Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting Ready for NGS!

Well, I've booked my room for the National Genealogical Society conference in May!  The website says the conference hotels are full, but I got a room through Expedia, even getting a 20% sale on the room rate.  My rate is probably higher than the conference rate, but least two of the conference hotels are not actually full.

I'm getting excited!  This will be my first major genealogy conference.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kansas Aviation Museum

On March 8, the Kansas Aviation Museum dedicated a new 6,500 square foot archive center.  Because I read that day's paper at dinner, rather than at breakfast, I missed the open house.  Still, what I've gleaned from the website and the newspaper article is rather cool.

The archive has an extensive collection of aviation materials, including photographs, books, magazines and periodicals, films, drawings, blueprints and FAA registration files.  The focus of the museum is on airplanes and airplane companies, but would likely offer fascinating contextual information for anyone who worked in the aircraft industry in Wichita.

For any of you out-of-towners who don't know, Wichita has been a hub of aircraft design and construction since the beginning of aircraft -- the first commercial aircraft company was founded in 1900 (before the Kitty Hawk flight) and the first successful Kansas plane flew in 1910.  By 1920, there were 21 aircraft companies in Kansas. Cessna, Beech and LearJet were all founded here, and Boeing built B-29s for WWII here.  Many aviation companies still design and build planes here, although competition is fierce for the good jobs that aviation provides.  The KAM has a great timeline here.

The museum is located in the old Wichita Airport building at 3350 S. George Washington Blvd.  Phone is 316-683-9242.  The archive is open to the public -- they recommend that you call and make an appointment so that they can be ready to help you.  You can also email the archivist at  The website doesn't say whether they will do research for you, so you would have to call or email to ask.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wichita's First Presbyterian Church Archives

One of Wichita's oldest churches, First Presbyterian has been around since starting in a dugout in 1869.  Members of MHGS recently got a tour of the archives, and I was blown away.  First, by the fact that they have an archives!  With five rooms, an archivist, an assistant archivist and several other volunteers!  As far as they know, they have the most extensive formal arrangement of any church in town, which is a pity, because more churches should do this.

What would a genealogist find there?  A brief list:

  • lists of church staff members
  • sermons
  • class rosters
  • minister files
  • building records, including photos
  • a Presbyterian newspaper that includes both local and national news
  • bound copies of all service bulletins since the 1920s
  • photos, both framed and in albums
  • a WWII vet project done last year
  • letters written between a Sunday school class and WWII servicemen overseas
  • a Bible collection
  • obituaries for members
  • the church register of baptisms, marriages, etc
  • the diaries of a member, written daily from 1864 to 1910
The church is at 525 N Broadway in downtown Wichita.  The phone number is 263-0248.  The archives are regularly open on Wednesday mornings from about 9:30 to 11:30 and by appointment.  Email the archivist at  They are willing to do some research for out-of-towners; they ask for money to cover copying charges and would appreciate a donation to help pay for the fireproof safe they've got their eyes on...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Tragedy of the 1890 Census

I just discovered that the Society of American Archivists has made back issues of their journal available for free online.  Big whoop you say?  While many of the articles are not terribly interesting for a genealogist, many are fascinating.  For example, take this article on The Creation and Destruction of the 1890 Federal Census, by Robert Dorman.  It provides an illuminating look into the political and social issues that shaped the way the 1890 census was conducted, stored, and lost. Did you know that at one point, a congressman suggested that ALL the censuses, back to 1790, were "antiquated" pieces of paper not worth the cost of storage?

I didn't know that, when the creation of a national archives was being discussed in the 1930's, there had been dozens of fires and floods that damaged records.  The one causing the most public outrage, apparently, was a 1911 fire at the New York State Library -- I haven't done any New York Research, but this sounds like it was a real tragedy, destroying much of the records of the Dutch Colonial period.

Scary reading, indeed.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wichita's Historic Preservation Alliance

The Historic Preservation Alliance appears to be focused on historic buildings in the Wichita area.  Their activities appear to revolve around saving historic buildings from development and touring historic places. They have a newsletter and a Facebook page.  A person (ok, I) could waste some time looking through their Then and Now section, which adds useful notes to the then and now pictures.

There is no mention of an archives on the website, but there is a list of local structures, sculptures, districts and archaeological sites that have been listed on local, state and national registers of historic places -- this list includes photos and links to the registration applications, which includes a history of the site and a discussion of why it is significant.  For example, the application for Calvary Baptist Church includes a chronological history of the building, a thorough architectural description, and brief history of the Exodusters who founded it and the growth of the black community in Wichita, and a bibliography of sources.

If you are lucky enough to find a tie to one of these buildings, this looks to be a good resource for additional information.  I expect that the HPA Facebook page might be a good place for queries about old Wichita buildings, although the page is brand spanking new and might not have many readers for a while.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Research at the Sedgwick County Courthouse

The Sedgwick County Courthouse, in Wichita, has published a couple of useful guides to research.

The first, A Citizen's Guide to Open Records at Sedgwick County, covers what is available from the county in the various departments of the courthouse, including property records, tax records and maps.  It also covers what isn't available, particularly vital records, which are available from the Kansas Department of Health & Environment Office of Vital Statistics, and marriage records, which are held by the District Court rather than the county. Of course, the county and the Court are all in the same building, so this may be a distinction that only a Freedom of Information Officer really cares about. (The brochure doesn't mention that pre-1917 marriage and divorce records are on microfilm at the Midwest Historical and Genealogical Society.)

The second, A User's Guide to Real Estate and Personal Property Assessment Rolls on Microfilm, is a finding aid for 36 reels of microfilmed records from 1876 to 1898.  These microfilms are available at the downtown Wichita Public Library or at Wichita State's Ablah Library.

The District Court website isn't as helpful to researchers, so a call to the appropriate office (such as Probate) may be necessary.

Friday, March 2, 2012

1940 Census Pictures

Do you subscribe to the National Archives' account RSS feed?  Yesterday they posted pictures from their collections of 1940 census staff, including enumerators and analysts.

Geographers Division, a Planimeter, 1940 - 1941

Past uploads have included pictures of notable scientists (including a slew of women) and old pictures of Washington, DC.