Harris County Resources
Houston Public Library (HPL)
An accessory for any Houston researcher is a Houston Public Library card. HPL offers access to online databases from your home in the “Genealogy” section on their website. With your card number and a 4-digit pin, you can view HeritageQuest, Fold3, 19th Century Newspapers and other databases for free. Visit any of the 44 HPL branches to receive a pin number and card.
HPL also offers access to the Library Edition of Ancestry. The Ancestry Library edition allows researchers to view databases, but not family trees. You can go to any one of the 44 HPL branches to access Ancestry.
The Harris County Library system provides similar genealogy services.
5300 Caroline St.
Houston, TX 77004
Houston researchers are fortunate to have a dedicated library for Genealogy. For over 60 years, HPL has collected genealogy books, family histories, microfilms and other collections to aid genealogists at all levels. Clayton Library has collections that range from local Houston information to international. Their staff is trained in Genealogy and can help you in your search. Clayton also offers presentations in specific areas of interest and methodology. Check out their website for their monthly schedule. You can search their collection online before you visit.
The Clayton Library collection is continually receiving additional materials, so don’t assume if you have visited once, that you have seen everything.
The most complete Houston collection of Genealogy resources are located at Clayton Library.
Clayton Library is also affiliated with the Familysearch.org Library in Salt Lake City. For materials not available online on the familysearch.org website, you can go to Clayton Library and use one of their computers to access materials. Clayton Library also has microfilm from the Familysearch.org Library at their Clayton Annex.
Clayton Library has ample free parking or a short walk from Houston Metro.
Julia Ideson Building
550 McKinney St.
Houston, TX 77002
The Julia Ideson Library is worth a trip to see the beautiful renovation. It is located across the plaza from the HPL main building in downtown Houston. The Julia Ideson building collections are specifically focused on Texas and Houston resources, with the "Texas Room" on the main floor. It has an extensive map collection, historical photographs covering every topic of Houston history, business records of selected Houston companies, microfiche of Houston telephone books, Houston Public School yearbooks, first editions of Texas authors, as well as Houston Sanborn maps to name a few items to give you an idea of the collection variety. There is a special collection of Houston architectural plans. Check the Houston Public Library website because the Julia Ideson Building has special hours. You can search online for these collections through the Houston Public Library website.
Parking is limited to the main library garage or a short walk from Metro.
Harris County District Clerk
Harris County Civil Courthouse
201 Caroline St.
Houston, TX 77002
If you are looking for information relating to Harris county- this the place to start. First, check their website because some documents are available online. On the second floor is the historical room, covering documents from 1837-1925. The district clerk is responsible for the court records for 59 County District Courts and 15 County Criminal Courts. The clerk maintains the jury lists.
Parking in the area can be difficult. You can park on the street or in one of the area garages or a short walk from Metro.
Harris County Clerk
Harris County Civil Courthouse
201 Caroline St.
Houston, TX 77002
Harris County records collection can be confusing because much of the collection of the Harris County Clerk is located in the same building, 201 Caroline, as the Harris County District Clerk. Fortunately, you can do your complete research at one location. The county clerk maintains the records of the Commissioner’s Court, Probate and County Civil courts. They have the vital records, marriage licenses, assumed name certificates, birth and death records. Much of this information is on microfilm. You can have copies made for $1 a page. Additional historical records can be found at the 11525 Todd St., Suite 300, 77055. See below.
Same parking as for the Harris County District Clerk.
Harris County Archives (HCA)
Sarah Canby Jackson, CA
11525 Todd St., Suite 300
This archives has a wide variety of historical records. They have the records of the Assessor and Collector of Taxes, Medical Examiner, Justices of the Peace, County Auditor, Juvenile Probation, Social Services, County Commissioners and County Judges as well as private manuscript collections, maps, scrapbooks, videos, microfilm, case files, photographs, bound and paper materials. You must make an appointment for research.This is a real warehouse. Plenty of parking.
