The Champaign County Historical Archives has a diverse array of resources to aid in research on local history and genealogy. They range from databases which provide access to genealogical resources worldwide, to unique collections that document local life from the 1850s to the present day.
Online databases including America’s GenealogyBank, World Vital Records, Heritage Quest, and Footnote are available at no charge to all users in the library, or from outside of the library using a valid library card from The Urbana Free Library. The Ancestry Library Edition online database has on-site access only. To access these online databases, visit the Research page under the "E-Resources" tab (you will need to enter your Urbana Free Library patron barcode number), and scroll down to the "Local History & Genealogy" sub-heading.
FamilySearch Affiliate Library Services
The Champaign County Historical Archives is a FamilySearch affiliate library of the FamilySearch’s Research and Library System. This designation means library patrons have convenient access to the wealth of genealogical resources available through FamilySearch. FamilySearch is the world’s largest repository of genealogical records and manages the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. FamilySearch is extending access to its collections by circulating microfilms of the historic records through select public libraries. It is a priceless resource for local residents interested in discovering their family tree.
There is a fee to order microfilm. Contact us at 217-367-4025 for current prices. Once the film arrives, patrons can use the microfilm readers (which can print or save to your portable drive) at the Champaign County Historical Archives for viewing. The Archives staff can help patrons see what films are available, place film orders, and answer research questions. Patrons can also place their order from home by visiting the catalog at FamilySearch.org, and selecting the CCHA as the designated pick-up point.
Photo Atlas is a unique online tool available to all. It takes audio and visual materials from our collections and places them on an online map in exhibits (called "tours"). This gives you a geographic perspective as to exactly where in Champaign County historic events took place. We invite you to give it a try by visiting the Photo Atlas site today.
All of these materials are cataloged in Local History Online.
Books and Journals
Over 25,000 books and journals are available and are searchable through the library’s online catalog. These include an extensive collection of books on Champaign County and other Illinois counties, as well as publications about the 17 eastern states which served as nineteenth century migration routes to Champaign County. We also collect family genealogies and subscribe to over 100 genealogical and local history journals.
A comprehensive collection of titles from Champaign County, spanning the years 1852 to the present. Most are available on microfilm. Click here for a pdf file of the complete list of newspapers and date ranges available at the archives.
An extensive collection of directories for Champaign County, including city directories; phone books; and criss-cross directories.
Nearly complete sets of Champaign County high school yearbooks, and selective issues from area middle and elementary schools.
Many of these Special Collections materials are cataloged in Local History Online.
Records & Manuscripts
Champaign County Records, including birth, marriage, and death certificates, as well as naturalization records, county court, and circuit court records, among others.
City of Urbana Municipal Records. Microfilmed and indexed records of local government bodies and agencies spanning the years 1855 to 2001.
Records from community institutions, such as Chanute Air Force Base, Burnham Hospital and Nursing School, local schools, civil rights organizations, such as the Urban League, and Sinai Temple of Champaign-Urbana, whose records date back to its formation in 1904.
Our holdings also document the development of local businesses, such as records from Joseph Kuhn and Company’s clothing store, records of the Commercial Bank of Champaign from 1920 to 1973, and Illinois Central Railroad completion reports for many towns in Champaign County.
The Archives also holds records from local chapters of social organizations like the Order of Odd Fellows, the Champaign County Homemakers Association, and the Grand Army of the Republic. Personal collections offer glimpses of local life dating back to the mid-19th century through diaries, correspondence, and other personal papers.
Over one million photographs of local people and locations, dating from the mid-19th century to the present including the News-Gazette Collection (1974-2002), the McCandless Photography Studio Collection (1965-2001), and postcard collections with images documenting the county and the University of Illinois. Selected images have been digitized and made available online.
Over 500 historical and current local maps, plat books, and atlases are available for research.
Nearly 250 oral histories with topics that cover the length and breadth of the history of Champaign County and its communities. Richly represented within the collection is the rural life and experience of the African-American community. Additionally, many of the cassettes and their corresponding transcripts (when available) have been digitized and made available online.
Local Organization Newsletter Collection
A growing collection of over 400 newsletters distributed by local community organizations, including schools, churches, and a variety of non-profit organizations.