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Want to learn more?

If you want to find out more about a person, organization or topic related to Grand Rapids, we can help! The Grand Rapids History Center has guides for researching houses, opens a new window and families, opens a new window, and lists of indexes and newspapers.

There are many other websites, organizations, museums, and archives that you can use in your local history research. See our lists below for ideas.

Indexes and Databases

Michigan County Histories and Atlases
Search and view over 400 digitized books, 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.

Local History Websites

ArchitectureGR, opens a new window
Stories and images documenting building history in the Grand Rapids area.

Common Corners, opens a new window
Historical and genealogical resources for eight counties in West Michigan.

History Detectives Grand Rapids, opens a new window
Annual program on Grand Rapids history, including over 20 recorded talks.

History Grand Rapids, opens a new window
Articles, images and podcasts on Grand Rapids history, by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission.

Furniture City History, opens a new window
Articles, images and podcasts on the furniture industry in Grand Rapids, by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission.

West Michigan Holocaust Memorial, opens a new window
Preserving the stories of West Michigan survivors.

Historical and Genealogical Organizations

Grand Rapids Historical Society, opens a new window
Monthly programs on local history.

Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council
, opens a new window
Information on women from Grand Rapids, cemetery tours, and a digital exhibit on women's suffrage.

Kutsche Office of Local History at GVSU, opens a new window
Programs and projects giving voice to diverse communities.

Western Michigan Genealogical Society, opens a new window
Classes, programs, and resources on family history.

Museums and Archives

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

Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, opens a new window
Archives related to the sisters and their work.

Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives, opens a new window
Collecting and retelling Black history in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Public Museum digital collections, opens a new window
Digitized collections, galleries and exhibits.

Grand Valley State University Special Collections & University Archives, opens a new window
Includes images, oral histories, and documents relating to Grand Rapids.

Heritage Hall at Calvin University, opens a new window
Records of the university, the Christian Reformed Church and Dutch immigration.

Michigan Masonic Museum & Library, opens a new window
Collections on freemasonry in Michigan, located in Grand Rapids.

Zhang Legacy Collections Center at WMU, opens a new window
Regional History Collection includes Kent County and West Michigan.

Local History Tours

Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council, opens a new window
Tours featuring local women, downtown and in cemeteries.

Ghosts of Grand Rapids Tours, opens a new window (fee)
Grand Rapids history mixed with the paranormal world.

GR Crime Tours, opens a new window (fee)
A comedic tour with true stories of local crime.

GR Walks, opens a new window
App with historical walking tours of Grand Rapids.

GR Tag Tour, opens a new window
QR code walking tour of downtown history.

Grand Rapids Running Tours, opens a new window (fee)
Guided walking and running tours of Grand Rapids history.

Tours Around Michigan, opens a new window (fee)
Guided tours of Grand Rapids history.

FAQs

  • The Grand Rapids History Center 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. Staff are ready to assist you with your research needs, whether it be finding material on our shelves, tips on where to start, or with navigating our archival collections. We’re here to help you explore at your own pace. You may drop in at any time, or you can contact us ahead of time with questions. If you’re traveling from out of town, we recommend that you check in with us before your visit (but it isn’t required). The Grand Rapids History Center is located on level four of the Main Library, and is open the same hours.  Please note that while covered beverages are allowed on other floors of the library, no food or beverages (including water) are permitted on level four.
  • Contact us with details of your research request. We’re happy to answer quick questions and provide suggestions for further research. Due to the time and staff resources involved in researching answers to local history, genealogy, and furniture questions, some fees apply to certain types of requests. We encourage researchers to come to our library to be assisted for free.

    Family history queries can also be submitted to the Western Michigan Genealogical Society research committee.

  • We love when people use and share images from our archives. Our digital collections were designed with sharing in mind and if you find content that you would like to download and share, you are welcome to do so. If you do, we ask that you please let people know that it came from the Grand Rapids Public Library, so others may find it as well.

    There are some fees that apply to scanning and using images. If the content is not available through our digital collections, there is a $5 processing fee per image. If you would like to include an image in a published book or use it for commercial purposes (such as selling a t-shirt or creating artwork for a restaurant or office), there is a use fee of $15 per image. For additional information and to order images, please visit our order form.

    There are also exceptions for content where the copyright is held by someone else. In those instances, you need to seek permission from the copyright holder. In our digital collections we use RightsStatements.org categories to share, to the best of our knowledge, if content is in the public domain or under copyright. 

  • You can search our finding aids here. When you arrive, you will fill out a request card for each folder or box. The request card asks for your name and contact information, and the location of the material you would like to view (usually a collection number, box number and folder number). You may have one box or five folders at your table at a time.  All materials are stored on-site. If you would like any guidance in searching or in preparing your requests, please contact us.  

  • We are always looking for items to tell the story of our community, from the recent past to the 1800s. If you have unique books, papers, letters, scrapbooks or photographs you think would contribute to this cause, please contact us.

    If you are interested in making a monetary donation, please contact the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation.

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