Local History Research from HomeHere is a list of digital resources you can access from anywhere
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 library 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.
To contact Grand Rapids History & Special Collections, please call 616-988-5400 (ext 5497) or send us an email through our contact form.
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 1933)
*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
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.
Historical topographic maps from the United States Geological Survey
Genealogy / Family History
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
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
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
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.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Black Newspaper Collection
ProQuest Historical Black Newspapers offer essential primary source content and editorial perspectives of the most distinguished African American newspapers in the U.S. Includes Chicago Defender (1909-1975) and Michigan Chronicle (1939-2010).
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
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
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
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