Unlocking Family Ancestry Mysteries Can be Thrilling and Challenging for Some

Some people can trace their family's ancestry back for centuries, and others only a generation or two. It can be a thrilling experience to uncover information about relatives who lived centuries ago, but the search can prove challenging. Your Hillsborough County Library card may be the key to unlocking missing records or documents that will get you over that hurdle.

The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative (HCPLC) has numerous resources and knowledgeable staff to help, whether you're just beginning the process or looking for that next piece of the puzzle.

John F. Germany Public Library is the main history library. Its fourth floor houses one of the largest genealogy collections in the Southeast. It is one of only two in the state with extensive resources.

Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library features the only African American-focused genealogy reference collection in Tampa-Hillsborough Public Libraries. African American genealogy research has some unique challenges. Before the 1870 Census, the first census following the Civil War, records were difficult to trace, and names were often inaccurate, reflecting a place rather than a person. From Reconstruction to the early 1900s, many Blacks left the South. The Great Migration to the North, West, and Midwest ensued between 1910 and the 1970s, and more so following both World War I and II, adding to the challenge of finding family histories.

The Freedmen's Bureau records are available on microfilm at Saunders Library and are organized by state. The Reconstruction-era government agency, which offered legal, economic, and social assistance to formerly enslaved people from 1865-1872, may provide valuable information from war pensions, bank records, and land purchases, such as where the individual was born, relatives, beneficiaries, and profession.

The first floor of Saunders Library houses an art gallery, a collection of Burgert Brothers photographs, and the Hall of History, an interactive mini-museum with exhibits highlighting the historic Central Avenue business district, an area once known as the Harlem of the South.

The research library on the second floor houses books on African American life, heritage and culture, along with local history binders of photos, maps, and blueprints of historic neighborhoods, and additional photographs from the Burgert Brothers collection.

C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library is home to the Florida Sentinel Bulletin newspaper archives dating back to the mid-1940s, preserved in both paper and microfilm formats. The weekly newspaper serves the African American community of the Tampa Bay area. Newspapers are great resources for searching birth, marriage, and death announcements in genealogy research, and looking for accounts of historic events where family members may be mentioned or had attended. The C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library also has a collection of old Ebony and Jet magazines. Personal possessions and posters with information about the library's namesake are also available for viewing in the room.

Library card holders also have access to many online databases, such as Ancestry, My Heritage, and the recently added FamilySearch database, which is considered one of the most comprehensive genealogical databases in the world.

Library staff can offer tips and help locate resources for your search. Regardless of the stage of your research, HCPLC has extensive genealogical resources available to help you along the way.

Posted: 2/28/2024, 5:00:10 PM