Guest Author, Dennis Suttles
One of Springfield’s best kept secrets for genealogical research is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (ALPL). The Illinois General Assembly created this library in 1889 as the Illinois State Historical Library charged with the collection of the history of Illinois and its people. In October 2004 the library’s name changed to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and moved from the basement of the Old State Capitol to its present location at the corner of Jefferson and Sixth Streets, just south of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
The ALPL houses published, manuscript, audio-visual, newspapers on microfilm, and Lincoln collections documenting all aspects of Illinois history. Its collection strengths include Lincoln, the Civil War, 19th-century Illinois history, genealogy, biography, and geography.
The reference desk in the Steve Neal Reading Room on the first floor of the library services the books and maps housed in both the general and Lincoln published collections. Published works of interest to genealogists include county histories, city directories, historical atlases, plat books, indexes to federal census records, published family histories, military indexes, immigrant and passenger lists, and genealogical information from states and former colonies east of the Mississippi River. The reading room also contains many indexes of cemetery inscriptions, birth, death, probate, land, marriage, and other miscellaneous records. Patrons have unlimited access to Internet, Ancestry Library Edition, and Heritage Quest databases while using the reading room for research purposes. These databases give our patrons access to both federal and state census records as well as other genealogical information. For more information about the map and published collections, please call the reference desk at 217-524-6358.
The Manuscripts Reading Room on the second floor contains over 6,000 collections dealing with various aspects of Illinois history. Many of these collections can be used to research family history. Types of papers and records found in the Manuscripts Department include: letters, diaries, journals, business records, farm diaries and account books, church records, banker records, land company records, justice of the peace documents, school records, funeral home records, and applications for parole to name a few. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 217-785-7942.
The Audio-Visual Department contains pictures of Illinois sites and individuals, including a large number of Civil War soldiers. There is an online Civil War Database of soldiers that is searchable by name, date, and regiment. For more information about the Audio-Visual Department and its holdings or to make an appointment to use its collections, please call 217-785-7955. Be sure to view the Boys in Blue Exhibit on the first and second floor of the library atrium. Many of these pictures are from the ALPL Audio-Visual Department.
The ALPL has the largest collection of Illinois newspapers on microfilm in the world. Many date to the early nineteenth century. Newspapers are especially useful for locating obituaries or information about local events. A listing of the ALPL newspaper holdings is located on the Newspapers/Microfilm Collection link from the ALPL website. Newspaper microfilm is available through interlibrary loan through your local participating library. For more information about the Newspaper/Microfilm Collection, please call 217-785-7941.
The Lincoln Department is a research division of the ALPL. Use of the Lincoln Collections is by appointment only. However, patrons with an interest in Lincoln or in tracing their family lineage to the 16th President are welcome to visit the ALPL Reading Room where works on the Lincoln, Todd, and Hanks genealogies may be consulted.
When you come to Abraham Lincoln’s hometown to tour the Lincoln sites, don’t forget to pack your family genealogy worksheets and files for a working holiday at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. You will be glad you did.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library located at 112 North Sixth Street, Springfield, Illinois, and is open to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (closed Saturday, Sunday, and state holidays). When preparing for a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, be sure to check out the website for additional information about the collections.