong learning. Working together, we strive to provide equal access to information, ideas and knowledge through books, programs and other resources. We believe in the freedom to read, to learn, to discover."
Resources at the Harold Washington Library Center include a variety of sources on microfiche and microfilm (for example, passenger lists, city directories, military records, and pension records) as well as a large selection of "how to" guides for the beginning researcher.
Setting off on a journey to find your ancestors? These resources from Chicago Public Library will help get you started.
HeritageQuest contains scanned images of all available U.S. census schedules (1790-1930); over 25,000 scanned books on family and local history; PERSI, an index to magazine articles in the field of family and local history; images of selected records from Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land-warrant application files; images of the registers of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company; and selected Congressional documents and reports from the American State Papers and U.S. Serial Set.
(Note that a Chicago Public Library card is required to use this resource from home, school, or work.)
Ancestry Library Edition
Search the U.S. and U.K. censuses, the Social Security Death Index, World War I Draft Registration Cards, Civil War Service Records, Immigration Records, and thousands more sources for genealogical research.
Chicago Tribune Historical Archive
Search the complete content, including classified ads and death notices, of the Chicago Tribune from 1849 through 1986. To search recent articles, use Chicago Tribune (1985-present).
Chicago Defender Historical Archive
Search the complete text of this nationally prominent African American newspaper from 1910 to 1975. To search articles from 1999 to the present, use Black Newspapers or Illinois Newsstand.
Guides for Beginners