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 of 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 with any questions!

Events at the Library

Even with San Francisco State University and the library reopening, we will continue to host our regular family and local history events virtually.

Save the date for our next event Thursday, October 21st at 4:00 pm PDT with guest speaker Pamela Wong who will share the mystery of a grand uncle who migrated from China not to California, but to Australia. More details will be announced on social media and in our monthly e-newsletter in October.

All of the recordings for our virtual events can be found on the California State Library YouTube.

Bay Area Genealogy Calendar

For September, our featured virtual event is “Telling the Stories of Your Female Immigrant Ancestors” presented by the Santa Clara County Historical & Genealogical Society on September 21, 2021.

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

Getting Social

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @SutroLibrary.

To receive notifications about events and happenings at Sutro Library, sign up for our monthly email newsletter.

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

Books on Display in Reading Room

New acquisitions to the genealogy collection are featured on a “New Materials” shelf. Highlights of our collection are regularly on display. New materials and highlights are located near the reference desk.

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

Physical Collections

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
  • archival collections

Online Resources

  • Catalog: Search what’s in our collections by filtering results by location.
  • Databases: Access our subscription databases remotely and on-site.
  • Genealogy Hub: Check out what the California State Library has for genealogical research and make sure to explore the toolkit for helpful tips, strategies and links as well as an interactive four-generation chart.
  • Online Archive of California: Search the finding aids (aka inventories) of our archival collections.
  • Telephone Directories on Microfiche database: Coming soon

Visit Us

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. The Sutro Library is accessible by public transit, and 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

Remote Access

Many genealogical publications, especially those no longer in copyright, are available through free sites like FamilySearch and the Internet Archive. Some of the databases researchers can access remotely through a state library card, other databases researchers can access on-site at the library.

Look-Ups and Scan Requests

If there’s an ancestor or a topic of interest that you need us to look up in a specific book, we are happy to provide this look-up and scan relevant pages to you. We are only able to scan more than 10% of a publication if it is no longer under copyright (typically before 1923). 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, contact us through Ask A Librarian.