Research, Collections and Genealogy
The Kentucky Historical Society has collected the books, documents, images and artifacts that tell the Commonwealth’s story since 1836. Oral history interviews with both the famous and the not-so-well-known people of Kentucky add to the depth of our resources. KHS collections number into the hundreds of thousands of items and provide a rich resource for scholars, family historians and others seeking to better understand and be empowered by Kentucky’s history.
Researchers may use KHS collections online and at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, KHS headquarters, in Frankfort.
The Martin F. Schmidt Research Library offers fee-based research services for people who cannot travel to KHS.
Search Our Collections
The catalog includes descriptions of books, manuscripts, photographs, oral histories, microfilm, and other genealogical resources.
The Digital Collections is a searchable database of digital images and files from the Kentucky Historical Society’s collections.
The object collections include everything from fine china to military weaponry. Please be aware that this database does not contain every artifact in the KHS museum collection and that records are updated frequently.
A comprehensive collection of audio and video interviews and over 10,000 pages of electronic transcripts. All material is full-text searchable and can be sorted by county, subject or by decade.
Pass the Word serves as a centralized database for oral history collections publicly accessible through Kentucky libraries, museums and archives.
Martin F. Schmidt Research Library
Located on the second floor of the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Kentucky Historical Society Martin F. Schmidt Research Library is one stop shopping for more than 90,000 published works; more than 15,000 reels of microfilm; over 10,000 cubic feet of archival records including genealogical vertical files, manuscripts, photographs, maps and atlases; and more than 9,000 oral history interviews.
For general information, contact library staff by calling 502-564-1792, ext. 4460, or e-mailing KHSrefdesk@ky.gov.
The policies for using the KHS Library are in accordance with other special libraries and archives. Nonetheless, these policies differ from what most researchers would experience at a public or school library. These policies are important for the preservation of our materials for future researchers.
- Purses, briefcases, waist-packs, backpacks, etc. are NOT allowed in the Reading Room. Lockers are available outside the library for patrons to store personal items. A quarter is necessary to operate lockers, but it will be returned.
- Paper, research notes, electronic devices, and three-ring binders are allowed at tables in the Reading Room. Books, magazines, and original manuscript documents must be stored outside the research rooms. Exceptions to this rule can be discussed with Reference staff on a case by case basis.
- Please use pencils only in the Reading Room. No pens, scanners, or personal copiers are allowed. Pencils are available at the Orientation and Reference Desks.
- Hand-held cameras and electronic devices with camera capabilities may be used in the Reading Room without flash and/or tripod/stand. These images are to be used for personal reference only. You may not reproduce, publish, or exhibit these images without the permission of the Kentucky Historical Society. To request permission to publish, please contact the Kentucky Historical Society for a Use Agreement. Additional fees may apply.
- Photocopy machines are located in the Reading Room. Researchers are responsible for obtaining necessary publication rights and/or copyright clearances before publication.
- Patrons can purchase a Venda-card for use in photocopy machines and microfilm printers. Photocopies are $0.15 per page and microfilm copies are $0.30.
- Research materials may not be removed from the Reading Room. All materials should be returned to designated re-shelving carts. Please do not re-shelve materials.
- There are a limited number of microfilm reader-printers. During especially busy periods, KHS staff reserves the right to ask patrons to limit their use of these machines to copying only, and may request that those reviewing microfilm move to a reader.
- Cell phones should be set to vibrate or at lowest volume. Please be considerate of the researchers around you. Calls should be taken outside the Reading Room.
- Please do not mark or damage KHS collections with pencils, other writing implements or unsafe handling.
- Smoking, food, and drinks are not allowed in the Reading Room.
As a precaution, all materials leaving the library are inspected by library staff.
Online Genealogy Resources
The Martin F. Schmidt Research Library maintains subscriptions to the following sites that can be accessed from the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History.
The popular genealogy subscription site, with access to a comprehensive and diverse collection of genealogical databases, including U.S. Census images. From ProQuest.
Search articles from the Louisville Courier Journal from 1830-1922. From ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Contains periodicals published between 1740 and 1940, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children’s and women’s magazines and many other historically significant periodicals. From ProQuest.
Digitized from the popular UMI: Genealogy and Local History collection on microfiche, this online database is an essential collection of unique material for both genealogical hobbyists and professionals. Includes online census images and over 7.5 million pages from imaged texts. From ProQuest Information and Learning.
Kentucky Ancestors Online (a free publication of the Kentucky Historical Society) features a wide range of article topics and is designed to appeal to family historians of all levels.
At the Center for Kentucky History, users have online access to the full text of this important reference work. Online subscriptions are currently available only to libraries, schools and other organizations. Users outside the Center for Kentucky History can contact their local public or school librarian for help accessing this service.
Users in the Center for Kentucky History have access to all KYVL databases. Users outside the Center for Kentucky History can contact their local public or school librarian for help accessing this service.
These are frequently recommended websites available from your home.
