Douglas County Records
The history of Douglas County is well documented through an extensive collection of local Douglas County, Kansas, records for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Kansas Collection is the depository for records of Douglas County. An online finding aid for the Douglas County records collection is available.
District Court Records
The majority of county court records for the years 1855-1863 were destroyed when Lawrence was burned down by William C. Quantrill's men in 1863. An account of the earliest county government and court history, including a listing of county and court officials, is contained in A.T. Andreas' History of the State of Kansas, Chicago, 1883 (reprinted in 1976 by the Atchison County Historical Society), pages 310-312. This is available on reference at the Kansas Collection. See the sections below for additional information about court records held by the Kansas Collection.
Probate court records for Douglas County were kept separately from other district court records until 1977. The probate court had jurisdiction over estates, wills, adoptions, insanity hearings, delinquent and dependent children hearings, marriages and town incorporations.
Probate files include all original documents filed in a case. In estate cases these can include copies of the inventory of the estate and the will of the deceased and details about the disposition of the estate. No adoption records are open to the public. Records of insanity hearings and care and treatment cases are included in the probate records in the Kansas Collection unless they were deemed confidential.
The Kansas Collection has the index to probate records from 1857-1965 and the accompanying case files if they are no longer active. In order to locate a case file in the indexes you need to know the name of the person and if possible the date the case was filed. The index for probate cases after 1965 is only available at the Douglas County Clerk's office.
In addition, the Kansas Collection has the journals of the probate court for September 24, 1855-June 28, 1974. These are a chronological record of the day-to-day proceedings of the probate court.
Civil and Criminal Court Records
District Court Journals, 1863-1974, are a record of all the proceedings in the district court each day that it met. It includes civil and criminal trials, grand jury proceedings, orders from the judge in vacation or in chambers, jury selection proceedings, petitions from lawyers and parties and all other in-court events and matters.
District Court Criminal Trial Docket, 1864-1878, was used by the court clerk to place upcoming criminal cases upon the case calendar. Entries include: the names of parties, the names of attorneys, the docket number, the charge, judicial orders and final dispensation. It is indexed alphabetically from 1874-1878. It appears that this docket may not have been kept after 1878.
District Court Criminal Appearance Dockets, 1863-1970, list all legal actions in the order they were filed in the court clerk's office. Information provided includes the date of summons and its return, petition and pleadings filed, judicial judgments and orders and a list of costs accrued during the action. The volumes include an alphabetical index by parties to the actions.
District Court Criminal Judicial Dockets, 1874-1878, 1881-1927, 1932-1945, were kept by each judge as a record of cases they personally tried. Entries include case title, date of writ, date of case, party arrest record, property attached, facts stated, affidavits and bills of particular filed, appearing parties, adjoinments, jury selections and verdicts, witnesses sworn, judicial orders and executions, final judgment, monies paid at court and any continuances. Dockets were passed on to the next judge, and from the 1890s onward, when two justices served concurrently, the volumes overlap in chronology. There is an alphabetical index in the front of each volume.
District Court Civil Trial Dockets, 1864-1868, 1874-1894, were used by the court clerk to place upcoming civil cases upon the case calendar. Entries include the names of parties, names of attorneys, the docket number, the type of dispute, judicial orders, the date of case and the final dispensation. These records are not indexed and it is not certain that they were kept after 1894. The last volume, labeled "Final Record," is blank.
District Court Civil Appearance Dockets, 1863-1972, list all civil actions in the order they were filed in the court clerk's office. Entries include the date of summons and its return, petition and pleadings filed, judicial judgments and orders, and a listing of costs accrued during the action. Each volume is indexed in the front by parties involved, except 1901-1903, which has a separate index. A separate index to defendants was kept for 1863-1883. Business legal problems are one type of case covered by these indexes.
District Court Civil Judicial Dockets, 1873-1928, 1931-1961, were kept by each judge recording all cases he personally tried. Entries include the case title, date of writ, date of case, property attached, facts stated, affidavits and bills of particular filed, appearing parties, adjoinments, jury selections and verdicts, witnesses sworn, judicial orders and executions, final judgment, monies paid at court and any continuances. Dockets were passed on to the next judge, and from the 1890s onward, when two justices served concurrently, the volumes overlap in chronology. There is an alphabetical index in the front of most volumes, though volumes 15 and 18 have separate indexes. The 1907-1912 volume has no index. The 1922-1925 volume (Judge R. C. Manley) is mistakenly labeled "Criminal docket, volume 9." Cases covered by these volumes include business legal problems, divorce and alimony, and assault and defamation.
The Kansas Collection has the indexes to marriage certificates from 1863 to 1920. The indexes for the years after 1920 are housed at the Lawrence Public Library. Marriages are indexed alphabetically by the husband's name and cross-indexed by the wife's name.
The Kansas Collection only has the marriage certificates for 1863-1913. Marriage certificates for 1913- are available from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Office of Vital Statistics Landon State Office Building, 1st Floor, Topeka, Kansas 66612-1290; phone: 785-296-1400.
An index of marriages in Douglas County for the years 1854-1884 was published in 1989 by the Douglas County, Kansas, Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 3664, Lawrence, Kansas 66046-0664, and is available on reference at the Kansas Collection.
The Kansas Collection has the tax rolls for land in Douglas County and Lawrence, Kansas, for the years 1853-1967. The Lawrence volumes are arranged by subdivision, legal description, and address (later years) and the Douglas County volumes are arranged by the legal description of the property. The volumes show the name of the owner and the person who paid the taxes year by year, the amount of taxes paid, and the assessed value of the land parcel. These can be very useful for someone attempting to determine what year a house was built because of the corresponding increase in the assessed value. Occasionally additional information about the property is also noted on the entry.
The Kansas Collection stores the property appraisal records for Douglas County for 1964-1988. These records are only accessible by the appraisal file number, which must be obtained from the Douglas County Clerk's office.