Local and family history research – six online resources you can use from home

View of the Colorado Street Bridge (which opened in 1913) from the west looking across to the San Gabriel Mountains to the north.

Do you like local history or learning about your family’s history? Research of this kind often requires a visit to the library to browse through city directories, photos, genealogical records, old newspapers, and microfilm; however, during the temporary closure of many libraries throughout the nation due to the coronavirus pandemic, stopping by your local library isn’t really an option. Don’t despair! The Pasadena Public Library has a number of online resources you can access from home to do your family history, work on your history assignment, or simply enrich your mind with stories from the past.

Check out these six online resources for local history, house history, and genealogical research. You may need a library card to access some e-resources. If you don’t have a card with us, you can apply for a temporary e-card online.

Microform readers at the Central Library, 1977.

Pasadena News Index (PNI)

The Pasadena News Index is an online database for finding Pasadena-related articles published in local papers dating back to 1883. Articles include obituaries, editorials, commentaries, birth and wedding announcements, photo essays, and stories of the time that took place in Pasadena. PNI is great for people wanting to find a particular article or looking to see if anything was written about a particular person or story that happened in the past. The database only gives citations and not the full-text article. You’ll need to locate the actual article in microfilm, which is housed at the Central Library. During the temporary closure of all Pasadena libraries, you can call us or chat live with a library staff during designated hours and request a copy of an article to be sent to you via email. You can also send your request anytime using AskUs!

Los Angeles Times – Historical (1881–2010)

If you like going through old newspapers and reading about events of the past, then you’ll want to know about the Los Angeles Times – Historical database we have. The great thing about it is that it provides full-text articles published in the Los Angeles Times between 1881 and 2010, so there’s no need to even come to the library and find the article in microfilm or in the actual newspaper…well, you probably won’t find a complete print collection of LAT issues from the late 1880s at most libraries. This database provides students, amateur historians, genealogists, researchers, and scholars with first-hand accounts and unparalleled coverage of the politics, society, and events of the time.

Genealogy research at the Central Library, 1978


Ancestry.com is one of a few databases in our e-resources collection that can only be accessed at the library. However, ProQuest and Ancestry.com are making the Ancestry® Library Edition available to remote users for the duration of the Safer-at-Home Order. What does this mean? It means you can access this database from the comfort and safety of your home by going to our database page and simply clicking on the Ancestry link. Ancestry.com is a premier genealogy research database, and its genealogical coverage of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom includes data from census, vital, church, court, school, military, and immigration records. If you’re looking for something to do while staying “safer at home,” why not start planting—so to speak—a family tree! You can do this using all the neat features of Ancestry.com.


Here’s another genealogy database to help you discover your family’s history and story. FamilySearch offers a collection containing billions of names and records, which include birth, marriage, death, probate, land, military, and much more extracted from the International Genealogical Index (IGI). Use this database to piece together your family’s history and bring your ancestors’ stories to life.

This three-story Tudor house was originally built in 1902 for J.C. and Gertrude Potter Daniels of Chicago, IL. The house was sold in 1905 to Susan Bransford-Emory Holmes, also known as the Utah “Silver Queen.” She had the house transformed into an English Tudor mansion at a cost of $37,000 and named it “El Roble” for the oak tree on the property. In 1937, Mrs. Anna C. Newcomb became the third owner and made additional interior modifications. The house was later willed to Occidental College. It returned to private hands in 1969 when it was purchased by Marshall and Pamela Morgan.

California Historical Resources Inventory Database (CHRID)

The California Historical Resources Inventory Database (CHRID) is a searchable, interactive database that contains information about every designated historic property and district in Pasadena. If your house is in a historic landmark district that’s been surveyed by the Design & Historic Preservation Department, then you might find information about your property, such as your house’s architectural style, the architect or architectural firm that designed it, which neighborhood it belongs to, and when it was built. The Central Library has a variety of resources for those who are interested in learning more about the history of their house. This database is one of these resources that’s available online to help you get started.

Pasadena Digital History Collaboration (PDHC)

The Pasadena Public Library has one of the largest collections of photographs that document and reflect Pasadena’s rich history. The collection encompasses dates from the 1880s to the 1990s with the majority of the photos documenting Pasadena prior to 1925. It covers a broad subject area that includes private and public buildings, businesses, library history, city government, people, organizations, transportation, urban development, and the Pasadena landscape through the years. Many of the photographs from the Library’s collection have been scanned and are available for viewing online in the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration website. The PDHC is a collective repository of photographs from the Pasadena Public Library, Pasadena City College, the Pasadena Museum of History, and other community partners. In addition to photos, the database includes city directories, artwork, newspaper articles, manuscripts, sound recordings, and videos, all of which collectively represent Pasadena’s rich heritage.

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