Getting Started

Step 1: Family

1.  Talk to family members: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Family members are an excellent source of information. When speaking with family be sure to write/transcribe all the information (see family group sheets) and, if they are willing, record the discussion. Also, check with family members as someone may already be working on the family tree and this can save valuable research time.

2.  Make a list of questions ahead of time and be sure to ask: birthplace, names of parents and siblings, where they lived, churches attended, burial locations, marriages, occupations, military service, public service, schools attended, etc.

3.  Work backwards in your research. Begin with your parents and then go backwards generation by generation. Family group sheets are a great way to record this information.

4.  Share and share alike. Genealogy is a great way to connect with others and sharing family data, research tips, and resources can go a long way in making contacts and/or finding those missing pieces.

5.  Organize all of your material. There are a variety of family group sheets that make this easy. There are also various online resources that can be used to organize and track your research. Some genealogy web sites allow you to build and post your family tree online.

6.  Document all of your research. Make sure to include the original source of all the information you find (i.e. 1850 US Census for Covington, Kentucky,, January 1, 2014). Citing the sources also lets you know later on where the information came from.

7.  Visit or contact the KCPL Local History and Genealogy Department.


Step 2: Start your research with the Local History and Genealogy Department.

1. Staff in the Local History and Genealogy Department is very knowledgeable and can assist with genealogy and historical research. The Department has a large collection of print, microfilm, and online genealogical and historical resources available.

a.  The print resources are typically published items that cover all Kentucky counties and many of the surrounding states. The genealogical and historical print material includes, but is not limited to, city directories, published family histories, city and county records, US Census records, county histories, ship passenger lists, etc. There is also a section devoted to Kentucky fiction, nonfiction, and biography.

b.  The microfilm holdings consist of area newspapers, such as the Kentucky Post,Cincinnati Enquirer (KY Edition), Cincinnati Times-Star, and many other smaller newspapers; vital records for births, marriages, and deaths; church records, both Catholic and Protestant; cemetery records; census records; military records; and other records of local importance.

c.  The online resources include the latest genealogical and historical databases such as AncestryFamilySearchFold3HeritageQuest, and World Vital Records. The Library has also created several databases, GeNKYFaces and Places, and the Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index, that focus specifically on Northern Kentucky. Other tools include subscriptions to various historical and still existing newspapers. The databases, with the exception of Ancestry, can be accessed at home. Several require a valid Kenton County Public Library Card.


2.  Material available at the Library that is invaluable to researchers and can provide a wealth of information include the US Census, newspapers, vital records, photographs, family files, and/or local history files.

a.  The US Census, conducted every 10 years since 1790 is a great way to locate ancestors. The records are rich with information, especially after 1850 when it began to list family members, occupation, nationality, education, and birth place. Researchers should note the 1890 Census was lost in a fire and, due to privacy laws, the Census is released 72 years after it was conducted (the 1940 Census is the latest available).

b.  Newspapers often contain articles, obituaries, wedding and birth announcement, and/or images of individuals. They also provide context for the time and town in which an ancestor resided. The Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index is an excellent tool to find references to ancestors and events in the newspaper collection. Three historical newspapers, the Cincinnati Enquirer, 1841-2009The Chicago Defender and Louisville Courier-Journal, 1830-1922, are available online.

c.  Vital records are official city, county, or state records that track births, marriages, and deaths. The State of Kentucky started keeping birth and death records in 1911. Prior to that, birth and death records may exist for in Kentucky counties from 1852-1861, 1874-1878, and through the late 1890s and early 1900s. The Library has Kenton County birth records for 1896-1911 and death records from 1881-1915. Marriage records for Covington are also available from 1874-1912. Death records for the entire state through 1962 are available on microfilm.

d.  The Library has a large collection of images, many of which have been digitized and are available in the Faces and Places database. This database is a great tool to search for photographs of your family, events, local buildings, towns, neighborhoods, and streets.

e.  The Family Files and Local History Files are vertical files of material that have been donated by researchers or compiled by staff. The Family Files contain correspondence, family group sheets, and other information on families of Northern Kentucky. The Local History Files include information detailing the history of Northern Kentucky. Select Local History File items have been digitized, while both sets of files have been indexed on geNKY.

3.  Check the Library calendar to see when classes are offered on genealogy research, database instruction, and/or use of local history and genealogy resources. In addition, the calendar will list genealogy and history related programs held at the library.

4.  If you have any questions about getting started or researching your family tree, please contact the Local History staff at 859-962-4070 or

5.  Learn more about our resources in the

Research Tools:

The Library has many databases that can be a great place to start your research.  Our GenKY database is content that we have digitized in house and is not available elsewhere.  This information is from local resources.  We also have many nationally available databases that require your Library card.  Ancestry Library Edition & FindMyPast are the only genealogy databases that are not available outside the Library.

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