• Welcome!

    The Special Collections Division houses the genealogy and local history materials of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. Our goal is to collect, preserve, and provide access to the history of Summit County, and to continue to maintain one of the area’s most extensive genealogy collections.

  • Local History Database

    The database contains references to the Library's local history collections as well as the Summit County Historical Society's collections. Search the index to the collections.
  • Summit Memory

    Visit the online scrapbook of Summit County History at www.SummitMemory.org
  • Summit County World War II News Index

    This database indexes the names of Summit County servicemen and servicewomen who were named in the Akron Beacon Journal during World War II. Some non-military names are also included. This database currently includes records up through April 30, 1943. World War II Database
  • Ohio Obituary Index

    Search for obituary citations from select Ohio newspapers, including the Akron Beacon Journal, using the Ohio Obituary Index.

How to Help Index Freedmen’s Bureau Records

FamilySearch invites you to attend “The Freedmen’s Bureau Project Announcement” to learn about making millions of Freedmen’s Bureau records available online. The project will be introduced Thursday, July 16, 2015, 6:00 – 7:30 pm, Main Library, Meeting Room 2AB.  Please RSVP to  lewisk@ldspublicaffairs.org by July 12th.

FamilySearch, the largest genealogy organization in the world, is seeking volunteers to help index these records with the goal of completing this project by the 2016 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

The Freedmen’s Bureau was created by Congress in 1865 to aid newly freed slaves. It operated until 1872.  Field offices were organized throughout the southern states. The bureau opened schools and refugee camps; provided legal and medical assistance; rationed food and clothing; solemnized marriages entered into during slavery; assisted with labor contracts and military pensions; and provided other assistance.




All Library locations will be closed Saturday, July 4, Independence Day.


SAVE THE DATE: Late Night at the Library

late night logoJoin Special Collections and the Summit County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society for Late Night at the Library, an evening of genealogy research at Main Library.  On Friday, October 23, the Main Library will close at its regular time of 6 pm, and reopen for genealogists from 6:30 to 10:30 pm.  Mingle with fellow researchers as you uncover the details of your ancestry.  Refreshments and door prizes will be provided, and representatives of the Cuyahoga Portage Chapter DAR and William Wetmore Daughters of 1812 will be here for consultation.  Parking in the High–Market deck adjacent to the library is free after 6:00 pm.  For additional information contact the Special Collections Division by phone: 330.643.9030 or email: speccollections@akronlibrary.org.



In Memory of Jack Gieck

Summit County has lost a dedicated local historian, Jack Gieck, who died on June 4 at age 92. He was the author of Early Akron’s Industrial Valley: A History of the Cascade Locks and A Photo Album of Ohio’s Canal Era, 1825-1913. He also produced several films about Akron’s history and the Ohio canal system. He was past president of the Canal Society of Ohio, a board member of Akron’s Cascade Locks Park Association, and a trustee of the Summit County Historical Society. His contributions over the years have been invaluable.

Special Collections would like to extend our sincere condolences to Jack’s family and all who knew him.


Main Library will be closed on Sundays beginning May 24 through Labor Day.  Online access and the library catalog are available 24/7 for your convenience.

Main Library will be open again on summer Sundays beginning in 2016, once the collection of the recently approved levy begins in January 2016.


Save the Date: OHC to Present Newspaper Programs on Monday, July 13

ADD 1 May 1899

Jenni Salamon, Coordinator for the Ohio Digital Newspaper Program at the Ohio History Connection (OHC) and Reference Archivist in the OHC Archives/Library, will present two programs at Main Library on Monday, July 13.

From 3:00-4:00 pm, she will present “Why, Who, What, When, Where & How: Digitizing Your Local Newspaper. This program is geared toward staff and volunteers at libraries and other cultural institutions interested in digitizing their local newspapers.

From 6:30-7:30 pm, Jenni will present “Unearthing Your Roots with Ohio’s Newspapers on Chronicling America.” This program is geared toward researchers interested in learning how to use the Library of Congress website Chronicling America to find clues to your family history. Chronicling America contains digitized newspapers from around the country, including more than 318,000 pages from 129 historic Ohio newspapers published from 1836 to 1922, representing 58 counties.

