- USA and State Materials
- Census Records
- Passenger and Immigration Sources
- Military Records
- International Resources
- Family Histories
- Texas and Houston Area
- Houston and Texas Area Death Records
- Special Collections
- Family History Library Affiliate Program
- Online Resources
Clayton Library has a national and international collection of records and resources to help you in searching for your family’s history. Described below are the main resources used to begin and expand your search. These resources can be found in book, microprint, and/or electronic formats. Many records are also being digitized and made available through the various electronic databases the Houston Public Library subscribes to and through FamilySearch.org.
To search for books available at Clayton Library please visit the Houston Public Library Online Catalog. Combining a place and a subject in the keyword search box works best for the genealogical material. “Harris County Texas cemeteries” or “Maryland landowners” are examples of searches you can do. You may also browse a list of the available electronic databases here.
Clayton's holdings include county and state histories, as well as abstracts of records such as wills, deeds, marriages, court minutes, vital records, church, cemetery records, and colonial collections of several states. Many original records on microfilm and microfiche are part of the collection, including city directories for major US cities through 1930. In the Library we consider anything that contains material on more than one state to be part of our USA Collection. Material that is only has information about one state is shelved or filed in that state’s section.
Locating your ancestors in every available census during their lifetime is an excellent way to begin your genealogical research. You should start with the most recent census and work backwards in time. The U.S. Federal Population Census has been taken every ten years since 1790. The federal censuses are released to the public 72 years after they are taken. This wait is to ensure the privacy of the individuals listed on the census. Clayton Library has copies of all federal censuses that have been released and copies of many censuses taken by state governments during "off" years. Clayton also has indexes available for most census records in book, microprint, or electronic formats. Electronic versions of the federal census and some state census records can be searched in the Ancestry Library Edition or World Vital Records databases, while in the library or from home using the remote users link to HeritageQuest. Links to all three databases are found here.
Ship passenger lists, naturalization records, and census records are among the most common sources used in researching immigrants. Clayton Library has a large collection of National Archives passenger lists on microfilm for U.S. ports from 1820 into the 20th century. Indexes are available for most ports through the mid-20th century, on microfilm, in books, and electronically. Printed indexes are available to research passenger arrivals for colonial time periods.
Naturalization records and indexes are available at Clayton for many areas, including Harris and Galveston counties in Texas. Numerous other sources are available in print, on microfilm, and electronically to locate immigrant information.
Clayton Library holds microfilm indexes to federal service records from the American Revolution through the Philippine Insurrection, including Indexes to Registers of Enlistment, 1789-1914, indexes to confederate and union service records, and indexes to service records in the Mexican War, Indian wars, and Spanish-American War. Clayton also has indexes to most confederate pension applications, indexes to federal pensions from 1776-1934 (which includes union soldiers in the Civil War), Revolutionary War pension applications, and the special 1890 Census of Union Veterans and Widows. World War I Selective Service draft registration cards are available for Texas and Louisiana. In addition to microfilm holdings, Clayton has an extensive collection of military sources in print, particularly for the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Military service records and pension applications are also being digitized and made available through the various electronic databases the Houston Public Library subscribes to, such as, Fold3 and Ancestry Library Edition found here.
Clayton Library's collection of international sources is focused on identifying immigrant origins and beginning research overseas. "How to" books to aid research are available on many countries. The emphasis is primarily on Europe, Canada, and Mexico.
Clayton Library has one of the most extensive collections of published and unpublished family histories in the southern United States. The collection contains over 15,000 cataloged volumes and extensive vertical file materials. To search for cataloged books in Clayton's Family History collection, check the Houston Public Library Catalog. For best results, search for your surname as a subject heading phrase (example: "Watkins Family") in the Keyword Search window. Books will be shelved by the first surname in the title. A small portion of Clayton’s family histories can be found digitized at FamilySearch.org. Clayton Library’s collection also contains an extensive collection of previous donated vertical file materials of family research. Examples of the types of materials found in the vertical files include: pedigree charts, researcher notes, and photocopies of documents. These family files, which are no longer actively added to, are part of the Family History collection located on the second floor. As they are not digitized one needs to visit the library to access them.
Texas and Houston Area
Clayton Library has a large collection of material related to Texas and the Houston area specifically including some original Houston and Texas area death records, plus the R. B. Blake Collection, and some archival materials available on microfilm that cover early Texas history. If by chance you cannot find what you are looking for here you may want to visit the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library's local history and archives special collection.
