Columbus Public Library (headquarters for Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library System)
Note: This article was updated, 1 November 2006, to reflect changes in the library system since the article was originally published in 2001. GGS wishes to thank Virginia Stola, genealogist at the library, for the revised details. The original article, "Libraries in Georgia with Genealogical Holdings: W. C. Bradley Library, Columbus, Georgia," was written by Ann L. Sherman and Jane L. Splawn and appeared in the Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly 37 (Fall 2001).
Columbus Public Library (headquarters for Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library System)
3000 Macon Road
Columbus, Georgia 31906
Telephone: (706) 243-2681
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
Web Site Address: www.thecolumbuslibrary.org
Contact Person: John Lyles, Archivist/Genealogist; Virginia Stola, Genealogist
Directions to and Parking at the Library
From Interstate 185 take Exit 6 and go west on Macon Road (GA Highway 22) for about two blocks. The library, on the left, is set back with a large parking lot in front.
History of the Area
Muscogee County was created in 1825 from ceded Creek Indian lands, which were distributed through the Georgia Land Lottery of 1827. Its location on the Chattahoochee River provided river transportation southward to the Gulf of Mexico and waterfalls to power textile mills contributed greatly to the economic development of the area.
Columbus was created by the Georgia State Legislature in an 1827 act “to lay out a trading town.” It was presumedly named for Christopher Columbus, and its location lay in an area of lowland forest containing thick undergrowth and some swamps. The first houses were built along the old Federal Road, which crossed the river at a ferry.
In 1835 Columbus and the adjoining area suffered depredations from the Creek Indian War, which resulted in the final removal of the Creeks to beyond the Mississippi River. In 1865 Union General James Wilson, in his famous raid, burned many Columbus structures considered supportive of the Confederate war effort. Then, in 1874 Columbus suffered its most devastating fire, which consumed a large part of the town. Despite these setbacks, Columbus has prospered over the years with an economy based initially on the steamboats and then on the railroads, which transported the cotton and later factory products of the area. It is today a strong cultural, educational, and economic mecca for western Georgia and eastern Alabama.
Location of Genealogical Materials
The Genealogical and Local Historical Room is located on the second floor. A knowledgeable and helpful staff and an impressive and well-arranged collection of materials should greatly enhance the research process. The southeastern states are emphasized, but there is a surprising amount of information to be found on numerous other states as well. Because of the library’s close proximity to Alabama, a strong emphasis on its materials is a magnet attracting many researchers.
The department has six Internet computers with access to Ancestry Library Edition and Heritage Quest. Patrons can use either their Library Smart Card or a Guest Card ($2.00) to access the computers. Computer copies are ten cents each.
The arrangement of the books is very researcher-friendly. Books in labeled groups cover the following states:
Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia
In these groups the greatest emphasis is on the states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. However, an unexpectedly strong showing of materials on states not commonly found in Georgia libraries is an added bonus. Within the groups, books are shelved in alphabetical order by county. Included is a good collection of abstracts of Georgia newspapers.
