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How to get started on your genealogical journey

Finding out more about your family’s genealogy can be an exciting adventure, but where does a person begin?

Here are some pointers from area genealogists.

Getting started

When researching your family’s history, it’s best to start with recent history and work further into history.

Carrie Kirk, who does volunteer work for the Basehor Historical Museum Society and the National Archive, said people should begin research at home.

“The first thing you need to do is kind of familiarize yourself in your own home,” she said. “You might have some old newspaper clippings, obituary notices, letters from relatives.

“Look around; see what you’ve got.”

Researchers should then contact relatives to inquire about any information they might have.

Another resource is census statistics, Kirk said. Census information is taken every five years — U.S. Census information in years ending in zero and Kansas statistics in years ending in five. Libraries are good resources for gathering census information, she said.

Documentation also is key, Kirk noted. Write down what day you found specific information and where it was found. Documenting when any conversations took place and with whom also are important, she said.

Joining a genealogy society also can be beneficial.

“You mix with people who do this all the time,” she said.

Online resources, such as, can be helpful, but some Internet sites include misinformation, Kirk said.

Don’t get discouraged

Information can be found in droves, and then there can be a roadblock.

“There’s a piece missing,” Richard Wellman said. “You may go five years before you find that piece that fits. It’s really a challenge to keep working on it.”

But Wellman, who volunteers at the Baldwin City Library and is a member of genealogy societies for Douglas and Jefferson counties, has found plenty of family history through the years.

Kirk has had similar experiences.

“It’s a never-ending job,” she said. “Every time you find the answer to a puzzle, you have two more questions you have to find.”

Reaching out to libraries, historical societies and even courthouses for records can be a big help. Kirk said she’s found people to be helpful, and striking up conversations with those local people can translate into more leads.

And that can mean answering a burning question or finding a missing piece to the puzzle.

Utilize your resources

The Johnson County Library can provide visitors plenty of genealogy assistance, said Marsha Bennett, public relations manager for the library.

The Central Resource Library, 9875 W. 87th St. in Overland Park, has more than 20 genealogy volunteers. For more information, contact the library at 913-826-4600 or go to

Across the state line is another resource: the National Archives, 400 W. Pershing Rd. in Kansas City, Mo. Its phone number is 816-268-8000.

Here’s a listing of other local resources:

Leavenworth County

• Tonganoxie Public Library, 303 S. Bury, 913-845-3281.

• Tonganoxie Community Historical Society, 201 W. Washington. For genealogy questions, contact Laurie Walters at 913-796-6373.

• Basehor Community Library, 1400 158th St., 913-724-2828.

• Basehor Historical Museum Society, 2812 N. 155th St., 913-724-4022.

Douglas County

• Baldwin City Library, 800 Seventh St., 785-594-3411.

• Douglas County Historical Society, at the Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass., in Lawrence, 785-841-4109.

Wyandotte County

• Bonner Springs City Library, 201 N. Nettleton Ave., 913-441-2665.

• Wyandotte County Historical Museum, 631 N. 126th St., Bonner Springs, 913-573-5002.

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