Genealogy & Local History
Located on the lower level of the library, the Helen Osma Local History Room houses historical materials relating to Lawrence and Douglas County, as well as resources for genealogical research. If you need help using these materials or getting started with your research, stop by the Ask Desk, call 785-843-3833, email the reference staff, open a live chat session, or Book a Librarian.
Local History/Genealogy Drop-Ins: Held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 4-5 PM in the Osma Room. Get help using the library’s resources to research your family history or answer your local history questions. And, the library’s Sound + Vision Studio is a great place to record oral histories!
Digital Douglas County History: Accessible at home or at the library. The local history portal for Douglas County history, featuring a growing collection of photographs, genealogy resources, and oral history projects. A partnership of the Lawrence Public Library, Watkins Community Museum, and the Douglas County Genealogical Society.
Ancestry Library Edition: Accessible only at the library. This database of genealogical resources includes the complete U.S. Census, a multitude of city directories, Find-A-Grave records, military records such as draft registration cards and muster rolls, immigration records such as passenger lists and naturalization records, the Social Security Death Index, and birth, marriage, and death records (coverage varies by state).
Fold3: Accessible at home or at the library. Fold3 Library Edition provides convenient access to US military records, including the stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served.
Gale Genealogy Connect: Accessible at home or at the library. Gale Genealogy Connect offers access to a wide range of fully searchable genealogical reference publications.
Kansas History, Territorial through Civil War Years, 1854-1865: Accessible at home or at the library. This database provides a core of primary source documents for the study of Kansas history, including state and regional histories, travel guides, biographies, speeches and more.
Heritage Quest: Accessible at home or at the library. HeritageQuest offers access to federal census records and city directories, U.S. Indian Census Rolls, slave schedules and Freedman’s Bank records, mortality schedules, agricultural and industrial schedules, and a variety of published family and local histories.
Sanborn Maps (1867–1970): Accessible at home or at the library. This database is a vital resource for anyone researching the history of a home or building.
Lawrence/Douglas County, Kansas: African American Oral History Interviews: Accessible anywhere. This website makes available online a rich collection of oral history interviews with African Americans in Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas.
Searchable Cemetery Records for Lawrence, KS: Accessible anywhere. Maintained by the City of Lawrence, this resource allows researchers to locate burial plots within the City’s cemeteries.
Kansas Memory: Accessible anywhere. This database offers a broad, statewide selection of digitized Kansas maps, photographs, and other primary documents from the collections of the Kansas State Historical Society.
Kansas Digital Newspapers (KDN) Program: Accessible anywhere. The Kansas Digital Newspapers program, managed by the Kansas State Historical Society, makes over 3 million Kansas newspapers freely available online.
1940 U.S. Census: Accessible anywhere. This website allows you full access to the 1940 census images, in addition to 1940 census maps and descriptions.
Air photos of Douglas County: Accessible anywhere. Managed by the Thomas R. Smith Map Collection at the University of Kansas, this collection includes aerial photographs of Douglas County and the KU Campus from 1937-1991.
Multiple Property Listing: Historic Resources of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas: Prepared for the National Park Service, this document provides historic context for the periods of development in Lawrence’s built environment.
State and National Register Listed Properties in Douglas County: The Kansas State Historical Society maintains a database of the historic properties listed on the State and National Registers.
Soldiers and Sailors Database: Accessible anywhere. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a database containing information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Other information on the site includes histories of Union and Confederate regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records.
- Kansas Collection: Lawrence Public Library’s collection of books dealing specifically with Lawrence and Douglas County history and citizens. These do not circulate, but we may have copies available to check out in our regular collection.
- Census records for Douglas County, Kansas, and “Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory”
- Lawrence and area newspapers from 1854-present
- Marriage records, 1854-1992 with Index
- Newspaper clippings about the history of Lawrence and Douglas County, with an index
In addition to the newspapers that we hold in microfilm, there are several possibilities for accessing Lawrence/Douglas County newspapers online:
The Lawrence Journal-World’s archives are online from January 1, 1990 – present. These can be accessed by going to http://www2.ljworld.com/news/today/ and selecting a date on the calendar near the middle of the page. The Journal-World also publishes a Green Edition, which is a digital version of the print layout, and the Green Edition Archive can be accessed by creating a free user account.
The Lawrence Journal-World’s archives (as well as those of a handful of other historic Lawrence papers) are also online through the Google News Archive. The coverage is not complete, but ranges from February 20, 1911 – May 31, 2009.
The free Newspaper.com access offered to Kansans through the Kansas State Historical Society makes available several Lawrence (and Douglas County) newspapers dating from the mid-1850s through 1922. Go to http://www.kshs.org/ancestry/drivers/dlverify and enter your name, Kansas DL or ID number, and your birthdate for access to this archive. The Kansas State Historical Society also offers a searchable database of the newspapers in its collection.
The Chronicling America project offers a searchable U.S. Newspaper Directory which can be narrowed by geographic coverage, date, language, ethnicity, and labor press (i.e., published for readers of a particular occupation or political philosophy, such as coal miners, dairy farmers, and/or socialists). Chronicling America also offers free access to a handful of digitized Kansas newspapers (such as the Kansas Herald of Freedom).
Other Resources for Local History and Geneaology Research
Summary of Local Records Locations: Where to look beyond the Library for various records that might be useful in your research.
Watkins Community Museum of History: The Watkins Community Museum in downtown Lawrence is a treasure trove of resources for researching family and local history. Their holdings include photograph, manuscript, and map collections, family histories, property abstracts, an obituary index, undertaker records, interment records and cemetery censuses, clippings files, and site files for locations throughout Lawrence.
Spencer Research Library: The Kansas Collection at the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas holds a variety of birth, marriage, death, divorce, and adoption, and school records, as well as census records, a selection of published family and local histories, and manuscript, photograph, and map and atlas collections. Click here for an overview of the resources for genealogical research available at the Spencer Research Library.
Thomas R. Smith Map Collection: The Thomas R. Smith Map Collection, located on the first floor of Anschutz Library at the University of Kansas, is among the largest academic map collections in the United States. The map collection includes over 440,000 items, consisting of over 330,000 sheet maps and 120,000 aerial photographs with particular strengths in maps of the U.S.A. and Kansas.
Family History Center–Lawrence: The Lawrence, Kansas, branch of the Family History Center offers access to a wide variety of genealogical resources on microfilm, as well as free access to the Family History Center Portal.
National Archives–Kansas City: The Kansas City branch of the National Archives offers free access to a variety of databases. NARA holdings include census, immigration, military, naturalization, and land records.
Midwest Genealogy Center: The Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri, is the largest free-standing public genealogy library in the United States, and boasts 52,000 square feet of resources for family history researchers.
Kansas State Historical Society: The Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka offers a wide array of resources to genealogists and historians, including map, photograph, and manuscript collections, local and family histories, and microfilmed census records, newspapers and county records from across the state.