There are also sections for the following areas:
Census Indexes; Family Histories; Foreign Countries of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Germany, and Barbados; Genealogy References; Heraldry; Military (Colonial, Revolutionary War, and Civil War); Muscogee County/Columbus; Native Americans; New Books; Periodicals (bound); and Special Collections (books by Georgia authors)
Some selections on states from this impressive collection are:
- Alabama Records (thirty-six typescript volumes)
- Arkansas Confederate Veterans and Widows Pension Applications
- Families of Old Fairfield [Connecticut]
- Florida’s First Families
- English Crown Grants [parishes of Georgia] (nine volumes)
- Collections of Illinois State Historical Society (three volumes)
- Marriage Records of Marion County, Iowa
- History of Fort Leavenworth, 1827–1937 [Kansas]
- Genealogies of Kentucky Families (three volumes)
- Maryland Genealogies (two volumes)
- Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (seventeen volumes)
- Mississippi (four volumes)
- Probate Records of the Province of New Hampshire (twelve volumes)
- New Jersey Index of Wills (three volumes)
- Index of Marriages and Deaths in the New York Herald, 1835–1855
- Colonial Bertie County, North Carolina (six volumes)
- Historical Collections of Ohio (two volumes)
- Genealogies of Pennsylvania Families (four volumes)
- Cemetery Records of Abbeville, South Carolina (two volumes)
- Knox County, Tennessee, Marriage Records, 1792–1900
- The Trail Drivers of Texas (two volumes)
- Virginia Publick Claims (three volumes)
Other sections include the following:
- American Ancestry (three volumes)
- Colonial Soldiers of the South, 1732–1774
- Graves of Revolutionary Patriots (four volumes)
- Confederate Records of the State of Georgia (seven volumes)
- Historic Towns of the Southern States
- Cherokee Cavaliers
- Red Patriots
- The Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland (four volumes)
- Visitation of England and Wales (twenty volumes)
- Industrial Index [Columbus, Georgia, 1912–1965]
A good collection of bound general periodicals is grouped in alphabetical order towards the back of the department. Periodicals pertaining to a particular state or county are shelved with that state or county. New, unbound periodicals are housed on a display shelf in the front of the department.
Selected bound publications include:
American Genealogical Biographical Index (205 volumes); Alabama Historical Quarterly (1967–1982 incomplete); Carroll County, [Georgia] Genealogical Quarterly (1980–1993); DAR Magazine (1938–1994, incomplete); Historical and Genealogical Society Quarterly (1967–1978); Mississippi Genealogical Exchange (1955–1983); Missouri Pioneers (1967–1975); National Genealogical Society Quarterly (1952–1998); New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1978–1997)
New maps are being added to the collection. All maps are housed in the map cabinet located in the back of the department.
All city directories are located on the first section of shelves pass the microfilm reels. Available directories are for Columbus, 1859–present, with some gaps; Phenix City, Alabama, 1971–1995. The older directories, because of their condition, must be accessed through the librarian.
Located in file cabinets is a collection of letters, news articles, etc. by Loretta Chappell, a former librarian who spent her career collecting genealogical and local history information. There is a collection of alphabetically grouped family files and also a collection of local history files.
An impressive microfilm collection contains various homestead, marriage, death, deed, will, tax digest, land warrant, church records for various Alabama and Georgia counties located within a 50-100 mile radius of Columbus. The department also has Alabama Confederate Compiled Service Records, Georgia Confederate Pension Application Records for all counties, and local newspapers dating back to 1838.
Also included is a large number of United States census and Soundex records for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The microfiche collection includes the following:
Georgia Death Index, 1919–1998; Georgia Marriage Index, 1964–1998; Georgia Divorce Index, 1964–1998; 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or Widows. Microfiche can be read using the same microfilm reader/printers.
Three photocopying machines are available in the copy room adjacent to the Genealogy Department. Copies are ten cents for letter and legal size and twenty cents for larger sheets. Pay machines will accept coins, bills, or the patron’s Library Smart Card.
Eight microfilm reader/printers are available in the Genealogy Department. Copies are twenty cents each. Payment can be made through the pay machines or at the Genealogy Desk.
Other Area Attractions
Of interest in Columbus are the Columbus Museum at 1251 Wynnton Road, providing a historical mini-community display; the Civil War Naval Center at 202 Fourth Street, featuring a museum of paraphernalia from the Civil War; the Columbus State University Library at 4225 University Avenue, with an Archives Room open to the public; Springer Opera House at 103 Tenth Street, built in 1871; the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Center on South Lumpkin Road, dedicated to preservation of the environment in the area; the Coca-Cola Space Science Center at 703 Front Avenue; and the Pemberton House of Coca-Cola fame, part of Heritage Tours of Historic Homes.
Nearby sites include Callaway Gardens in Harris County, Providence Canyon State Park near Lumpkin in Stewart County, the Little White House at Roosevelt State Park in Warm Springs, and Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari (500 acres) in Harris County.