Catalog Search Strategies for Genealogists

The following strategies will help researchers locate genealogical sources in the Newberry's catalog. Do not hesitate to ask reference librarians for assistance.

Published Genealogies

You can search by Subject in our Primo VE catalog using the “Advanced Search” function to the right of the search bar. Select “Subject” in the drop-down menu of search features in place of “Any field,” then copy-and-paste one of the following subject headings:

[Surname] family.
Example: Chapman family.

If you are lucky, someone has already compiled parts of your family's history and published it. These books are cataloged under the surname. You will need to look at the book's index to determine if your ancestors are discussed in that book.

Local Histories, Biographies, And Court and Vital Records

Set the catalog to "subject" search, and then search on the following subject:

[Name of County].
[Name of Town].
Example: Will County (Ill.). not Illinois Will County.
Example: Joliet (Ill.).

Subheadings include:

[Name of County or Town] Genealogy
(local record indexes, probate abstracts, and more)

[Name of County or Town] Biography
(biographical sketches)

[Name of County or Town] History
(local histories)


Directories include city, phone, county, social, professional, fraternal, and ethnic directories. Most city directories held by the library are uncataloged; the best way to locate them is to consult the directories inventory. Researchers can also search the following subject in the catalog:

[Name of City] Directories.


Online Databases: Online databases are the easiest and most effective way for researchers to access the US and Canadian censuses. The Newberry subscribes to two commercial databases that provide access to census records: and HeritageQuest Online. Researchers will find these resources linked from the genealogy menu on any computer in the library. While the Newberry does not provide remote access to these resources, a number of censuses are available at

Federal Census in Microfilm and Print: While databases are the way most researchers access census records, microfilm copies of the census is still useful for browsing purposes. The Newberry's holds US Federal census microfilm for all states 1790-1850, select states 1860-1880, and Illinois 1900-1920. Federal census microfilm is not cataloged. It is stored at the second floor reference desk. Ask there for assistance. The library also holds census indexes in print and microfilm: holdings include book indexes for 1790-1850 for all states, the 1880 Soundex microfilmfor select states, Soundex for Illinois for 1900-1920. Ask at the 2nd floor reference desk.

County indexes and transcriptions:
[Name of County] Census.
Example: Lake County (Ill.) Census, 1880.

State Census: See binder at second floor reference desk.
[Name of State] Census.

Newspapers and Newspaper Abstracts

See also, Newspaper Holdings Checklist at the second and third floor reference desks and the guide to the Early American Newspapers series at the third floor reference desk. The Illinois Newspaper Project includes Newberry's newspaper holdings as well as those of other Illinois repositories.

[Name of City or State] Newspapers.
[Name of City or State] History Sources.
Newspapers [Name of State] [Name of City].
American newspapers [Name of State or City].
[Title of Newspaper].

Example: Albany (N.Y.) History -- Sources.
Example: Newspapers Pennsylvania Carlisle.
Example: American newspapers Georgia.


[Name of Country, State, County, City, or Ethnic Group] [History or Genealogy] Periodicals.

Example: Swedish-Americans Genealogy Periodicals.

For indexing of articles, search the PERiodical Source Index

Maps and Gazeteers (Place name dictionaries)

[Name of Country, State, County, or Town] Maps.
[Name of Country, State, County, or Town] Description and Travel Maps.

Church Records

[Name of Place] Church history.
[Name of Denomination].
[Name of Church].

Example: Chicago (Ill.) Church history.
Example: Lutherans.
Example: First St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran.

Military Records

United States History [Name of War].
United States. Army [Unit Designation].
[Name of State] Militia.
[Name of State] History [Name of War].

Example: United States History War of 1812.
Example: United States. Army Connecticut Infantry Regiment, 10th.
Example: Ohio History Civil War, 1861-1865.

Pension indexes and abstracts:
Pensions, Military [Name of State].

Land Records

Land Titles [Name of State, County, or Region].
Land Grants [Name of State, County, or Region].
Land Tenure [Name of State, County, or Region].
[Name of State, County, or City] Genealogy.

Cemetery Records

[Name of State, County, or City] Genealogy.
[Name of Cemetery].
Cemeteries [Name of State, County, or City].
Inscriptions [Name of State, County, or City].
Registers of Births, etc. [Name of State, County, or City].

Ethnic Groups

[Ethnic Group] Genealogy.
[Ethnic Group] [State of residence] Genealogy.

Example: Polish Americans California Genealogy.

Naturalization Records

Naturalization Records [Name of Place].
[Name of State, County, or City] Genealogy.

Passenger Lists

Ships Passenger Lists.
[Ethnic Group] Genealogy.

Histories and photographs of passenger ships:
Ship Registers.
Passenger Ships.
Steamboat Lines.

History and Meaning of Surnames

Names, Personal Dictionaries.
Names, Personal [Name of Country, Nationality, or Geographic Area].

Example: Names, Personal France.
Example: Names, Personal French.

Catalog Search Tips:

Results can be filtered by Material Type, Language, Date, Author, Title, etc. prior to searching by using the drop-down menus in the search panel. If your search produces too many options, you can also narrow results using the faceted options on the left-hand side, under the heading “Refine your results.” Clicking on one of these filter terms or the box to their left will limit results to only those that fit this criterion, while clicking on the red box to the right of the term will exclude those results. For more information about searching in our online catalog, please see our Guide to Primo VE.

The catalog can be searched on the Internet or at public terminals in the library.

Genealogy specialists will assist you at the second floor reference desk. You can also contact a reference librarian by mail, email, phone, and fax.