The Genesee Valley was a magnet for pioneers in the early 19th century due to the rich farmland and prime shipping location on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. The opening of the Erie Canal further added to the valley's allure and eased travel to the west. Whole families migrated to the area through the first half of the 19th century; some stayed, while others moved on to even wilder lands farther west. People now living in as diverse locations as Michigan, Oregon, California and Texas can often find an ancestor who once lived in the Rochester area.
Libraries have begun fielding more and more questions about the history of the people who lived in or passed through our towns and cities. The Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County boasts one of the premier collections of local historical and genealogical materials in western New York, while smaller municipal libraries such as the Ogden Farmers' Library in Spencerport, the Henrietta Public Library, and the Penfield Public Library have built collections of materials relevant to their particular towns. MCLS libraries have developed collections and finding aids that try to make sense of the past in an effort to better serve our own residents as well as those visitors who come seeking their roots.
Below are links to genealogical materials held by the Central Library's Local History and Genealogy Division and by various town libraries.
- Life Records Database -- birth, death, and marriage indexes from City of Rochester newspapers and selected records from the Brockport Republic indexed by Ogden Farmers’ Library.
- New York State Vital Records Index -- microfiche index to New York State Vital Records. The NYS Bureau of Vital Records provides birth and marriage records from 1881 and death records from 1880. The microfiche is located in the Retrieval Room of the Central Library.
- Census Record Holdings -- census information in microfilm, CD, online, and print formats
- Heritage Quest -- a powerful and popular genealogical resource that includes the Federal Censuses, over 25,000 family and local histories, bank and military records, and genealogical and local history sources. You can access HeritageQuest from outside the library. You will be prompted to enter the barcode number from your library card.
- Genealogy Indexes -- indexes of names taken from various local historical resources
- Local Directories -- digitized pdf versions of Rochester City Directories, Rochester Suburban Directories, and other directories from Monroe County
- Rochester Newspaper Index -- digitized pdf references to articles that appeared in the Rochester newspapers during the period 1818-1897.
- Research Guide -- answers frequently-asked questions about how to find historical and genealogical materials in Rochester and Monroe County and includes Genealogy Links -- links to other web sites that are useful for genealogical research
- Genealogy Links
- Ancestry.com - The Local History Division of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County subscribes to this popular database, as do some town libraries. Access is only available in these libraries.