Started as a small special collection of the Houston Public Library in 1921, the genealogy research collection was originally -housed in the Julia Ideson Building in downtown Houston. In 1968, the collection was relocated to the Clayton House at 5300 Caroline Street in Houston’s historic Museum District. This was the former home of Houston businessman and statesman William Lockhart Clayton and wife Susan Vaughan Clayton, who deeded the property to the City of Houston for use as a public library.
The collection continued to grow while in the historic home. Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, the site adjacent to the Clayton House was purchased in 1986, and construction of a new library building was completed in 1988. The new building was designed to complement the style and structure of the historic Clayton House, and it provided more space for the genealogical collection to expand.
In 2006, the Houston Public Library, with the dedicated support of the Clayton family, Clayton Library Friends, and the City of Houston, initiated a restoration project of the three historical buildings on the property. As a result, the Clayton Library Center now encompasses a four-building complex, including the Main Building, Clayton House, Guest House, and Carriage House. Thousands of visitors from all over the United States come to the Family History Research Center at the Clayton Library Campus every year to further their own family history research using the renown international research collection.