Local History

Prior to becoming incorporated as a city on November 8, 1921, Royal Oak was first established as a township on January 23, 1819, and then a village on March 18, 1891. The city’s first mayor was George A. Dondero, who later went on to become a Michigan representative to the U.S. House. 

Though Royal Oak’s first library appeared in 1852 as a reading room in the Township doctor’s home, it was not until almost the mid-twentieth century before the city’s librarians started collecting information about the city and documenting its history. The local history collection contains: 

     • Yearbooks for Dondero, Kimball, and Royal Oak High Schools starting in 1928 
     • Polk City Directories for Royal Oak from 1922 to 1960 
     • Bresser’s Criss Cross Index for the Royal Oak area covering 1952 to present 
     • Historic atlases of Oakland County 
     • A series of lectures by Father Charles Coughlin in addition to his paper “Social Justice” from 1938-1941 
     • Old City Ordinances 
     • Royal Oak City Budgets back to the 1940s 
     • Various City Planning Studies 
     • Royal Oak and Oakland County history books 
     • An extensive newspaper clipping file of Royal Oak newspapers 
     • Microfilm of the Daily Tribune back to the early 1900s 

The bulk of the materials in the local history collection focus on Royal Oak. There is a separate filing cabinet that contains news clippings related only to Oakland County history. In addition to these resources, microfilm reels of Oakland County census records and mortality schedules are available.

Local History Room Collection Finding Aid (PDF)

The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, MI) 1877-2015 - Digital archive

The library digitized its holdings of The Daily Tribune microfilm from November 1877 – September 2015. Users can search by name, subject, keyword, or browse by date. It’s an effective tool for finding local obituaries, local news and sports articles, and feature stories about Royal Oak businesses, organizations, local history, and government decisions. And just like the microfilm, users can browse pages as they were laid out in print. This is particularly helpful for users trying to glean a picture of what life was life in Royal Oak in a given month or year when it comes to the prices of goods and real estate, products being showcased in ads, local happenings in social events columns, and feature articles of local interest. For assistance in accessing or searching the databases, contact the Adult Reference Desk at (248) 246-3727.

Helpful Search Tips (PDF)
dtSearch Help (PDF)

This digitization project was made possible through generous support provided in memory of Jane Carpenter, a life-long Royal Oak resident.

Ford Heritage Vault

Ford is making more than 5,000 curated Ford and Lincoln photographs and product brochures from the first century of the company’s history available to the public online for the first time – and will continue to grow the site as new items are added.

Library of Michigan: Michigan Materials
Contains information about Michigan facts and links to the Michigan Collection including County Guides, Historical Research Collections, Michigan Imprints 1851-1876, Michigan Bibliographies and the Michigan Digital Collections.

Library of Michigan: Michigan Newspapers
Contains links to Michigan Newspaper finding aids for news or obituaries by City and County, a list of newspaper holdings on microfilm, newspaper family histories and other newspaper resources.

Oakland County Historical Resources, a 501(c)3 consortium of libraries, genealogical and historical societies, seeks historical materials pertaining to the Oakland County, Michigan area to make them searchable and accessible to the public. They digitize local history materials and make them available to the world through their website.

Royal Oak Cemetery List is an Excel file containing information from handwritten books, cards and the Genealogical Society.