Kansas History

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United States > Kansas > Kansas History


The following important events in the history of Kansas affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping:

  • 1803:The United States acquired Kansas from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
  • 1804-1820: United States government expeditions explored the Kansas region, reporting it to be an arid wasteland. The resulting myth of the Great American Desert discouraged early white settlement.
  • 1821: The Santa Fe Trail across Kansas was opened. It served as a wagon road from Missouri to the Southwest until 1880, when the railroad was completed.
  • 1827-1853: The United States Army built forts and roads in Kansas for frontier defense and to protect trade along the Santa Fe Trail.
  • 1830-1854: Kansas was part of Indian Territory, where 20 tribes from the east were relocated. The Indian Territory was closed to white settlement.
  • 1838: "Trail of Death" the Potawatomi Indians removed from Indiana to Kansas.
  • 1843: Wyandot Indians removed from Ohio to Kansas. The Wyando Indians purchased land from the Delaware Indians.
  • 1852-53:(winter) More than four hunderd Indians died by smallpox at Council Grove.
  • 30 May 1854: The Kansas-Nebraska Act created two territories extending from the Missouri border westward to the tops of the Rocky Mountains and opened the area to white settlement. Migration to Kansas was stimulated by rivalry between North and South over the slavery issue and over the choice of a railroad route to the Pacific.
  • 1857: Battle of Solom's Fort in Northwestern Kansas
  • 23 April 1860 - 24 October 1861: Pony Express
  • 29 January 1861: Kansas, with its present boundaries, was admitted to the Union as a free state.
  • 1861-1865: In the Civil War, over 20,000 of the 30,000 Kansas men of military age served in the Union armed forces. Kansas suffered the highest mortality rate of any state in the Union.
  • 1867: Indians met with U.S. near the Medicine River in Kansas Territory, The Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty was signed The land south of the Kansas border was declared to be Indian territory.
  • 1867-1869: Indian Champaign. Many of the remaining Indian tribes agreed to leave Kansas and move to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. Indian skirmishes continued in Kansas until 1878.
  • 1870-1890: The post-Civil War boom brought thousands of settlers to build new railroads and to claim land under the Homestead Act.
  • 1874: Red River War (Buffalo War)
  • 1879: Haskell Indian boarding school in Lawrence began.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies.

  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [1] [2]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [3] [4]

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Iowa.

  • An especially helpful source for studying the history of Kansas is Kansas: The First Century, [5] This includes family and personal histories.

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • The Almanac of American History, [6] [7] This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • The Pony Express
    Pony Express riders carried the U.S. Mail on horseback. There were approximately 80 of them. There were support personnel as well that numbered over 400. The Pony Express Route Covered Parts of: California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.
    Pony Express Riders Biographies:
    By Name Include Some Photos
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [8] [9] This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [10] [11] [12] This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

To find more books and articles about Kansas 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Kansas history." Family History Library Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Web Sites


  1. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  2. Worldcat
  3. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  4. Worldcat
  5. John D. Bright, ed., Kansas: The First Century, 4 vols. (New York, New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1956; Family History Library Book 978.1 H2k.
  6. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  7. Worldcat
  8. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)
  9. Worldcat
  10. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  11. Limited view at Google Books
  12. Worldcat
  13. Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w
  14. Worldcat