The department offers comprehensive services which assure Kentuckians access to a broad range of information and educational resources. The KDLA catalog includes descriptions and locations for Kentucky official records sets.
Part of the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office. Includes several searchable databases and many resources for researching land acquisition in Kentucky.
Provides access to extensive genealogical resources gathered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). This site also contains their online catalog and information about local LDS Family History Centers. The 1880 U.S. Census is also available online through FamilySearch.
Includes lists of newspapers available online and those available on microfilm for InterLibrary Loan.
Look for materials in more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
The Lexington Herald-Leader shares its vast collection of photographs dating back to the 1930s and updated daily.
The Kentucky Historical Society library offers several types of fee-based research services to patrons. Upon request, KHS staff will search the Historical Society’s collections of printed genealogies, local histories, vital records, land records, city directories, county records, manuscript collections, military lists, and biographical materials in an effort to answer individual inquiries.
Address all KHS library research requests to:
Kentucky Historical Society
100 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Payment in advance is required. Please allow up to eight weeks for a response to your request.
Read about the types of research services available below to determine which is best for your research needs.
Single Record Requests
Library staff will search indexed sources for one person in one record. The fee for this service is $15.00. Submit payment (check or money order only), a self-addressed stamped envelope and a completed Single Record Request Form to the address above. For more information about this service, call 502-564-1792, ext. 4460.
KHS staff will conduct research on an hourly basis. The fee for this service is $25.00 per hour for KHS members or $40.00 per hour for non-members.
Please submit payment for the first hour of research along with a completed Research Request Form.
KHS staff can provide photocopies of cited sources. Please complete the Photocopy Request Form. Policies and fees are explained on the form.
Professional Researchers List
For research requests that are beyond the scope of these services, the KHS library provides a list of genealogy and local history researchers for hire. This list is provided only for informational purposes, and KHS does not recommend or discuss the qualifications of these individuals and is not responsible for their actions.
Rights & Reproductions
Kentucky Historical Society provides digital reproductions of items in the KHS collections upon request. All requests for reproductions will be handled in the order in which they are received, regardless of the contact method used. Turnaround time depends upon the complexity of the order, the need for custom photography and special project workload. For completion of most orders, average turnaround time is 14 business days from receipt of payment and signed agreement. However, orders can take up to 30 business days depending on the complexity of the order.
We are unable to provide photographic prints.
Select Items for Reproduction
Researchers must cite specific items when requesting photo or digital reproduction. To select items, researchers can access KHS collections through these methods:
- Search the KHS Collections Catalog, the KHS Digital Collections, or the KHS Objects Catalog
- Visit the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History
- Submit a reference request
Place an Order
Effective January 1, 2015, there is a new form and updated fees for reproduction requests.
To request a digital reproduction of an item in KHS collections, please use the Collection Duplication Request form.
Fees for duplication services, including reproduction and use fees, are listed on the Collection Duplication fee schedule.
Submit all forms and associated fees to:
KHS Duplication Services
100 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601-1931
Institutional Loan Program
The Kentucky Historical Society has an active loan program that loans artifacts and archival materials to institutions. KHS welcomes loan requests from in-state and out-of-state institutions as well as international loan requests. (We do not make loans to individuals.)
To request a loan, start here (opens as PDF).
Abandoned Archival / Museum Property
Kentucky Revised Statutes 171.830-.849 detail a procedure for museums to follow to gain ownership of items that have been on loan to museums for more than seven years but for which they cannot find the owner. As part of its state mandate, the Kentucky Historical Society is charged to make widely known the state administrative regulations that relate to such property, including posting the pertinent statutes, administrative regulation and abandoned property notices on its website.
Kentucky Revised Statutes 171.830-.849: Property on Loan to Museums
- KRS 171-00/830: Definitions for KRS 171.930 to 171.849
- KRS 171.833: Notification of provisions of KRS 171.830 to 171.849 to owner-lender by museum
- KRS 171.836: Museum’s ability to acquire title to property held by loan or otherwise
- KRS 171.840: Procedure to acquire title under KRS 171.836
- KRS 171-00/843: Vesting of title in museum when no assertion presented after published notice
- KRS 171.846: Conservation measures for property on loan to museum
- KRS 171.849: Kentucky Historical Society to promulgate administrative regulations to implement KRS 171.830 to 171.849
Current Abandoned Property Postings
NOTICE. The Kentucky Historical Society is looking for the owners of the following piece that has been on loan to the museum since 1949. The staff has tried to locate the owners or their heirs but cannot find them. If written assertion of the title to the property is not presented to the museum within six (6) months of the final publication of this notice, the title to the property shall vest in the museum subject to KRS 171.843.
Description: pocket watch that belonged to Lt. J.J. Crittenden and was loaned by Mrs. John R. Williams and Mrs. Joseph M. Rogers.
If you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of the owners or their heirs, please contact the Registrar, Deborah Van Horn at: The Kentucky Historical Society 100 W. Broadway Frankfort, KY 40601; email@example.com; 502-564-1792.
Posted Feb. 27, 2015, 11:15 a.m. EST