Located in the History Department on the fourth floor of the Central Library at 3030 Poplar Avenue, the Genealogy Collection is one of the library’s most frequently used resources. The collection’s strongest area is in microfilmed and indexed Memphis and Shelby County records. They are also United States census records for 1790-1920 on microfilm with indexes or Soundex, as well as genealogical source books, published family histories and magazines with an emphasis on 18th and 19th century southern United States, especially Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Assistance and Instruction

Library staff and volunteers are glad to help you use the genealogy collection. We are unable to conduct your research for you, but assistance in using sources and equipment is available at the Genealogy Desk in the History Department. Instructional workshops are held in May and October. They cover different aspects of genealgy including an introduction to family research, African American research, using military records, United States census, immigration/naturalization records, vital records and research on the Internet

Donations to the Genealogy Collection

The History Department actively maintains and improves the genealogy collection. We also welcome contributions of genealogical works or money to purchase new materials. Each year the department selects a special project for the genealogy collection and sets aside gifts for that purpose. Please ask at the genealogy desk if you would like information on the current project.

The Memphis Shelby County History and Genealogy Index

The History Department has created an online master index to many groups of historical and genealogical records in its archival and local history collections. The creation of this database makes these indexes universally searchable. This is a continuing project with new indexes being added as they are completed.

Go to the History and Genealogy Index


This database provides instant online access to more than 1 billion names, more than 3,000 databases, primary source documents, images and a variety of genealogy research aids.

This database is not accessible outside the library and no more than two library users may access the database at a time, if the license exceeded message is displayed, try again later.

Go to AncestryLibrary 

The core titles to found are:

    • U.S. Federal Census 1790 to 1920
    • Passenger and Immigration Lists Index
    • Biography and Genealogy Master Index
    • Periodical Source Index (PERSI)
    • Civil War Research Database
    • Map Center
    • Dawes Commission Index 1896, 1898-1914
    • American Genealogical Biographical Index
    • Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage
    • Immigrants to New England 1620-33
    • Biographical Directory of the American Congress
    • Social Security Death Index
  • Wuerttemberg Emigration Index

The service also offers several easy-to-use research tools including:

  • Online Family Tree
  • MyFamily.com
  • The Ancestry World Tree
  • Free Genealogy Newsletter
  • 125,000 Message Boards
  • Surname Community
  • The Ancestry Library