Both programs will take place in Meeting Room 2AB on the High Street Level of Main Library. To register, call Special Collections at 330-643-9030 or email us at speccollections@akronlibrary.org. These programs are made possible through funding from the National Digital Newspaper Program, a collaborative grant program of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.


German Genealogy Program May 2

There’s still tiNancy Ottmanme to register for German Genealogy with Nancy Ottman on Saturday, May 2, 10:30 am – 12:45 pm at Main Library.

A longtime member of the Ohio Chapter of Palatines to America (PalAm), Nancy will present two lectures:

Beginning German Genealogy
How to collect information on your family including what to ask, where to look for confirmation, and how to record the information. Naming practices and the difference between primary and secondary sources will also be reviewed. The focus will be on German genealogy, but the basic concepts apply to all ethnic families.

The 19th Century German Traveler
Follow along with a traveler’s journey including how he decides to leave Germany, what he takes with him, and what happens on his voyage to America.

The program is free and open to the public, and free parking is available in the High-Market Parking Garage. To register, call Special Collections at 330-643-9030 or email us at speccollections@akronlibrary.org.



Spring Issue of Past Pursuits Now Available

Past Pursuits spring 2015The spring issue of our quarterly newsletter Past Pursuits is now available on our Newsletters page. Highlights include an update to our Akron Beacon Journal Photograph Collection on Summit Memory, the 175th anniversary of Summit County, and online resources for New York genealogy.

If you would like to subscribe to Past Pursuits by email, please contact us at 330-643-9030 or speccollections@akronlibrary.org.


The Ohio History Connection’s Ohio Memory Madness Kicks Off Tuesday, March 17

Ohio Memory Madness logoIn the spirit and fun of college basketball’s March Madness, the Ohio History Connection and the Special Collections Division of the Akron-Summit County Public Library invite you to participate in Ohio Memory Madness – a bracket of sixty-four historical events from across the state all competing for the unique distinction of being named the 2015 Ohio Memory Madness Champion. Since the historical events featured in the bracket are unable to play tournament style basketball, the winner of Ohio Memory Madness will be determined by public online voting at  http://www.ohiohistoryhost.org/madness/.

The Ohio Memory Madness bracket features images of a variety of historical events pulled from Ohio Memory, the collaborative digital library project of the Ohio History Connection and the State Library of Ohio, with digital collections from 360 cultural heritage institutions representing all of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Special Collections is proud to have the All-American Soapbox Derby represent Summit County in this statewide competition. This 1962 photograph shows Topside, the area at the top of the hill where the racers are lined up and inspected prior to each race. The All-American Soapbox Derby has been a treasured Akron institution since 1935.

Event images will go head to head beginning March 17, and the voting is scheduled as follows:

First round: March 17–20
Round of 32: March 21-25
Sweet 16: March 26-28
Elite 8: March 29-31
Final 4: April 1-4
Championship: April 5-6

The public can vote throughout the tournament to be sure their favorite event image makes it to the championship – they can also enter to win a prize pack from the Ohio History Connection including tickets to the Ohio History Center in Columbus, a Retro Ohio T-shirt, and an assortment of Ohio munchies to enjoy while watching that other sport.

Don’t miss your chance to vote for the Ohio Memory Madness Champion! Your vote can make one of Ohio’s historical events go all the way this March.


Summit County’s 175th Anniversary

Summit County map 1874Summit County was created 175 years ago today on March 3, 1840. The new county was formed after local legislators spent over six years entreating the Ohio General Assembly, and after intense opposition from the neighboring counties of Medina, Portage, and Stark, which stood to lose several of their townships. During the next few days residents celebrated with several ceremonies, parades, ringing bells and firing cannons. The next task was to create a county seat, sending Akron and Cuyahoga Falls into furious competition. Akron eventually won out two years later, and the dedication of the first courthouse, dedicated in 1843, had a surprise visitor: Former President John Quincy Adams, en route to Cincinnati on the Ohio and Erie Canal.