Genealogy Collection

The Genealogy Collection began when the Sutro Library became part of the California State Library in 1913. Founded on elements within Adolph Sutro's original collection, Sutro Library's genealogical and local history collection was formalized with the donation Berkeley resident and former president of the International Genealogical Federation, Henry Byron Phillips’ (1850–1924) private library. Other local organizations also helped get the collection started, like the California Genealogical Society. Today the collection is one of the largest genealogy collections west of Salt Lake City.

Materials in the collection are non-circulating; however, pending the Library Director’s approval and any restrictions, they may be eligible for InterLibrary Loan with the condition of In-Library Use. The public is always welcome to visit. the Reading Room during business hours. If you are unable to visit, we can perform look-ups (for example, if you’re looking for a specific ancestor in a specific book in our collection) and scan the relevant pages to you. Feel free to contact us at sutro@library.ca.gov with any questions!

Events at the Library

Sutro Library hosts quarterly family and local events. The next event is on Friday, August 7th at 4 pm on Zoom, Adolph Sutro: King of the Comstock Lode and Mayor of San Francisco.

Bay Area Genealogy Calendar

August's featured virtual event is presented by the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society “Getting Ready for the 1950 Census: Searching with and without a Name Index" with Dr. Steve Morse on August 24th.

See calendar for more details as well as other local and family history events happening virtually in the Bay Area.

Getting Social

Check out The Sutronian: Biweekly musings on the Sutro Library blog. Top genealogy related posts include:

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @SutroLibrary

To sign up for our email list to get notified about events and happenings at Sutro Library, email us at sutro@library.ca.gov.

Books on Display in Reading Room

For July, we are highlighting the American Revolution with books found in the genealogy collection including: Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian patriots in the Revolutionary War published by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Check back soon for the full list or stop by our Reading Room to see them in person when the Library reopens.

Physical Collection

Mostly located in the open stacks of the Reading Room, the Genealogy Collection is comprised of family and local histories, city and telephone directories, various abstracts and indexes for court, vital and property records, genealogical, historical, and lineage society publications and archival collections.

Online Resources

  • Catalog: For searching what’s in the Library collections. Use filters to narrow results to just Sutro Library.
  • Databases: For accessing our subscription databases. Some are accessible remotely while most are only accessible on-site, such as Ancestry.com.
  • Genealogy Hub: To learn about all of the State Library's genealogy resources. For helpful tips, strategies and links as well as an interactive four-generation chart make sure to check out the toolkit.
  • Online Archive of California: For searching the finding aids (aka inventories) of our archival collections.
  • Telephone Directories on Microfiche database (coming soon)

The Sutro Library is located on the 5th floor of the J. Paul Leonard Library, San Francisco State University. The business hours are Monday–Friday, 10 am – 4 pm excluding, State and University holidays. For getting to the Sutro Library public transit may be easiest, but there are parking options available. Please check out our Visit Us section for more details.

Materials in the collection are non-circulating; however depending on if there are any restrictions, they may be eligible for InterLibrary Loan with the condition of In-Library Use. If you have any questions about borrowing our materials, please feel free to contact us through Ask a Librarian

While not a lot of our materials have been digitized yet, many genealogical publications, especially those no longer in copyright, are available through free sites like FamilySearch and the Internet Archive There are some databases you can access remotely though subscription-based ones are only available on-site at the library.

If there’s an ancestor or something of interest that you need us to look up in a specific book, we are happy to provide this look-up and relevant scans. Keep In mind if the publication is still under copyright (typically anything published before 1923), we can scan no more than 10% of it to fall under Fair Use. We do not charge for this service. If you have any questions or would like for us to perform a look-up and/or scan pages you’ve already identified, please contact us through Ask a Librarian.