Houston Area University Libraries
Fortunately Houston has several university libraries to aid in your search. You never know what you may find in a university library collection. Professors order books and materials for their coursework and also to support graduate student research. Donations and collections may cover any number of unusual subjects and universities purchase entire private collections. Universities pay for expensive online databases and many have special U.S. Patent or National Archive designations. Microfilm collections may include old newspapers or local items. Alumni donate as well so the special collections may have the unique and unexpected. Don’t overlook this resource.
University of Houston M.D. Anderson Library
The M.D. Anderson Library has its entire collection available in one building. Explore their online catalog to have a list of items when you arrive to help you focus when you first visit because this is a big library. They also have a number of online databases that are of interest to researchers including old newspaper databases that are not available through the Houston Pulbic Library system. A sampling of the historical databases include American Periodicals published between 1740-1940, Colonial State Papers, Early English books, Eighteenth Century Collections online, 23 ProQuest historical newspapers, Kanopy (streaming video resource of over 26,000 films covering every subject), Academic Search Complete, American Civil War: Letters and Diaries, American History in Video, 19th Century Index, Civil War, a Newspaper Perspective (1860-1865), American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series I. The library has numerous microfilms and is also a National Archives Regional Library. The basement has an entire section of U.S. Government books published by various U.S. Government agencies beginning in the 19thcentury. You can explore the stacks without restriction.
The University of Texas library system is a member of HathiTrust. You can go to M.D. Anderson Library and have full access to complete materials on HathiTrust. For non-members using HathiTrust at home, you can only download pages one pdf at a time. Using M.D. Anderson computers, you can download an entire book on a flash drive.
M.D. Anderson Library also has several large, flatbed scanners that can be used to safely scan large documents and photos. The scanners use overhead technology so no cover touches your valuable items. These scanners do not have any restrictions for use.
You can check out books from the University of Texas Library System
Houston Public Library has an arrangement with the University of Texas library system that allows special HPL cardholders to check-out books from any of the public universities in Texas. To obtain a card, you must go to the main HPL library and apply for this service. You will be able to use the M.D. Anderson Library inter-library loan system to borrow books. The card is good for one year.
Parking is available from a paid visitor lot, on weekends you can park in student lots and the campus is accessible by Metro.
Rice University Fondren Library
Rice University is a private institution, however, the library is open free to the public. Consistent with other university libraries, Fondren Library offers a wide selection of resources including databases, books and a large microfilm collection. It is a repository for the U.S. Patent office and also the National Archives for specific areas of Texas interest. They have a large collection of microfilm and microforms; however, most of this collection is stored offsite and you must order the material at least a day in advance. You have to use their online order form to obtain offsite items.
They have numerous databases of genealogical interest. Fondren Library paid to digitize the Houston Chronicle. To use this database, you must access through a library computer. As far as we know, Fondren is the only library with access to digitized Houston Chronical newspapers.
A sampling of other historical and newspapers databases include: America: History and Life with Full Text, American Indian Newspapers, Virginia Company Archives, America’s Historical Imprints, America’s Historical Newspapers, American Periodical Series Online, American West, 17thand 18thCentury Burney Collection Newspapers, 17th and 18th Century Nichols Newspapers Collection, African-American Newspapers: the 19thCentury, America’s Historical Newspapers, ANNO—Austrian Newspapers Online, British Library Newspapers, Hispanic and American Newspapers, Times Digital Archive (London) 1785-2013, and 19th Century UK Periodicals. There are many other topics in the database that you may be interested in so don’t take this as the definitive list.
Fondren Library has numerous oversize scanners that allow the item to fall over the edge of the flatbed scanner. This way, if you have a book or other item that you don’t want to flatten; you can protect the binding. Several HGF members used this feature to scan a Civil-War era diary and another used the feature to scan a rare early 20th century book in poor condition. Both items scanned successfully without damaging the binding.
Parking is a problem for Fondren Library. You can use one of the public lots along the western side of the campus with access on Greenbriar. You either need to wait for the shuttle bus that regularly circles the campus to deliver you closer to the Fondren Library, or walk.