The Chaparral Genealogical Library—full of marriage records, county history books and pioneer stories—sits behind a medical practice on Friendship Drive in Magnolia. Inside, nearly 5,000 record books fill the metal shelves.
“It is the fourth largest genealogical library stand-alone within the United States,” librarian Barbara Franz said.
Operated by the Chaparral Genealogical Society, the library opened at its Magnolia location in October 2014 after outgrowing its previous locations.
Long before the Magnolia research facility opened, Billie Mae Brautigam Hardee led a group of people as the Labor of Love Genealogical Society in 1972 in Tomball, according to information from the society. The organization was renamed in September 1974 as the Chaparral Genealogical Society.
At that time, the group’s inventory totaled 40 books, which were stored in members’ homes, society President Mary Williams said. However, as the number of books grew, additional library space was needed.
Over the years, books were stored in a corner in the former Tomball Public Library on James Street, a small room in Tomball City Hall and a refurbished hunting shack, Williams said.
Books are added as the society purchases items or receives donations. The collection totaled 4,811 books as of early February, Williams said.
“For 44 years, that’s quite an accomplishment,” she said. “There’s still books we haven’t put into the system.”
The collection includes records primarily from Texas and nearby states, Williams said. However, the library accepts record books from any state.
Franz said she recommends visitors to the library bring a notebook, pencils and lists of family names, dates and places.
“We don’t do [the research] for you, because that would be robbing you of the thrill, but we will guide you,” Franz said.
Although guests can browse names and dates, genealogical records are more than data, society treasurer Sharon Russell said.
“It’s more than just the names and the birthdates,” she said. “Genealogy is people, and history is what the people do—and that gets pretty interesting.”
Chaparral Genealogical Society and Library
31350 Friendship Drive, Magnolia
Hours: Tue.-Thu., Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., closed Sun.-Mon., Friday and fourth Saturday of each month