Houston and Texas Area Death Records
Clayton Library contains an impressive collection of records for deaths in Texas and the Houston area. First, Clayton Library houses the original records of two Houston funeral homes. The Fogle West Funeral Home (or Fogle West Undertaking Company -- 1921 through 1975) and the Boulevard Funeral Home (or Boulevard Undertaking Company -- 1961 through 1967). Second, Clayton's book collection contains transcripts of City of Houston death certificates from 1874-1894, 1896 and January through August 1900. Third, Clayton's microprint collection contains the Harris County register of deaths, volume 1, 1903-1909. These last two are made up of deaths in the City of Houston or Harris County that are not included in the statewide collection of Texas death records and index that are available through the State Vital Records Office in Austin, or in the databases Ancestry Library Edition and FamilySearch.
Information that could be found in funeral home records is: deceased name (last, first, middle, and sometimes nicknames), sex, age, death date, parents, place interred, copy of a death certificate, an obituary, information on an autopsy, last residence, insurance records, military service information, and many other miscellaneous bits of information about a person. Information that could be found in death records is: deceased name (last, first, and middle), sex, age, death date, parents, place interred, cause of death, date and place of birth are also sometimes recorded on a death record.
Clayton Library has created a searchable index to the Fogle West and Boulevard Funeral Home records database which can be searched here: Clayton's Death Records Database.
Clayton Library volunteers have indexed books located in the Clayton Library collection that do not contain an index in the book itself. These books are local history materials related to Harris and its surrounding counties. A searchable database to these indexes can be found here: Clayton's Harris and surrounding counties book index search.
Understanding the geographic context in which your ancestors lived is an important step in identifying sources for other records. Clayton Library has an extensive collection of maps covering most US states and many foreign countries. The collection ranges in scope from colonial times to the present day and includes topographic, political, and historic maps in a wide variety of scales. In addition, Clayton actively collects published historic atlases and gazetteers.
Houston Public Library also has subscriptions to the Texas Digital Sanborn Maps and to HistoryGeo, which is a first landowners mapping database. Both databases can be accessed here. Though the HistoryGeo database can only be accessed on Clayton Library’s public computers. When you visit Clayton don’t forget to search the Clayton Map Collection cabinets for individual maps.
To search Clayton Library's holdings of atlases and gazetteers, check the Houston Public Library Catalog.
These materials are generally manuscript documents from other library or archival collections that have been microfilmed and made available for research. This material normally covers 15th, 16th and early 17th century time periods. For more information about some of the collections available at Clayton please visit the Clayton Special Collections page.
Clayton Library is a FamilySearch.org affiliate library. This partnership provides our customers with greater access to digitized records on FamilySearch.org when searching at the Clayton Library. Although FamilySearch has discontinued its microfilm lending program, Clayton Library continues to house all microfilm that was on loan to the library at the time the lending program ceased (September 2017). This includes several hundred rolls of film. To identify what materials have been digitized and are available for your geographic location, family surname, specific record type, or title visit FamilySearch.org, and begin your search in their catalog.
A variety of records are available on microfilm and microfiche including census records, military records, vital records, and county records. Many of these records have been made available digitally also, but many of the microfilms in Clayton Library’s collection have not been digitized or made available online. To search for microprint materials available at Clayton Library please search Clayton's Microprint Database. We suggest searching by location and type of record such as “Texas” and “vital” if you are looking for birth, marriage or death records in the state of Texas.
The periodical collection covers most US states, many foreign countries, and many surnames. Clayton Library has over 3000 genealogy and local history periodical titles. The material which can be unique often is not found in other publications, and can help break down a brick wall in your research. The periodical collection covers most US states, many foreign countries and many surnames. Many of these periodicals are indexed in the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), which is available online through the website Find My Past. To determine Clayton's holdings of a specific periodical title please search Clayton's Periodical Database.
There are numerous websites and databases available to aid you in your research. Houston Public Library provides access to some subscription databases for free either on location or from home with a MyLink card. For lists of websites and more information please visit the following pages: HPL's Genealogy Research page, HPL's Newspaper Resources page, Clayton's Useful Links page, and Clayton's in-house databases (see below). Clayton Library also has a growing number of digital collections available on its HPL Digital Archives page.