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Collections Overview

Montgomery History actively collects and holds research and archival materials relating to: the history of Montgomery County, Maryland; its residents past and present; and the businesses, organizations, and institutions that have made an impact on its residents. These collections are extremely varied in format, including but not limited to: books, manuscripts, maps, audiovisual and digital materials, document collections, periodicals, and photographs.

This general overview of the collections at the Jane Sween Research Library and Special Collections can help you understand the types of material we have available in our reading room and online. Many links are provided below to provide either access to or information about the resources most often requested or sought by researchers and historians.

If you have items or collections you would like to donate to our library, visit this page.

For information on our museum collections, visit this page.

Special Collections

The Jane C. Sween Library is the repository for the archival records of a number of notable Montgomery County residents, businesses, and organizations. In addition to photographs and other audiovisual materials, this material consists of varied documentation of life in Montgomery County, including (but not limited to) diaries, almanacs, correspondence, vital documents (wills, deeds, legal papers), meeting minutes, publications, business ledgers and receipts, school yearbooks/publications/memorabilia, scrapbooks, blueprints/architectural drawings, and authors’ research notes.

Books and Manuscripts

Montgomery History’s library now has over 5,000 books, on the history of Maryland and the development of Montgomery County from the pre-colonial period to the present, including genealogy reference books, biographies, and published Maryland county records. The state and local histories of Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia are also strongly represented.

Online cataloguing is ongoing but not yet complete. Most of our books can be found catalogued either via the link at right, or via the Montgomery County Public Library (MCPL) catalog, but all holdings may not yet be represented online. Please contact the Archivist/Librarian to determine if a particular book is represented in our collection.


The library’s vast photograph collection depicts Montgomery County’s changing landscape from the mid-19th century until today. In addition to views of area street scenes, residential and commercial buildings (exterior and interior views), and countryside, there are hundreds of images of people and events important in the county’s history. Over 12,000 images have been digitized and can be viewed online, link at right.

The photograph collections consist of rarer and more fragile photographic media, including daguerreotypes, tintypes, cabinet cards, glass plate negatives and oversized/framed portraits and group photos, as well as collections of photographs attributed to a single donor or organization.

Early Montgomery County Records

Original vital documents (birth and death certificates; marriage licenses; wills) are kept at the Maryland State Archives and/or the Montgomery County Circuit Court. For ease of research, our library provides abstracts of: wills (1776-1875), marriage records (1798-1898), and land records (1777-1865). We also have copies of tax assessments (1793-1865), census records for Montgomery County (1776-1900), including the 1867 “Commissioner of Slave Statistics” report of formerly enslaved people, and insurance policies from the Mutual Fire Insurance Company (1848-1925) that describe dwellings and other structures. Contact the Archivist/Librarian or make an appointment to view these resources.


In addition to the most commonly-requested newspapers of record (Montgomery County Sentinel, 1855-2020 and the Montgomery County Gazette, 1960-2015), our collections also contain dozens of other news-related publications reporting on the Montgomery County area from the early 19th century through the 21st century



Cemetery Records

The library holds tombstone inscription readings on index cards from 111 cemeteries and family burying grounds indexed by name (survey done in the 1970s), as well as lists of interments and published books of collected interment records from various cemeteries in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. The card index of tombstone readings represents more cemeteries than those linked here.

Our library also retains copies of the first survey materials on all known Montgomery County cemeteries, sponsored by Peerless Rockville volunteers and completed in 2008. Documentation and information on the updated Burial Sites Inventory (hosted by Montgomery Planning) and on Historic Cemeteries (hosted by Montgomery Preservation, Inc.) can be found online from the links provided here.

Church Records

The library retains photocopies of the original records of dozens of current and past churches in Montgomery County, including many different denominations. The births, marriages, deaths, and other information have been copied from the record books these churches and indexed by name. (The card index contains records from churches beyond those represented by the link.)

The Library also collects general historical information on Montgomery County places of worship– including newspaper articles, history publications, pamphlets, anniversary programs, and events– for reference and research (see Vertical Files below).

Genealogy Research

The library maintains an extensive amount of genealogical material and family collections organized by surname, including family trees, ancestor charts, family group charts, original documents (letters, wills, Bible records, photographs), and prior research compilations. Additionally, library staff have clipped and maintained files of biographical material on hundreds of Montgomery County residents, primarily consisting of obituaries and other newspaper articles. *note: a portion of the Family Files have been described in our online collections database linked here but entry is ongoing. Not all families are yet represented.

Oral Histories

Montgomery History has initiated multiple oral history projects since the late 1960s, amassing a sizable collection of interviews that encapsulate our county’s history through first-person accounts. Learn what it was like to live in Montgomery County through many historical periods, from people who were actually there.


This collection includes atlases and maps of Maryland and Montgomery County dating from the early 19th century to the present. These include area maps, topographical maps, maps of local jurisdictions, neighborhoods, and plat maps which detail the structures built in an area at various times.


Vertical Files

Material in the vertical files primarily consists of newspaper clippings organized by subject, then chronologically with date ranges of late-19th century to early 21st-century articles. Other material included in the files can take the form of reports and other publications, booklets/pamphlets, written histories/short memoirs, copies of Maryland Historical Trust inventories of historic properties, and other printed or compiled information. Folder headings include (but are not limited to) files for each town or community in Montgomery County, as well as information on public schools, historic houses, crimes, businesses and organizations, religious establishments, mills, clubs, and many other subjects pertinent to Montgomery County’s culture and history