Visit our Local History & Genealogy Department
Located on Lower Level 1 of the Main Library, the Local History and Genealogy Room is a vast and growing collection highlighting the history of Peoria, reputed to be the oldest European settlement in Illinois.
Established in 1691 by the French explorer Henri de Tonti, Peoria has had a distinctive past. The Illinois River and the World’s Most Beautiful Drive. Whiskey. Vaudeville. Penicillin. Caterpillar. Every facet of our past has a home in Peoria Public Library’s archives.
Our knowledgeable and dedicated staff is available to assist you, whether you call, email or visit us in person.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, Main Library
Phone: (309) 497-2000
Local History & Genealogy Resources
The Genealogical Collection
The Genealogical Collection includes indexes, bibliographies, magazines, books, microfiche, and microfilm. Please check the library’s catalog for specific titles. If we don’t have the specific title that you are looking for, remember that we can Inter-Library Loan most items through your Peoria Public Library card.
Ancestry.com is available in the library and Heritage Quest can be accessed in the library or remotely with your library card and PIN.
City Cemetery or The Public Graveyard
City Cemetery was located at 1312 W. Lincoln Avenue in the five acres now known as Lincoln Park. Originally named “The Public Graveyard” it was open from 1842-1886. It is the current site of the Peoria Public Library – Lincoln Branch. Official burial records are not located at this time but extensive research has begun to recreate the City Cemetery records. If you have information about an ancestor that was buried there, please contact 309.497.2000.
Click below to get a list of local cemeteries and mausoleums.
The following information is currently available on the above mentioned cemeteries:
• Burials moved from City Cemetery to Springdale Cemetery
• City Ordinance Governing City Cemetery
• Sales Records 1851
• Plat Map City Cemetery
The Local History Collection
The Local History Collection includes the formats of fiction and nonfiction. You will find the works of local authors Philip Jose Farmer, Betty Friedan, Ken Zurski, Kevin Stein, Norm Kelly and many more. The many items in this collection include Illinois county histories and subject magazines and journals such as the Illinois State Historical Journal. Please check the library’s catalog for specific titles. If we don’t have the specific title that you are looking for, remember that we can Inter-Library Loan most items with your Peoria Public Library card.
For more detail on Peoria Public Library’s history, click on the booklet below or watch the following on our YouTube channel:
Peoria Public Library History, Part One (1846-1968): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neJNE5ttsmA
Peoria Public Library History, Part Two (1968-Present): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qY4ZE7KFNEg
Peoria Public Library History — Curses, Scandals, Riots and Controversies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7euO2TbePs
This is a collection of articles on genealogy by staff member Amber Lowery
Amber Lowery, on staff at Peoria Public Library, writes occasional articles about genealogy. The articles below contain a wealth of information and ideas for using resources at Peoria Public Library as well as information on traditional and genetic genealogy.
Local Historians have wonderful stories to tell. Our talented local writers and researchers often find gems of local history that have escaped being chronicled. Here are a collection of essays that will reveal little known facts about Peoria and its history.
Norm Kelly Stories
Norman V. Kelly
Norm Kelly (1932-2020) was an avid local history chronicler who wrote more than 600 articles and a dozen books in his lifetime of looking into Peoria’s past. His book, UNTIL YOU ARE DEAD, which details the crime, trial and execution of ten murderers from Peoria’s past is available to check out at Peoria Public Library. Along with digging through our archives, Kelly always said much of his writing was informed from his real life experience as a private detective in Peoria.
Norm Talks About Old Peoria
Norm Talks About Prohibition in Peoria
Norm Talks About Famous Peorians – Part 1
Norm Kelly Talks About the Coliseum and The Armory