Genealogy and Family History Resources: Overview

Family History Research

Researching your family at the Enoch Pratt Free Library

Genealogical resources are housed in four departments at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Central Library/State Library Resource Center:

African American Department (1st floor, Annex)

What you will find in this department

Approximately 20 guides to doing genealogy research involving

  • persons of African American descent
  • genealogies families have published
  • histories of relevant events and historic African American neighborhoods throughout the world
  • primary resources (e.g., slave narratives, emancipation records, membership lists, cemetery records)
  • historical general interest sources (e.g., Flowers of the Forest Black Genealogical journal)

Staff does not conduct genealogy research on the customer’s behalf. However, we will assist customers with locating, choosing, and searching print resources, as well as navigating appropriate electronic databases and web sites.

Related web resources

  • African American Genealogy - includes information on how African American genealogy differs from genealogy for other ethnic backgrounds, information on how to find records and documents and where to go to get started.

Maryland Department (2nd floor, Annex)

MD Dept vertical files

What you will find in this department

U.S. census records for Maryland, Baltimore City Directories, and other genealogical resources pertaining to the State of Maryland

Reference requests are limited to Baltimore City Directories, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers (Union and Confederate) Who Served in Organizations from the State of Maryland, 1861-1865, Federal Census for Maryland 1790-1930, Naturalization Index/Petitions, and Passenger Lists for the Port of Baltimore, 1820-1948.  For more specific information about genealogical assistance from the staff of the Maryland Department, please go to Requesting Genealogy Research from Maryland Department Staff.

Related web resources

Periodicals Department (1st floor, south side)


What you will find in this department

Specializes in looking up death notices and obituaries and maintains a useful collection of historic newspapers (both national and Maryland) available on microfilm or through databases.

Reference requests in the Periodicals Department are limited to death notices, obituaries, wedding announcements, and out-of-state directories. To search for information in the newspapers in our collection, we will need the exact month, day and year of death and/or burial, as well as the last known residence or the place of burial. Sometimes, this information can be found in the Social Security Death Index. We will check the appropriate newspapers five days around the date supplied.

Related web resources

Social Science and History Department (1st floor, north side)

What you will find in this department

Basic guides to researching your family history, general genealogical directories, genealogical resources for other states, or old maps for locations other than Maryland

Although we do not perform individual genealogical research, staff in SSH will assist customers with general guides for researching family history as well as provide guidance in using appropriate electronic databases and web sites for research. Department staff members provide assistance in locating and using our various genealogical print resources.

Guidelines and Policies

There is no charge for research at this time. To mail photocopies, there is a $2.00 minimum charge for 7 pages or less; every page beyond 7 pages will cost $0.10 each ($0.10 for microform prints as well). Maryland residents will be charged 6% sales tax. Prepayment is not necessary; an invoice is included with any mailing of copies. All checks or money orders should be made out to the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Monthly genealogy reference requests are limited to five specific searches.  You may request up to five per month from all of the categories mentioned in the department descriptions.  This means that you can request one person be searched in five separate sources or up to five persons be searched in a single source.  Any combination of the two is acceptable. The following is an example of what a monthly request might look like:

Name Source Date
Jane Doe Obituary 12/18/1877 (Baltimore City)
Jane Doe City Directory 1884 (Baltimore City)
Jane Doe Census 1870
John Doe Passenger Arrival December 1912 (Ireland/Irish)
Jack Doe Naturalization Index 1890-1900

Please note: If you submit more than five items, only the first five items on the list will be researched. All other requests beyond the five items will have to be resubmitted the following month.

Please include your mailing address with any communication, as copies may be necessary to answer your question. If you would like your information e-mailed, please include your e-mail address.  E-mailed information is generally sent in pdf format.


Accessible outside of the library, using your Pratt library card

Baltimore Afro-American - The Baltimore Afro-American was one of the most widely circulated African American newspapers. The paper's contributors have included writer Langston Hughes, intellectual J. Sunders Redding, artist Romare Beardon, and sports editor Sam Lacy.

Baltimore Sun Historical Archive - contains issues of the Baltimore Sun from May 1837 up to February 1901.The database is easy to search and contains images of the actual Sun Paper as it appeared on the date of publication.

Heritage Quest - includes over 25,000 family and local histories as well as the Federal U.S. Census from 1790 through 1930. Additionally, this database allows you to search Periodical Source Index (PERSI), which covers genealogy and history periodicals, the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, which identifies more than 80,000 American military, naval, and marine officers and enlisted men and The Freedmen's Bank Records, which documents more than 70,000 bank depositors and their dependents.

Historical Newspapers - offers the original news articles exactly as they appeared to the original readers decades ago. The articles are PDF images that can be downloaded, printed or emailed.

This database includes the following newspapers:

  • Chicago Tribune - 1849 - forward
  • Chicago Defender - 1905 - forward
  • The Christian Science Monitor - 1908 - forward
  • The New York Times - 1851 - forward
  • The Wall Street Journal - 1889 - forward
  • The Washington Post - 1877 - forward

These are available individually or in cross-searchable collections.

Only accessible in Pratt Library locations

Ancestry Library Edition - provides instant access to a wide range of unique resources for genealogical and historical research. With more than 1.5 billion names in over 4,000 databases, Ancestry Library Edition includes records from the United States Census; military records; court, land, and probate records; vital and church records; directories; passenger lists and more. These collections are continuously expanding, with new content added every business day.

Genealogical Websites

Family Tree - major Internet site with numerous databases, many of them free.

Castle Garden - for immigrants arriving in New York from 1830 to 1891, Castle Garden served as the disembarkation point. This site offers free access to an extraordinary database of information on 10 million immigrants who came to America through Castle Garden.

Cyndi's List - boasting more than 250,000 links and visited by an estimated 2 million people each month, this site is a necessary stop on any genealogical search.

Ellis Island - This site functions as a database of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924. In most cases, after locating an immigrant, the original ship's manifest may be viewed as well as an image of the ship along with its history.

Family History Internet Genealogy Service - This database is a link with the vast genealogical resources of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Included is information on over 360 million surnames, as well as a catalog for the Family History Library and a database to locate the nearest Family History Center.

Library of Congress Local History & Genealogy Reading Room - a guide to the genealogical resources available at the Library of Congress, as well as a list of Internet sites.

National Archives Genealogy Page - a guide to the resources of the National Archives, both online and at different physical locations around the country.

Social Security Death Index - The Social Security Death Index provides access to birth and death date information for millions of deceased individuals with Social Security numbers whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. Birth years for individuals included range from 1875 to last year.

USGenWeb Project - If you've already pinpointed where your American ancestor lived, this site can help further. USGenWeb features state and county information such as land transfers, wills, and marriage records, transcribed by volunteers. WorldGenWeb is the corresponding site for international genealogy.