Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Genealogy Resources

A guide to finding genealogical materials at the University of Illinois Library.

Using the University Library

The University of Illinois Library is housed in several buildings across campus. The main Library contains the bookstacks, where the bulk of our collections are housed, and several of the departmental libraries. Other departmental libraries are located in other buildings on campus. In addition, the Oak Street Facility on campus provides high density remote storage of nearly two million items (keep in mind that any items from Oak St. require 1-2 days to be retrieved).

Because of the size of the collections, finding information in the Library can be rather daunting. For more resources on doing research at the University of Illinois Library, consult the Library's Help and Services page.

Finding Newspapers

Historic newspapers are a rich source of genealogical information.  No other primary source conveys the sensibility of an era and the feel of a place better than the local newspaper.  The Library holds both original newsprint and a vast number of newspapers on microfilm.   In addition, we provide access to a large number of historical newspapers that have been digitized.  The advantage of digital newspapers is ease of access.  Prior to digitization, most newspapers were never indexed, so researchers simply had to read issue-by-issue to find source material.  (A few indexes were produced for national newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.)  With digitization, the newspapers are not only browsable, but also keyword searchable.

The History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library maintains a large collection of newspapers from communities in Illinois and from other states across the country, as well as foreign newspapers, mainly on microfilm.  Only a few newspapers from Illinois have been digitized to date.  To locate newspapers for a particular community, use our:

You can also consult use our guide:

Included in the guide are subscription databases (available at public computers in any campus library, or off campus to users with a UIUC net id), as well as a growing number of free sites.

Located at the University of Illinois Library, the Illinois Newspaper Project (INP) was originally part of the U.S. Newspaper Program (USNP), a cooperative effort between the federal government and the states. This program was established in the 1980s to identify, catalog and preserve the nation’s newspaper heritage.  The INP team traveled throughout Illinois inventorying and cataloging collections of newspapers held by libraries, private organizations, and individuals.  Newspapers that had not already been preserved on microfilm were filmed to create a permanent record of this vanishing material.  The University of Illinois Library has copies of all the microfilm produced under the INP.  In addition, we host the Illinois Newspaper Directory, the searchable database of all newspapers inventoried and preserved through the project:

The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) is the successor to the (USNP).  Like USNP, the NDNP is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and administered by the Library of Congress.  Grants are made to libraries and historical societies to digitize newspapers from microfilm.  The program started in 2005, with six awards (Library of Virginia, New York Public Library, University of California - Riverside, University of Florida, University of Kentucky, and University of Utah). All of the individual state projects will contribute their digital newspapers to a joint repository, maintained by the Library of Congress and available to the public for free:

Using Subject Headings

On each of the Illinois County pages, we have provided a few Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to aid you in your search. To use these subject headings, simply enter the subject heading into the University's Online Catalog, and tell it to search by subject heading. (See below).

Obtaining Resources from Other Libraries

If you have searched our online catalog and the materials you want are not available here (i.e. they are either checked out, lost, or we just do not own them), chances are good that we can get them for you from another library in Illinois or, if necessary, outside the state using Interlibrary Loan:

Using Microform

The University Library has several resources available on microform. We'll be happy to help you in person at the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library, if you need help using the Digital Microform Reader Scanners.

University Archives

The University Archives, located in the basement of the main Library, houses the largest collection of historical manuscripts in Illinois.  The focus of the collection is American social, intellectual and cultural history.  The holdings include a massive collection of faculty and alumni papers relating to the University and the Urbana-Champaign campus.  If your ancestors attended the University or were members of the UIUC faculty, there may be material pertaining to them in the collections of the University Archives. 

The Archives maintains a massive Alumni and Faculty Biographical File (Morgue), 1882-1995, with information on deceased and living alumni, faculty members, trustees, and former students.  This file was created by the Alumni Association and augmented by University Archives staff.  You should consult with the staff to determine if there is information on a particular individual.  There is also a collection of microfilmed alumni record cards, 1882-1981, with dates of graduation and directory information.   

The Archives also houses copies of the Student-Staff Directory (1917- ), the student yearbook, The Illio (1895- ), the Semi-Centennial Alumni Record (1918), the University of Illinois Directory for 1929, including the names of all students who have attended the Urbana departments of the University (1929), and the printed University of Illinois Alumni Association membership directories.  There are copies of some of these resources in other sections of the Library, such as the bookstacks, Student Life and Culture Archive, Reference Library, and the Illinois Historical Survey. 

Most of the collections in the Archives are described in their searchable database:

Telephone: (217) 333-0798

Student Life and Culture Archive

The Student Life and Culture Archive was established in 1989 with the support of the Stewart S. Howe Foundation Endowment to collect and preserve materials documenting all aspects of student life at Illinois.  The collections include correspondence, administrative reports, scrapbooks, programs, photographs, organizational records, and student publications dating from the founding of the University in 1867 through the end of the 20th century.  The collections are housed at the Archives Research Center in the former Horticulture Field Laboratory at 1707 S. Orchard Street in Urbana. 

Telephone: (217) 333-7841