Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Research Center and Archive at GCHS

             An abundant collection of materials conducive to Geary County and family history research is located in the lower level of the Historical Society Museum at the corner of 6th and Adams Streets.
            One of the missions of the Geary County Historical Society at the beginning was to collect and preserve the history of Davis/Geary County. One portion of the mission began by recording birth, marriage and death data on file cards. This has continued and is a critical project in the Research Center of the museum. Close to 30,000 cards contain either a copy of the event from newspapers or a reference to the paper where this can be found. Knowing that not all data records are contained on the file cards, for the past several decades volunteers have added a second source of information. Recording vital statistics from the 1865 to 2006 newspapers and microfilm, 111,922 entries are found alphabetized, recorded by year and noted by event as well as where they can be located. These indexes were extracted from the Republican, Tribune, Sentinel, Weekly Union, Daily Union and the Republic. Since 1995 the current articles have been copied and mounted on the file cards.
            Fortunately, around 10 years ago, the city discovered Geary County books containing birth and death records the state required beginning in 1911. These books were given to the Historical Society and are used to document these events when requested. The county marriage records beginning in April 1865 are also copied many times as this data is important to researchers of family history.
Numerous Records in the GCHS archives
            Two other sources available for helping search for family information are 350 file folders containing copies of articles about people that have been collected over the years and 275 family history books that have been donated.
            Numerous microfilm rolls of the various newspapers from as early as 1865 are used on a regular basis to copy articles we don’t have and to research special projects in which we are currently engaged.
            A resource often relied on includes the records for the Highland and St. Mary’s Cemeteries in the city and all those in rural Geary County including private burial places that have been located and photographed. The rural cemeteries are kept up to date every five years when volunteers walk them and record any burials that have been made since the previous visit. Volunteers have also photographed and added information on some of the area cemeteries that then is submitted to the Find-A-Grave website. Anyone knowing of a private burial location we may not have is urged to check our records and inform the Research Center if that location is not included in our notebooks.
     Other county records such as some years of District Court Cases and Tax Records, Agriculture/Extension history, Enumeration and more are in the archives. Telephone Books and City Directories are helpful tools in locating people or business locations. High School yearbooks and some Rural School records have been donated. A very limited number of church records of baptism, confirmation, marriage and death are available at this time. Requests for more of these have gone unanswered in the past.
            The Poor Farm box contains records of those residing at that facility from 1927 to 1937 as well as persons listed in census records. Other articles about the farm and the numerous burials there are documented by newspaper clippings.
            Various notebooks have been created to hold information such as the Milford Dam/Reservoir (also articles in file folders), Junction City Business in 1890, Famous Baseball Players here, United Way 1961-2000, and miscellaneous articles on buildings, businesses, crime, fire, floods, lawmen, people, or tragedy that are added only as they are noticed when doing research on another particular subject.
Vannessa Osbourn and her husband pointing out locations on an old Geary County Map

            A specific project being researched at the present is a comprehensive collection of articles concerning the Opera House history. These are being copied and mounted in notebook form. This will continue for an unspecified length of time as volunteers give their time first of all in answering requests from those especially seeking family history. These requests have ranged up to 80 in number each year. Although there are many resources available to help discover answers to requests received, unless events were specifically recorded, it can be very difficult to find results.
            Volunteers are always welcome to help continue the progress in our Research Center that has received compliments as being one of the most comprehensive county facilities they have visited.

      If you would like to make a research request you can email the Research Center at researchcen@gchs.kscoxmail.com, or you can stop by the museum and do research Tuesday, Thursday, or the second Saturday of the month from 1-4.  Research fees are $10 an hour for ALL research with a minimum of 1 hour, and 20 cents for photocopies and $2.50 for digital copies. Members of GCHS receive free research but we ask you purchase all copies. If you have any questions email or call 785-238-1666.