History & Genealogy

Please note that the Eaton Florida History Room is CLOSED until further notice.
The microfilm/microfiche machine is unavailable.

Text Us: 941-234-0394

Manatee Libraries 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.  Bill 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 Historic Digital Collections for more images and interviews related to this incredible local story and many more!

Do you need help using our research collections? Make an appointment with a librarian at the Downtown Central Library by calling 941-748-5555 ext 6309 or email reference@mymanatee.org. 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 Exhibit and Events

100 Women of Manatee County exhibit logo

Temporarily CLOSED 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. Find out more

Old Manatee Florida Stories Walking Tour
Available now!

Old Manatee historical tour on Florida Stories Walking Tour app, from Florida Humanities Council. Download the app for free from the app store on your mobile device.

Digital exhibitions (based on previous Eaton Room exhibits)

  • Coming soon...The Bridges of Manatee County (may be viewed in iBooks app or iTunes)
  • Coming soon...Bayshore Gardens (may be viewed in iBooks app or iTunes)


Digital Collections- Images, Interviews, Speeches and More

Our Historic Digital Collections include over 35,000 images which portray Manatee County people, activities, and buildings from the late nineteenth century to the early 1980's, as well as hundreds of historic speeches and interviews and dozens of historic local maps.  Images are free to download for personal use and fair use. Please give credit to the Manatee County Public Library Historic Digital Collections if re-using these items. 

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 Downtown 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
  • 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 Manatee County Downtown 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


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: