If you have the opportunity to research your family history in Lincoln County, please do so. Youíll find rich farmlands, beautiful pastures, open skies, clean air and some of the most breathtaking sunsets youíll ever see. Folks there are glad to have visitors and you might stumble across a cousin or two Ė who knows?
The following is a guide intended to help you prepare for such a trip. One piece of advice before you get started: gather as much information as possible before you go in order to save time.
For instance, if you hope to find obituaries, check with your virtual tour guide, Tracee Hamilton, the Lincoln County lookup volunteer, at firstname.lastname@example.org for dates of death from the Lincoln County Death Register or cemetery index. If you hope to visit grave sites, check with Tracee for cemetery listings and in some cases, exact locations of graves. This will give you more time to get as much as possible done on your visit.
There is a Birth Register for Lincoln County beginning in 1886 and continuing into the 1970s, available at City Hall, 153 W. Lincoln Ave. The register has been indexed from the original books by child's surname, mother's surname and father's surname. Tracee (email@example.com) also can provide lookups from the Birth Register. Birth records from July 1911 also are available from the Office of Vital Statistics. beginning in 1911.
There is a Death Register for Lincoln County covering 1886 to 1989, available at City Hall, 153 W. Lincoln Ave. This register includes only people who died in the county. Keep in mind that before the Lincoln Hospital was built, many of the countyís sick were treated in Ellsworth or Saline counties, among others, and therefore may not have passed away in Lincoln. In working with this Death Register, Tracee has found many mispellings and some dates that do not match dates on tombstones, etc. The only other death records are those available from the Office of Vital Statistics.
However, land records, marriage records, wills and other court records are available. So your first stop should be the Lincoln County Courthouse, 216 E. Lincoln Ave.
This beautiful native limestone building was completed in 1900 after the countyís original courthouse burned in a fire in 1898. Fortunately, the county did NOT lose records in this fire.
The Register of Deeds office is located on the first floor of the courthouse. In addition to land records, which date from the very earlier days of the county, records for the old country school houses are there. You can discover your great-grandfatherís attendance records and grades, and even the names of the teachers and other school officials.
On the second floor is the probate judgeís office and the Clerk of the District Court office. The Clerk of the District Courtís records are indexed on computer, making searches for marriages and probates fairly easy. Marriages are indexed by both the brideís and groomís surnames. Probates and other civil cases also are indexed by surname. (In some cases, such as adoptions, you may have to get permission from the probate judge in order to view the file. The Clerk of the District Court can answer any questions you might have.)
The marriage index, begun in around 1871, will indicate the date the couple filed for the license and the date of the marriage, if it was performed in Lincoln County. The index will give a reference number to a book containing the original marriage licenses (copied into a large book by former clerks) but the original licenses do not contain any other pertinent information except the name of the minister who performed the ceremony. In other words, you cannot find the parentsí or witnessesí names by looking at the license. But if you want a copy of a license nonetheless, it is 25 cents (as are all copies in this office).
Civil suits and wills also are available. Older probate case files Ė which go back to about 1880 Ė are located in the basement of the courthouse and must be fetched by the Clerk. This is sometimes a problem if only one person is working that day, because the office canít be left unattended. So it may be necessary to arrange a time to return to look at certain old probates. Thatís why this office should be one of your first stops.
On the first floor, in the County Clerkís office, are some of the countyís cemetery records: a computer printout of more than a dozen small cemeteries. Only one cemeteryís listings has been alphabetized, however, so searching for a surname through the entire printout will be time-consuming. Tracee has all these records on computer so donít hesitate to get a lookup. If you want to see all the burials at a particular spot in the county, however, these records will be helpful.
While youíre on the first floor take a few minutes to browse the historical displays on the first floor. Some of the most interesting artifacts of Lincolnís early days are on display. There also is a display honoring the countyís servicemen, including an array of induction photos. When youíre on the second floor, be sure to peek into the courtroom, assuming court is not in session.
The courthouse is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the treasurerís office closes at 4:30) but try to avoid the noon hour. There is ample parking in front of the building on Lincoln Avenue. The building is wheelchair accessible and there is an elevator.
You should also take time to wander the courthouse lawn. There is a Civil War monument and cannon and a monument to the settlers killed by Native Americans during the early days. At the far southwest corner of the courthouse lawn is the Veterans Memorial, erected in 1999.
Obituaries and other newspaper records
The Lincoln Carnegie Library, built in 1913, should be your next top. Hours for the library, located at 203 S. 3rd St., are: Monday-Friday: 10-1, 2-6 Saturday: 10-1, 1:30-3:30 Sunday: Closed
The library has a small holding of books on area history, a collection of yearbooks and a small collection of genealogy material pertaining to Lincoln County and the Central Kansas area. Its main attraction for genealogists is its microfilm collection, which includes virtually every paper ever published in the county, as well as the federal census for Lincoln County for 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920.
Most of the newspapers of the county included news from all over the county, although certainly more news Ė and advertising Ė from Lincoln than from the smaller towns. Most ran weekly columns with news from different towns and neighborhoods. Two smaller communities had papers of their own: Barnard and Sylvan.
The following is a list of available newspapers and their publication dates:
Barnard Bee: Feb. 24, 1916-Nov. 5, 1942 Sylvan Alert: April 25, 1895-Aug. 13, 1896 Lincoln County News: March 5, 1873-March 19, 1874 Lincoln County Beacon: March 25, 1880-Nov. 24, 1881 Beacon of Lincoln County: Dec. 1, 1881-Feb. 21, 1884 Lincoln Banner: Feb. 28, 1884-June 13, 1886 Lincoln County Register: May 6, 1886-Oct. 20, 1887 Lincoln Democrat: Oct. 27, 1887-March 29, 1888 Lincoln County Democrat: April 5, 1888-Dec. 27, 1888 Lincoln Democrat: Nov. 1, 1888-Dec. 27-1899 Lincoln County Farmer: Dec. 5, 1890-March 4, 1892 Saline Valley Register: April 19, 1876-Sept. 18, 1879 Lincoln Register: Sept. 25, 1879-Jan. 30, 1880 Lincoln County Register: Feb. 6, 1880-May 12, 1881 Lincoln Register: May 19, 1881-Nov. 4, 1881 Saline Valley Register: Nov. 11, 1881-Feb. 21, 1884 Lincoln County Patriot: July 15, 1895 Saline Valley Sunflower: Feb. 9, 1900 Lincoln Beacon: Feb. 28, 1884-Feb. 21, 1901 Lincoln County Sentinel: June 1, 1894-Oct. 2, 1900 Lincoln Sentinel: Nov. 1, 1900-Nov. 19, 1925 Lincoln Republican: Jan. 20, 1886-Nov. 19, 1925 Lincoln Sentinel-Republican: Nov. 26, 1925-July 29, 1993
The library has a microfilm reader/printer available for use. Copies are 25 cents.
There are a variety of churches in the county, and while some have been founded in the past few years, many have been serving their congregations for more than 100 years.
I have looked at records at the Methodist Church and St. Patrickís Catholic Church, so I know those are available, but I am sure many if not all of the other churches will have some sort of records.
Early records for the Presbyterian Church were destroyed in a fire, I believe in the 1930s.
See the list of churches on this website and call or write in advance, if possible, to check on availability.
So many of the old schools are gone now. Of course, most of the country schools have long since fallen into disuse or been converted into homes. (My grandparents lived in the old Garfield school from Marion Township, which was moved to 223 E. Bowland.)
The old Central School gone, but the old Lincoln High School is still standing at the far south end of Fourth Street in Lincoln. That is the site of the old Kansas Christian College as well. The old high schools in Beverly and Barnard have been torn down but thus far Lincolnís has avoided that fate.
Many cemeteries are scattered throughout the county. The largest is the Lincoln Cemetery, which is located on the far east end of Lincoln Avenue at Highway K-18. The oldest graves are from the 1870s. There is a directory and map of the cemetery near the Bradbury Monument, a tall obelisk near the center of the cemetery through the main gates. The same information is available at City Hall.
Even if you donít have family in the Lincoln city cemetery, visitors to town should visit the Suitcase Headstone. This is an unusual gravestone that has been written about by all sorts of publications around the country. The stone is shaped like a suitcase, really a small valise, of the sort a traveling salesman would carry, and marks the grave of J.S. Jacobs, who in fact was a traveling salesman. Although a romantic story has sprung up over the years that Mr. Jacobs died in Lincoln on a sales trip and because he had no family, the town pitched in and bought the stone, that has proven to be partly a myth. But he was a traveling salesman, and the grave is frequently decorated with small bouquets although no one in town seems to be related to Mr. Jacobs.
