Frequently Asked Questions

Can you do research for me?
Clayton Library staff is trained to offer research strategies and assist the researcher in locating materials which will aid in their research. Staff is unable to perform in-depth research for patrons. We do offer a list of independent researchers who have requested that their names be listed with us. The presence of a name on this list does not constitute an endorsement by Clayton Library. For a copy of the list, send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, 5300 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004-6896.

Examples of questions Clayton staff can answer:
Whether we have a particular resource (book or microprint) or whether we have a specific family history in our collection.
What is available at Clayton on a particular county, state or country.
The address of a specific genealogical or patriotic association.

Examples of questions Clayton staff cannot answer:
Requests to search for a particular name in a book, on microfilm, or in the databases.
In-depth research on a family or area.
Requests for bibliographies on a particular name or area.

Can you tell me if a family history is available for my family?
 We can tell you if we own a family history which has your family name as a major part of the book. This can be accomplished by searching the Houston Public Library Catalog. Many family histories will mention other family names briefly which can only be discovered by browsing. We are also able to tell you if a specific family history may be available in another library by searching the WorldCat database. 

I am working on a school project to trace my family history. I'm just getting started; what should I do?
 First of all we need to know more about the project; are you looking for a few generations, are you looking for the immigrant ancestor, or do you want to get back to a certain time period? In other words, what is the specific assignment? Next we need to know when the project is due. (For the rest, see the next question.)  

How do I get started in genealogy?
 First you should talk to older living relatives and gather information from them. Also, look for family bibles, letters, documents, and other papers. The information you are looking for is vital information. Then, beginning with yourself, write down this vital information about yourself, your parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on. In other words, write down in one place the dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths for these people. Clayton Reference staff can assist you in finding specific materials to aid in your research. See the Research page for more detail.

Can I find my ancestors on the Internet?
 There are thousands of sites on the Internet where you can access genealogical information. However, remember that all records created before the 1900s were handwritten, and very few of these have been scanned and made available online. Much of the information you find on the Internet has been posted by researchers who may not have checked the original records. The Internet is a great way to find researchers with whom you can exchange information, but be sure to carefully evaluate the compiled information you find published online or in books, and be prepared to check the original sources by visiting libraries, courthouses, and archives. For a selective list of sites recommended by Clayton's reference staff, click here.

How can I find out if Clayton has a particular book/film?
To find out if a book is available at Clayton Library, search the Houston Public Library Catalog. For microfilm and microfiche holdings, check the Clayton microprint database. See our Collections page for more information about searching for other library materials or call us during library hours at 832-393-2600 and the reference staff will assist you.  

I know that Clayton has a book/film that I need. Can I check it out or borrow it through interlibrary loan?
Clayton Library is a research center and all of our materials are for in-house use only. Our materials may not be checked out or borrowed through interlibrary loan. If you know a specific page that your ancestor/information is on, Clayton Library does photocopy materials for Interlibrary Loan requests, as long as the material is in good condition.  

If Clayton does not have a book/film that I need, can you borrow it for me?
As part of the Houston Public Library system, Clayton Library is able to borrow materials through the Interlibrary Loan network. You must have a Houston Public Library PowerCard to borrow materials. You can place an Interlibrary Loan request online or at any Houston Public Library location. Please note that requests to borrow published family histories are usually rejected, as most institutions do not loan these books. 

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