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California State University, Fullerton

Pollak Library

University 100 -- Valenciana: Library Resources for Family Histories

Resources for conducting your family history

Family History in Context: Connecting the dots

Vintage California tourism posterIn the links collected on the following tabs, you can explore the connections between your family's history and the bigger picture. Answer questions like:

  • Why did your family immigrate?
  • What was going on in their home country that prompted them to immigrate?
  • What pulled them here to the United States and why did they come to this particular part of the country, state, etc.?
  • How did they get here?
  • What did they find when they got here?
  • How were they treated?

Reference books are a good place to start to find background information. Use the Library Catalog to find books on historical, social and cultural topics; Databases give access to articles and other materials on more specific topics and issues; and many local history projects have found a home on the INTERNET.

Where you need to look will depend on the answers you get during the oral interview with the family member that you conduct. Please contact me, Barbara Miller, Chicana & Chicano Resource Center Librarian, at the contact links to the right, if you need help connecting the dots.

Library Resources for Family History

Online and print reference resources provide background information to support your family history. Not all of the resources are still located in the reference area. Those that are in the library book stacks can be checked out. Many are now available in our ebook collections. You wil find reference books for many other cultural groups beyond those listed here. Please use the Pollak Library Catalog to find more.

Selected Reference Books

Atlases & Maps

Changing faces, Changing places: mapping Southern Californians. James P. Allen and Eugene Turner. Northridge, CA: Center for Geographical Studies, California State University, Northridge, c2002. Ref Atlases F867 .A445 2002

The ethnic quilt: Population diversity in Southern California. James P. Allen and Eugene Turner. Northridge, CA: Center for Geographical Studies, California State University, Northridge, c1997.  6thFLS OVRSZE F867 .A45 1997  

We the people: An atlas of America's ethnic diversity. James Paul Allen and Eugene James Turner. New York: Macmillan, c1988. 6th Floor South OVRSZE E184.A1 A479 1988

We have may special topic atlases covering specific countries, historical eras and major events, as well as other topics. To find them, just use the library catalog and do a keyword search for atlas and the name of the country, region, event, era or special topic. For example:

Atlas of American migration. Stephen A. Flanders. New York: Facts on File, 1998.  Reference G1201.E27 F5 1998

The chronological Atlas of World War II. Barrie and Frances Pitt. London: Macmillan, 1989. 6th Floor South OVRSZE G1038 .P577 1989

World atlas of epidemic diseasesAndrew Cliff, Peter Haggett, Matthew Smallman-Raynor. London: Arnold; New York: Distributed in the United States of America by Oxford University Press, 2004.  6th Floor South OVRSZE G1046.E57 W67 2004


Ethnic Groups

Gale encyclopedia of multicultural America. Edited by Judy Galens, Anna Sheets, Robyn V. Young. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 2nd ed., 2000, 3 vol. set. 6th Floor South E184.A1 G14 2000  [3rd ed., 2014 NOW available in Gale Virtual Reference Library.]

Racial and ethnic diversity: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Whites. Cheryl Russell. Ithaca, N.Y.: New Strategist Publications, multiple editions. [5th and 6th editions available in Gale Virtual Reference Library.]


World Cultures

Countries and their cultures. Edited by Melvin Ember and Carol R. Ember. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001, 4 vol. set. Reference GN307 .C68 2001  [Available in Gale Virtual Reference Library. Also available as an ebook.]

The encyclopedia of the Chinese overseas. General editor, Lynn Pan. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.  Reference DS732 .E53 1999 [2nd copy also in stacks]

Encyclopedia of Cuba: people, history, culture. Edited by Luis Martínez-Fernández ... [et al.] Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003. Reference F1754 .E53 2003

Encyclopedia of Mexico: history, society & culture. Editor, Michael S. Werner. Chicago : Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.  Reference F1210 .E63 1997

Encyclopedia of world cultures. Edited by David Levinson. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1991-1996, 10 vol. set. 6th Floor South GN307 .E53   [Available in Gale Virtual Reference Library.] [Also available as part of the eHRAF World Cultures.]


Country Profiles

Regional surveys of the world. London: Europa Publications. [Available as an online database: Europa World Plus.

Except as marked, the latest print editions that we own are at Reference desk. 

  • Africa South of the Sahara,  DT352 .A4 2008
  • Central and south-eastern Europe,  HC244.A1 C46 2008
  • Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia,  HC244.A1 E293 2008
  • Far East and Australasia,  DS1 .F3 2008
  • Middle East and North Africa,  DS49 .M5 2008
  • South America, Central America, and the Caribbean,  F1406.5 .S68 2008
  • South Asia,  DS331 .S647 2008
  • The USA and Canada,  E838 .U83 2008
  • Western Europe  HC240.A! W47 2008

U.S. Department of State Background Notes -- [Obama Presidency] Contains basic information on 170 countries covering economy, government, geography, history, political conditions, and foreign relations. Background notes are also available in print at the Reference Desk. (Country profiles can also be accessed from a pull-down menu on the right side of the main U.S. Department of State page:

U.S. Library of Congress Country Studies -- Area Handbook Series Covers the history, society, economics, etc. of 101 countries. The series was originally sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army and intended to cover lesser-known countrires where U.S. forces might be deployed, coverage is not complete but may include countries that no longer exist. United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and other Western nations are not included. Finding at this time does not allow for timely update of the series as was anticipated. Still the Country Studies are a valuable historical resources. Please note that some titles in this series are also available in Documents, (see Library Catalog).

World Factbook -- Published by the CIA and updated weekly.

Use our library catalog and other databases to find books and other materials for issues related to your family history.

These are just a few of the article databases that may prove helpful for your family history research. Some of them may contain records for books, book chapters, and other materials. Contact Barbara Miller, the CRC Librarian, using the contacts listed to the right if you are having trouble finding articles. You may need to be using another database.

Newspaper articles reflect the news of the day. Rarely are articles in depth and often contain inaccuracies, but they give a picture of what is thought to be important by media elites. Be careful, how you search will dictate the articles you find. In historical newspapers, the terms used may not be ones you are used to seeing. Also what is missing may be more important than what you find. Intrigued? Contact Barbara Miller, the CRC Librarian, for more information.


Question 3

Select Gale Virtual Reference Library and search for your ethnicity. If you have multiple ethnicities, choose one. Examine some of the results. Then answer the following question.

What did you find? Pick the answer that is closest.
I found some useful articles that may help me do my research.: 30 votes (55.56%)
I found some articles but I do not think I will use them.: 5 votes (9.26%)
I did not find any articles.: 12 votes (22.22%)
I changed my search terms and found something that I may use.: 4 votes (7.41%)
I changed my search terms and did not find anything that looked useful.: 3 votes (5.56%)
Total Votes: 54