Near the center of the cemetery is a monument to Rev. H.C. Bradbury, who figures so prominently in the early settlement of the county.
St. Patrickís Catholic Cemetery, one of two Catholic cemeteries in the county, is located about a mile south of Lincoln on K-14. The other Catholic cemetery, St. John Cemetery, is located east of Vesper, about 7 miles west of Lincoln. If you want to visit that cemetery, get directions and do NOT attempt to go in rainy or wet weather. The road isnít very good and your virtual tour guide once got stuck out there.
Another large cemetery, St. Johnís Lutheran, is located about another mile or so south of St. Patrickís. Itís a beautiful, well-kept cemetery and the church is quite old and lovely as well.
Vesper Cemetery is along K-14 about 8 miles west of Lincoln. It is at least a mile away from where Vesper lies today. The town moved after the cemetery was established; hence the distance. Directions from Lincoln: Take K-18 West about 9 miles to the cemetery, which you can see from the highway on the left.
Just a bit further down K-18 West is Sylvan Grove, whose two cemeteries, Bethlehem Lutheran and Sylvan Grove Cemetery, are side-by-side. Directions from Lincoln: Take K-18 West to Sylvan Grove exit, turn south (left). Just before you reach the city limits, the first cross-street is "Old K-18." Turn left. The cemetery is perhaps a quarter-mile down the road on the right. The Lutheran section is on the right.
Beverly boasts two cemeteries, the Beverly Cemetery located right off K-18 at the Beverly exit, 11 miles east of Lincoln, and Monroe Cemetery, a smaller cemetery south of Beverly. Monroe really has a pretty location and is a peaceful place to visit. Directions from Lincoln: Take K-18 East to the Beverly exit. Go through Beverly on Main St. until it ends. The road curves to the right and becomes Miller Dr., then Monroe. Stay on that road as it leaves town. When the road forks, stay left (on pavement). The pavement will end once you cross the river. Youíll be heading straight south. The cemetery is on the right. It is about 3.3 miles from K-18 to the front gates.
Prairie Grove Cemetery is located north of Lincoln. Take K-14 north of Lincoln 7.5 miles to the Bethany Church turnoff. Turn left (west) on the gravel road and travel 4 miles to the first four-corner intersection. Turn left (south) and go 1 mile; the cemetery is on the left. Buried there are residents of the Prairie Grove/Dewdrop/Yorktown areas. It, too, is a secluded, peaceful spot.
Union Valley Cemetery, which also is sometimes referred to as Pinon or Bridenstine, is not far from Prairie Grove. From Lincoln, go 9.5 miles north on Highway 14 to the Barnard turnoff. Turn right (east) and go 3 miles, then turn right (south) and go one mile; the cemetery is on the right.
These are the cemeteries with which I am most familiar. Of course, there are many more. For a list of the countyís cemeteries and their locations, go to the Lincoln County Cemetery List. If you need help locating them once you get to town, ask around. Most folks will be able to give you directions, or direct you to someone who can!
The Lincoln County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the county. The Kyne House Museum, 214 W. Lincoln, displays many artifacts from the countyís early dates, and on the grounds next to the museum is a restored one-room schoolhouse, the Topsy School.
In the office at the Kyne House are some records that have been collected by the society. At the current time there is not an index or complete list of the information available there, but visitors may enquire with the museum guides.
Hours for the Kyne House are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-4 p.m. and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. in the summer and in the winter by appointment by calling 785-524-4614, 524-4612, or 524-5133. Admission is by donation.
The society also owns and maintains the Yohe House, 316 S. 2nd, an 1885 Queen Anne Victorian home that contains most of the original furnishings and decorations. Tours are $5 per person; groups of five or more, $4 per person. For appointments call 785-524-4934, 524-4744, 524-5133.
Don't forget to try one of the easiest methods of research: check the phone book for your surname, and ask around town.
Even if your family left town some time ago, the chances of finding someone who knew them are pretty good.
Talk to folks at restaurants, the banks, the courthouse, the post office...you might make a lucky connection.
If you have questions or comments, donít hesitate to contact your virtual tour guide Tracee. Good luck in your research, and enjoy your visit!