Sunday, August 30, 2009

At the Kansas State Historical Society and Archives

I had an enjoyable three hours yesterday at the Kansas State Historical Society and Archives on Saturday. It is in Topeka, Kansas, and is free to enter and use. They do have rules about "no bags, pencils only, get a user card, inspect your stuff when you leave." So I entered with only my notepad and my brain full of memories. I had only three hours to work with, since I wanted to get back and watch the Little League World Series game at 2 p.m.

The public area of the building is fairly small - I think that the Carlsbad (CA) library has the same floor space, but the holdings of the KSHS are tremendous. I think it has microfilms of any available public record created in Kansas towns and counties. The microfilm drawers line the walls of about half the perimeter. There is a central area with tables and chairs, and a microfilm/fiche area with quite a few machines, including three reader-printers. There didn't appear to be any microfilm scanning/printing machines.

The KSHS catalog is online, and is available on the computer stations at the library, in addition to a large card catalog and helpful books listing each collection near the microfilm drawers.

My mission was to see if there were any records for Samuel and Mary Ann Vaux in Marshall County, Kansas vital, probate and land records. The last record I have of them is the 1880 US census when they reside in Blue Rapids township. They don't appear in the 1885 Kansas State Census, so I'm thinking that they may have died before 1885, perhaps in Marshall County.

I used the catalog to find Marshall County resources, and saw that the Birth and Death records start in 1885. Oh well!

The archives has Probate records from about 1860 onwards, so I checked the Case Files index and the Administrations Index (1857-1886) on microfilm - with no positive results. Oh well!

Then I spent a lot of time looking through the Deed Indexes for the years 1860 through 1890, also without success. In these indexes, I also searched for Devier Smith hoping that he bought or sold land there. Again, no positive results. Drat!

I looked at the Newspaper index, narrowing the search to 1875 to 1890. There were four sets of Blue Rapids weekly newspapers listed (along with many other Marshall County newspapers, of course). I decided not to go through the papers page-by-page because I don't know the death dates and because of my time constraints.

My other Kansas research interest is the Devier J. Smith family that was in Pottawatomie County, Clay County, Cloud County and Cheyenne County. The newspaper index indicated that it had the Wano Plaindealer (which published a D.J. Smith biography in about 1886), but I didn't read that either.

The catalog had an intriguing entry for selected newspaper clippings from Cheyenne County for 1882 to 1996, and I ordered those books through the KHS staff window with a call slip. The only thing I ordered was listed erroneously in the catalog! They brought me Clark County at first, and then found Cheyenne County with a different call number. Unfortunately, the early years' clippings are very few, and this collection was not useful.

Some people might say that my three hours at the archives was useless, but my view is that it saved me several months of research time. To view these vital, probate and land records would have taken me at least two months at the FHC - ordering six films, waiting for them to arrive, then reading them. I haven't checked to see if the FHL Catalog has the newspapers - if they do, I may order them at the FHC. If not, I'll have to make another trip back to Topeka!

We've enjoyed our three days here in Topeka visiting with our friends - Linda's best friend from San Francisco. We went into Kansas City on Friday and viewed the Steamboat Arabia, which sank in 1856 in the Missouri River and was excavated in 1988 from a cornfield, and quite a ways down below the surface. What a fascinating story about the sinking, the excavation, and the restoration of the collection of "stuff" salvaged from the ship - all of it destined for the homes of people living upstream from Kansas City. They are still restoring it!

After the KSHS visit, I headed back to the house all set to watch the Chula Vista team play the US Championship game. The game was supposed to start at 2 p.m., but there were rain delays and it was rescheduled for 6 p.m. We had plans to go out to dinner, so we went to Outback Steakhouse and were able to watch the first two innings on the TV in the bar. After eating, we headed back to the house and saw the last inning there. The Chula Vista team won 12-2 over San Antonio, so they are in the World Championships against Taipei today at 2 p.m. (if it doesn't rain).

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