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 Fold3 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 those interested in discovering their family tree. FamilySearch charges 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 also can place their orders from home by visiting the catalog at FamilySearch.org and selecting CCHA as the designated pick-up point.
The following materials are cataloged in Local History Online.
Books and Journals
Over 25,000 books and journals available and searchable through the Local History Online catalog. These include an extensive collection of books on Champaign County and other Illinois counties, as well as publications about states that served as 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, and holdings documenting businesses and local chapters of social organizations. 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), the Pilon Studio Collection, 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 recordings and their corresponding transcripts (when available) have been digitized and made available online.
Local Organization Newsletter Collection
A growing collection of over 700 newsletters distributed by local community organizations, including schools, churches, and a variety of non-profit organizations.