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Government Records for Genealogical Research

Since 1905 the Historical Society has been the custodian of the Kansas State Archives--the permanent repository for official, unpublished records from state government agencies. This is a list of government records that are frequently used for historic research by our patrons. Our Archives Catalog indexes all of the state records available at the State Archives. Approximately 70 percent of our space is devoted to state records. Don’t hesitate to ask our reference staff for help if you don’t understand how to use these records.

Alien registration affidavits:
from the World War I era, include men and women born in Germany or Austria-Hungary and U.S.-born women who married men from these countries. Arranged by county and gender, they contain photos and immigration and birth information for the alien and their families. These are actually federal records; the originals are at the National Archives Regional Branch in Kansas City and the Historical Society has a microfilm copy. They are indexed in the Kansas names index.

State Board of Agriculture:
Population censuses were conducted every 10 years for the years ending in “5", beginning in 1865 and running through 1925.  See our state censuses page for more information.  Digital copies of these censuses are available on Ancestry.
Population schedules for counties, 1953-1978; for cities, 1919 & 1937-1961. Prior to 1953, names head of household & number of individuals living there; starting in 1953, includes name of everyone in the household and their ages. These records are an excellent way to find family members in the mid- 20th century. Records for 1919-1961 are available online on Ancestry.
Agricultural statistical rolls on microfilm for 1919, and 1937 to 1981. Some original rolls (not yet microfilmed) date as far back as 1877. Provides extremely detailed information on farming, lists head of household and number of people in household, and more.

Legislative documents:
including House and Senate Journals, enrolled bills, and published laws. State laws can include what are called “private acts” passed on behalf of specific individuals, including divorces (granted by the territorial legislature - later divorces are in county courts); legal name changes; bills of relief for individuals; etc. Indexed in “Laws of Kansas.”

Relief agencies:
operated or supervised by the state, including records of the State Auditor’s office, which handled claims for victims of Quantrill’s Raid, Price’s Raid, and other guerilla raids; the Kansas Central Relief Committee, 1874-1875 provided assistance to victims of grasshoppers; and the Kansas Emergency Relief Committee (KERC) which provided assistance to Kansans during the Depression and Dust Bowl.

Licensing and certification boards:
State agencies license many professions. Examples include: the Board of Healing Arts license applications of doctors and other medical practitioners. Their records for deceased physicians begin in 1901. The Board of Optometry Examiners licensing files include similar information and span roughly 1909-1999. Teacher certification applications and files from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction & State Board of Education are for scattered dates, beginning in the 19th century, with most records dating from the early to mid 20th century.

Governor's Office:
Correspondence and other records that cover a wide variety of subjects as diverse as county affairs, crime & criminals, drought, applications and petitions for state positions, Indian wars and much more. Many of these collections include letters from private citizens and constituents. Records from all but three of the Kansas Governors are part of the state archives. The Archives is not the designated repository for the records of Kansas' legislators and congressional representatives, but many of their papers are part of our manuscript collections. See our state officials and their records list for more information.

Lansing State Penitentiary records:
These records are indexed by prisoner name from 1861 to 1984. The index for 1861 to 1952 is available online and on microfilm reels AR 7458 to AR 7469; the next index for prisoners up to approximately 1984 is on microfilm reel numbers AR 2475 to AR 2478. Prisoners in custody since 1980 are indexed in the Dept. of Corrections' KASPER database. The earliest records are fully open to the public, though a number of the individual prisoner case files from that period were not saved. Some of the recent prisoner case files may still include information that is restricted by statute. 

State Appellate Courts:
Case files, dockets, and briefs exist from 1861 on for civil and criminal cases. Name indexes include “Hatcher’s Kansas Digest” and the Kansas Supreme Court dockets. The Archives has a small collection of territorial criminal court records, 1854-1860 and territorial naturalization records, 1852-1860. The State Archives is not the repository for case records from the State District Courts, but appellate court case files sometimes include transcripts from the District Court proceedings. Published opinions of the Kansas Appellate Courts since 1990 are indexed on their website.
Bar Admissions The Supreme Court did not oversee the admission of attorneys to the Kansas Bar until 1903. Before that, admissions to practice law were handled by the district court. A district court or the supreme court could revoke an attorney's license following an accusation and hearing. In 1868, Kansas law was revised to allow women and non-whites to be admitted to practice and applicants had to "read law" for two years in the office of a regularly practicing attorney before they could apply for admission.

Secretary of State:
Incorporation charters for defunct corporations, which include businesses, churches, town companies, railroads, non-profits and fraternal organizations. These records include the names of the officers at the time of incorporation.
Corporation annual reports begin in 1868 for for-profit corporations, in 1972 for non-profits. Includes value of stock and assets at the time of the report and names of officers.
Campaign finance reports filed by people running for federal and state offices, from 1978 on (begin in 1984 for presidential candidates). Provides the names and addresses of all contributors and the amount of their contribution. Reports filed since 2006 are available online.
Records of the Executive Council 1861 - ca. 1970 include bids and contracts with suppliers of goods and services to the state capitol and other state buildings, applications for employment, and petitions for redress.

Topeka State Hospital:
Access is restricted by law to these records, but “the name, date of birth, date of death, name of any next of kin, and place of residence of a deceased former patient” is open for family research purposes. An index to patients buried at the hospital is on the KSHS website.

Adjutant General’s records:
include many records for individual soldiers through WWI, for example: muster rolls for Kansas Civil War regiments and the Kansas State Militia; Civil War enlistments (available on Ancestry) and WWI enlistment papers; the enrollment of veterans from any state who lived in Kansas in 1883, 1889, and 1930. Check our Kansas Military Index for more information about many of these records.