How do you discover who you are? Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the country.  Resources at the Alexandria Library's Special Collections Branch, whether print or electronic, can help you get started exploring your family’s genealogy today.

If your family is from Virginia, or ever passed through Virginia and the Chesapeake region, the Alexandria Library may be able to help you learn more about them. There is a shelf dedicated to each county and city in the Commonwealth of Virginia and multiple shelves for materials related to Washington DC, West Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. The library's Alexandria Collection consists of Vital Records, local histories and biographies, church and cemetery records as well as city directories and phone books are all available to assist researchers.

All materials in the Alexandria Library Special Collections Branch are a reference collection and may only be used in the library.



General Reference


Black roots : a beginner's guide to tracing the African American family tree

By Tony Burroughs.


This guide will tell you how to get started, how to organize your research, and how to contact organizations that can assist in your research.

  The hidden half of the family :a sourcebook for women's genealogy

by Christina K. Schaefer


Often in the past, for legal and cultural reasons, women’s voices were overwritten or ignored completely. In this volume discover how to identify your female ancestors and learn their stories.


The source :a guidebook of American genealogy

edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking


This volume is a great starting place and reference guide.  Outlines where collections are held across the United States, and how to access them.


Avotaynu guide to Jewish genealogy

edited by Sallyann Amdur Sack & Gary Mokotoff.


This volume benefits researchers in Jewish genealogy at any experience level. This helpful book teaches the reader the intricacies of genealogical research utilizing records from both the United States and elsewhere.


Genealogy 101 :how to trace your family's history and heritage

Barbara Renick.


An excellent book to learn the genealogical basics. While a good volume to get you started this book also has numerous useful bits of advice for the more experienced researcher.

  The handybook for genealogists :|bUnited States of America.


This book will guide you through the major records repositories in each state, as well as 19 foreign countries. An excellent resource for beginners and advanced students.


International vital records handbook :births, marriages, deaths

by Thomas Jay Kemp


A useful compilation of request forms and addresses for obtaining Vital Records from across the globe.


Tracing your West Indian ancestors

by Guy Grannum.


This volume is the place to start your search for West Indian ancestors. The book includes a beginners guide as well as Public Records Office information.


For Virginia Names

Cavaliers and pioneers : abstracts of Virginia land patents and grants, 1623-1800

By Nell Marion Nugent

A compilation of names arranged by date of names appearing in the Virginia Land Patents and Grants. This work covers the years 1666 to 1782.

Adventurers of purse and person, Virginia, 1607-1624/5 (4th ed.)

By John Frederick Dorman

Names and genealogical information for the people associated with the Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the First Colony of Virginia. This is an indispensable source for Jamestown settlers’ information.

Index to Virginia estates, 1800-1865

By Wesley E. Pippenger, Wesley E.

These volumes index microfilm held by the Library of Virginia (LVA). They index names from surviving Virginia wills from 1800–1865.  These books are a short cut to will research in the commonwealth.

DAR patriot index - Daughters of the American Revolution.

These books, while not strictly Virginia, are an excellent source for names of ancestors who contributed to the cause of American independence with out actually serving in the military.

The Germanna record : official publication of the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia, Incorporated

By Charles Herbert Huffman

The Germanna Record is the official publication of the foundation that commemorates the settlement of German colonists along the Rapidan River in the early 18th century.

Early settlers of Tidewater Virginia

By Elise Greenup Jourdan

These useful volumes utilize deed and will book information as well as historic registers of churches and other sources to lay out the early families of tidewater Virginia.

Alexandria Names and Sources

Obituary notices from the Alexandria gazette, 1784-1915

A compilation of names contained in obituary notices from Alexandria newspapers, 1784-1915.

Alphabetical index, birth records, Alexandria, Virginia

By Ellen R. Harper

A compilation of names done by the WPA during the Depression. The library also contains other birth records.

Alphabetical index, death records, Alexandria, Virginia : dates included, 1912-1939

By Ellen R. Harper

Similar to the Birth Records previously listed. Check the library catalog for several other death records compilations that also exist.

Tombstone inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia

By Wesley E. Pippenger

A five volume set of books indexing tombstones from most of the city’s cemeteries. Includes indexes, maps as well histories of the various cemeteries. 006733885 Some of the earliest marriage records taken from the period before official records were turned in to the state government. 004476529 These volumes index the Alexandria Gazette newspaper for the period from 1780-1840.  While not a complete index, these books do list proper names, occupations, ships, and other information that appeared in the local paper.



Ancestry Library

This is the library version of the most popular genealogy site. Combines a wealth of searchable databases. (Available ON-SITE Only.)

Heritage Quest

This site contains digital, searchable images of the U.S. Census.  Also available are digitized images of out of copyright genealogy and local history books. (Off-site users require remote authentication in order to access.)

FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. Patrons may freely access FamilySearch resources and services online at, or through over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. 


Besides the library catalog, researchers are also encouraged to look at the Alexandria Library Archive and Manuscript Index available online in .pdf and .html form.


Useful websites

The USGenWeb Project

A useful website that is organized by state. The site provides links to state and county institutions and organizations.

Cyndi's List

Cyndislist remains one of the most helpful genealogical sites on the internet. An ever increasing number of links are organized to help researchers locate a wide variety of materials and information.

The WorldGenWeb Project

A good site to discover information and links to sites outside the United States.

The National Archives Soundex System

This site provides a description of the Soundex system and a calculator to determine Soundex numbers.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator

The Veteran’s Administration makes this site available for researchers looking for names of individuals buried in National Cemeteries.

NPS Civil War Soliders and Sailor System

The National Park Service runs this site which lists a significant number of the individuals who participated in the American Civil War.


American Family Immigration History Center

Search for passengers who arrived at the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924. The online materials include images of ship manifests and photographs of the ships themselves. Also includes information about visiting Ellis Island.

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