Classic Catalog

All GRPL locations are currently closed. Learn about our phased reopening and GRPL To Go.

Local History Research from Home

Here is a list of digital resources to use during GRPL’s closure due to COVID-19.

Most of these resources are free to access with no login or library card required.

*Home access to the subscription databases is limited to Grand Rapids Public Library cardholders only. Live in Grand Rapids and need a library card to access our databases? No worries, we can help: sign up for a temporary e-card

The Grand Rapids History & Special Collections department collects, preserves, and shares the history of our community, through photographs, diaries, posters, maps and other records. You can research your house, your family, a business or your neighborhood. Questions? Call us at 616-988-5400 x5497 or send us an email through our contact form.

Grand Rapids History & Special Collections | Service Hours
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Main Library 11 am – 7 pm 11 am – 3 pm 11 am – 3 pm 11 am – 3 pm 11 am – 3 pm

Property History

City Directories

Lists who lived at an address, or what business was there. They also show what people’s occupations were.

Note: Street addresses in Grand Rapids changed in 1911/1912. For any addresses in 1911 or earlier, you will want to cross-reference to the modern address. The 1912 city directory (available from HathiTrust) provides both addresses.

Google Books (various years from 1856 to 1924)

HathiTrust (various years from 1859 to 1924)

*Ancestry, Grand Rapids Directories, 1889-1890

*Ancestry, US City Directories, 1822-1995
Tip: Enter address in “keyword” or browse by location.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Other Digital Resources

Albert Builders Collection
Architectural drawings produced by and for Grand Rapids-based Albert builders firm, 1950s-1960s.

Plat maps for Kent County
Shows property owners for areas outside city limits

Statewide Plat Maps 
Database with digitized images of all subdivision plats recorded in Michigan, see instructions here.

GR City Property Tax & Assessment Search
Basic property information, such as homeowner, value, legal description, recent sales, building information, and recent photographs.

Kent County Property Tax & Assessment Search
Basic property information, such as homeowner, value, legal description, recent sales, and building information.

Kent County Parcel Mapper
View property lines and aerial photographs (2003, 2009, 2014 and 2018)

Kent County Register of Deeds
Property records showing transfers in ownership. Free access until further notice for records dating back to 1970.
Tip: enter date range if your search is not returning results.

Heritage Hill Association: Architectural/Historical Inventory Cards
Prepared as part of the application for National Register of Historic Places nomination, these cards contain information on select houses in the Heritage Hill Historic District.

topoView
Historical topographic maps from the United States Geological Survey

Genealogy / Family History

Subscription Databases

*American Ancestors
From the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the country’s oldest genealogical organization.

*Ancestry Library Edition 
Billions of international genealogy records, including census, death, marriage and military records. Thanks to our friends at the Western Michigan Genealogical Society for their support of this resource.
Note: Access to this resource has been temporarily expanded to library cardholders working remotely, courtesy of ProQuest and its partner Ancestry.

*Biography Reference Center Thousands of full-text biographies, including the complete full text of Biography Today and Biography.

*MyHeritage Billions of historical documents and millions of historical photos spanning the past five centuries.

Databases and Resources (Free Access)

WMGS Manuscripts collection
Digitized family histories, family group charts and manuscripts.

WMGS Members genealogy
Searchable family tree database

Woman’s Committee of the Council of National Defense
Registration cards for women who registered for war service in the Grand Rapids area in 1918

FamilySearch
World’s largest collection of free family trees, genealogy records and resources.

Grand Rapids City Cemeteries
Search for burials by cemetery, under Genealogy Information

Kent County GenWeb
Biographies, indexes, plat maps, cemetery records, and more.

Michigan Biographical Index
A cumulative index to names listed in books and periodicals

Michiganology
A website from the Library/Archives of Michigan, including death certificates, state census records, Civil War service records, and more.

Newspapers and Periodicals

Newpapers and Periodicals

Grand Rapids Herald digitized, 1894-1916
One of the city’s primary sources of news in the 19th and early 20th century

Grand Rapids Labor Newspaper Collection, 1955-2015
Newspapers published by local labor unions

Furniture Periodicals
Three furniture trade periodicals published in Grand Rapids: The Michigan Artisan (July 1906 – June 1909), The Weekly Artisan (July 1909 – December 1910), and Fine Furniture (May 1936 – December 1937).

Peninsular Club Magazine, 1934-1943
Monthly magazines produced by and for members of the Peninsular Club.

Woman magazine, 1908-1909
A weekly newspaper of the women, for the women, by the women

Grand River Times, 2012-2018
Newsletter of the Grand Rapids Historical Society

Lowell Ledger
Browse or search KDL’s digital archive of The Lowell Ledger from 1870–2013.

Grand Rapids Press Index 1893-2000s
An historical archive available through NewsBank (paid subscription required for full access)

Michigan Digital Newspaper Portal
Links to digitized newspapers from across Michigan.

Grand Rapids History

Grand Rapids History

Grand Rapids Public Library digital collections
Over 7,000 images, plus scrapbooks, periodicals, newspapers and more

History Grand Rapids
Articles, images and podcasts on Grand Rapids history, by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission

Furniture City History 
Articles, images and podcasts on the furniture industry in Grand Rapids, by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission

Grand Rapids Public Museum digital collections
Digitized collections, galleries and exhibits

Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council
Biographies and oral history transcripts for women from Grand Rapids
Taking Center Stage – digital exhibit on women’s suffrage in Grand Rapids

City of Grand Rapids Archives and Records Center
Digitized collections and exhibits

Grand Valley State University Archives digital collections
Highlights from the Special Collections & University Archives

History Detectives: Sleuthing for Local History
Over 20 talks on Grand Rapids history, recorded from 2017-2020

GR Walks
Guided walking tours of Grand Rapids

Michigan County Histories and Atlases
Search over 400 digitized volumes, all published before 1923.

Michigan Business Entity Search
Search for records of companies registered to do business in the State of Michigan.

Digital Public Library of America
Search primary resources from across the country