Skip to main content


Tracing your family tree? Begin here.

Find Your Roots with the Library's Free Resources

If you would like to know more about your family history but don't know where to begin, let one of our librarians help you. We'll get you started and show you how to use online and print genealogy resources including Ancestry and HeritageQuest.

Call the Adult Desk at 847-634-3650 to make an appointment with one of our genealogy specialists.

Local History Collection

The library owns a collection of memoirs and individual histories of residents of Lake County. An index for the local history collection (REF 977.304 IND) is included. A collection of Lake County historical maps and newspaper clippings is also available. Please ask at the Adult Desk for more information.

Research Databases

Use these free resources to research your ancestors. You'll need your Vernon Area Public Library card to log in.

Blog Finder

The Genealogy Blog Finder can help you find blogs that are relevant to you.

Tips on How to Start Your Research

Getting Started

Begin with yourself and move backwards by generation (known to the unknown). Write an autobiography and include people who have influenced your life. Create a list of all personal documents you have in your possession—driver's license, birth certificate, diplomas, awards, marriage certificates, anything that reveals something of your life and your family. Additionally, write down all the details you know about your parents and grandparents. List all the details you know about everyone in your immediate family—names, relationships, birthdays, divorces, marriages, deaths, immigration, naturalization certificates, places lived, siblings, and children. Once you have listed all you can about your immediate family, determine how much you can actually prove with copies of the original records. The use of a family tree chart along with the family group sheet will help identify areas that need to be researched. This can also help prevent research into the wrong family since individuals who share the same surname are not necessarily related.

Search for More Information at Home

Check at home and with other family members for valuable items that can help in your research. Baby books, family Bibles, certificates, letters, journals, photographs, diplomas, newspaper clippings, school records, yearbooks, etc. can help fill in blanks.

Talk to Family Members

Interview older relatives to help fill in the blank spaces in your family tree chart and family group sheet. It also provides an opportunity to discover your family member's stories and memories. If possible, record interviews using audio or video devices. Additionally, these relatives may possess important documents such as photographs, birth certificates, family Bibles, etc.

Search U.S. Census Reports

The U.S. Census, which is available using either HeritageQuest or, is accessible in the library. The U.S. Census attempts to include most Americans in the population schedule counts from 1790 through 1940*. Census records list family members as a group and include personal data. Some examples of information found in the census are: heads of household, ages, members of a house, places of birth, addresses, and immigration data. For privacy reasons, the U.S. Census closes population schedules for 72 years.

*The 1950 census records will be released in April 2022.

Find Vital Records

Vital records include birth, marriage, and death records, which are kept by state and local governments. Access to these records varies by county and agencies may charge a fee. Death records are one of the best starting points since they list the place and date of death and the place and date of birth or marriage. Other vital records may be more difficult to obtain because of privacy laws.

Keep a Research Log

Always list and cite your sources using titles, page numbers, and dates in a notebook. This will help save time in future searches.



These tutorials will help you begin your family history research.


Free resources for online reseach.

Genealogy Tip of the Day

Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available? Experienced genealogy researcher Michael John Neill offers help.