Grand Rapids Ryerson Library. Courtesy of Mary Rasch Alt

The fourth floor of the downtown Grand Rapids Ryerson Library is a genealogist’s dream. It is filled with a variety of family history resources from all states, eastern Canada and Europe.

The very best thing anyone can do before going to any library is to research resources. Search before going to the Grand Rapids’ downtown library.

There are indexes to clipping files, such as biographies and portrait files. You can access indexes to newspapers and magazine articles, which include the Grand Rapids Press and Michigan Tradesman.

The staff on the fourth floor is very helpful and knowledgeable, greeting patrons with a smile. Plus they are very willing to help with searches. Try to share as much information as you can with the staff member, so they can give you the best ideas and show you what information is available.

If you want a sheet of paper with resources, look to the shelf as you come into the fourth floor. You might want to focus on resources from more than Michigan, such as Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, or New York. Those lists are available! If you have family in New England, check the Yankee list for the east coast state resources.

If you are looking for nationalities, go for the slips on Dutch, German, Irish and Polish. These nationalities have deep roots in the West Michigan area. Look for Hispanic, African American, and Native American resources as well.

The computers at the library have the following databases available: Ancestry Library Edition, Fold3, Heritage Quest, American Ancestors, New England Ancestors Biography & Genealogy Master Index, plus Freedmen’s Bureau, which helped African Americans after the Civil War.

For more information: 616-988-5400 or Email questions to:

Regular Hours
Monday – Thursday  (9:00 am – 9:00 pm)
Friday – Saturday  (9:00 am – 6:00 pm)
Sunday (1:00 pm – 5:00 pm)


1-hour of free validated parking in the gated lot next to the Main Library. Parking rates are $1.10 per half hour during the week, free on weekends and for library events.

– Mary Rasch Alt (Article appears in Vol 64: Issue 1 of Michigana)