History & Genealogy

Text Us: 941-234-0394

Manatee Library offers extensive historical and genealogical resources at the downtown Central Library, located on the Manatee River. This library was built on the former site of the Stanton family home.  Samuel Stanton built the steamership Manatee to bring visitors and goods to Bradenton in the late 1800s; it docked where Pier 22 Restaurant is now. His son Samuel Ward Stanton, a marine artist, died on the Titanic in 1912 returning from an art excursion in continental Europe.

Visit our Historical Digital Collections for more images and interviews related to this incredible local story and many more! While there, also check out our digital exhibitions and Manatee County Neighborhood Histories.

Do you need help using our research collections? Make an appointment with a librarian at the Central Library by calling 941-748-5555 ext 6310 or email [email protected]. Please be advised that we are unable to provide in-depth genealogical research. See the end of this page for detailed information about our historical and genealogy collections.

Historical Exhibits and Event

EMS 50th Exhibit title panel

EMS 50th Anniversary

Manatee County Emergency Medical Services turned 50 in 2022! Learn the history of this award-winning division: Interactive Historical Timeline. The panels designed by Information Services are on display at the Manatee County Public Safety Center.

Taking Flight exhibit logo

Taking Flight: A History of Aviation in Manatee County

This historical exhibit charts the evolution of aviation in Manatee County, from early landing fields in the 1910s to the establishment of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. A series of panels related to the exhibit are on display on the second floor of the Downtown Library. Online exhibit: Taking Flight Online Exhibit video

100 Women of Manatee County exhibit logo

100 Women of Manatee County Exhibit

A celebration of women who shaped the history, politics, culture, and industry of the County in honor of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage. Online exhibit: 100 Women Online Exhibit video.

Old Manatee Florida Stories Walking Tour
Historical Walking Tour

Old Manatee historical tour, developed by Manatee Library Information Services department, on Florida Stories Walking Tour app, from Florida Humanities Council. Download the app for free from the app store on your mobile device. Learn more

Digital Collections- Images, Interviews, Speeches and More

Our Historic Digital Collections include over 38,000 images, interviews, speeches, maps, and postcards which feature Manatee County people, activities, and buildings from the late nineteenth century to the 1980s.  Images are free to download for personal use and fair use. Please give credit to the Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections if re-using these items. 

Full text of the Manatee River Journal (from 1897 to 1924) is available courtesy of the University of Florida's Florida Digital Newspaper Library.

Elizabeth Eaton Florida History Reading Room & Collection

The Eaton Room was created by a trust provision in the will of Elizabeth M. Eaton, a local philanthropist who died in 1973. The initial collection was developed and selected from the collections of the county libraries, as well as purchases of antiquarian Florida material. Local history materials, yearbooks, telephone books, city directories, and items such as oral interviews and archival negatives from the Manatee County Historical Society have been added to the Eaton Room collection over the past 40 years. 

The Eaton Room collection houses the following resources at the Central Library:

  • City directories of Manatee County dating back to 1897. Please note, some years are missing
  • Yearbooks from local high schools and private schools, some dating back to 1916
  • Federal census records of Florida on microfilm dating back to 1830
  • Soundex indexes and later state census statistics and microfilm
  • Local newspapers, weekly and daily, on microfilm
  • Historical maps and aerial photos (aerial photos also available on Manatee Property Appraiser website by address)
  • Vertical files containing clippings, programs, and other ephemera
  • Transcribed oral interviews and speeches
  • Hundreds of books on local and Florida history
  • Bound journals and magazines such as The Florida Historical Quarterly, Sarasota Magazine, Florida Monthly, Florida Trend, and more.
  • State of Florida and Manatee County government documents
  • Florida Statistical Abstracts
  • The Florida Handbook is now available online via the FSU Digital Library (1947-2012) and the Florida House of Representatives (2014)

Genealogy Collection

The Central Library has an extensive genealogy collection that is available to the public for in-house use, as well as a selection of general genealogy materials that may be checked out. Our collection's scope is largely for states east of the Mississippi River, concentrating on the colonial states, though we do have some materials from west of the Mississippi. Types of materials include:

  • Census Indexes
  • Census records in either book or microform format
  • Vital records (e.g. birth, marriage, death records, etc.)
  • General “how-to” references on tracing family records, how to do research or how to obtain and organize genealogical data
  • Maps, gazetteers, and atlases that assist in defining geographic boundaries of localities in this collection
  • State, county, city, or township histories that trace or identify early settlers or suggest research sources
  • Materials that identify or trace geographic name changes
  • Books or pamphlets that identify national migration trails, or ethnic migration patterns or dates
  • Nationally recognized genealogical periodicals; periodicals and newsletters from genealogical societies
  • Military rosters, church records or other community registers
  • Florida materials relating to genealogy will be placed in this collection and not in the Eaton Room 

This collection also includes materials on foreign ancestry including:

  • Immigration and passenger lists and related indexes
  • Introductions and general guides to research sources for foreign countries
  • Books that trace a particular nationality’s arrival, migration and settlement in the U.S.

Additional Genealogy Resources

Heritage Quest

FamilySearch.org (Manatee County Public Library System is a FamilySearch Affiliate. Patrons can access additional FamilySearch records through their free account, accessed on library public computers)

Find a Grave

Ellis Island Passenger Search

The Voyages Database

History Day Resources

The National History Day Contest encourages more than half a million students around the world to conduct historical research on a topic of their choice. Manatee County students have competed at the state and national level many times. Be prepared for National History Day with these resources: