Research, Collections & Genealogy

Research and Collections

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

    Kentucky Historical Society Collections Catalog

    The catalog includes descriptions of books, manuscripts, photographs, oral histories, microfilm, and other genealogical resources.

    KHS Digital Collections

    The Digital Collections is a searchable database of digital images and files from the Kentucky Historical Society’s collections.

    KHS Objects Catalog

    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.

    NEW! Kentucky Photo Archive

    The Lexington Herald-Leader shares its vast collection of photographs dating back to the 1930s and updated daily.

    Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky Online Digital Media Database

    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

    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 over 90,000 published works, over 15,000 reels of microfilm, over 10,000 cubic feet of archival records including genealogical vertical files, manuscripts, photographs, maps and atlases, and over 9,000 oral history interviews.

    For general information, contact library staff by calling 502-564-1792, ext. 4460, or e-mailing KHSrefdesk@ky.gov.

  • Library Policies

    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.

  • 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.

    Ancestry Library Edition

    The popular genealogy subscription site, with access to a comprehensive and diverse collection of genealogical databases, including U.S. Census images. From ProQuest.

    NEW! Louisville Courier Journal Online

    Search articles from the Louisville Courier Journal from 1830-1922. From ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

    NEW! American Periodicals

    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.

    HeritageQuest Online

    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

    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.

    Encyclopedia Web Edition

    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.

    Kentucky Virtual Library

    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.

    Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA)

    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.

    Kentucky Land Office

    Part of the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office. Includes several searchable databases and many resources for researching land acquisition in Kentucky.

    The FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service

    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.

    Kentucky Genealogical Society (KGS)

    Lexington Public Library Kentucky Room and Local History Index

    Kentucky National Digital Newspaper Program (University of Kentucky Libraries)

    Includes lists of newspapers available online and those available on microfilm for InterLibrary Loan.

    FindAGrave.com

    Worldcat.org

    Look for materials in over 10,000 libraries worldwide.

  • Research Services

    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:

    Research Services
    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.

    Research Requests

    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.

    Photocopy Requests

    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:

  • 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).