Local history & genealogy

All Library locations will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, December 24 and remain closed on Thursday, December 25 in observance of the Christmas holiday.

The Missouri Valley Special Collections (MVSC) consist of the non-circulating local history and genealogy resources of the Kansas City Public Library as well as the Library’s archives. More...

Digital Gallery

Search the Digital Gallery

The Digital Gallery features images of material from the Missouri Valley Special Collections.

HeritageQuest Online

Search census data, books, periodicals, Freedman's Bank records, and more.

Civil War on the Western Border

Civil War on the Western Border

Discover the Civil War's legacy in the Greater Kansas City region.

Ancestry Library Edition

Research the history of your family with online access to historical records provided by Ancestry.com. NOTE: you must access Ancestry from within a Kansas City Public Library location.

This Month in the Civil War on the Western Border

This Month in the Civil War on the Western Border
December 1864
Missouri and Kansas residents reflect on the year 1864, continue recovering from Price’s Raid, and anticipate the New Year and the possible end of the war.


This Week in Kansas City History

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Let There Be Lights

Country Club Plaza Christmas Lights

December 25, 1925: A single strand of Christmas lights hangs on the Country Club Plaza’s first building, beginning a Kansas City tradition that continues today.

Missouri Valley Sundays


Kansas City’s Parks and Boulevards - Dona Boley and Patrick Alley
Sunday, January 25, 2015 - 2:00 p.m.
Central Library
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Hyde Park residents Patrick Alley and Dona Boley discuss their new book illustrating Kansas City’s transformation from “the filthiest city in the United States” in the 19th century into a clean, well-planned embodiment of the vision of renowned landscape architect George Kessler.

A Mayor, a Camera, a Life in Pictures - Dick Berkley
Sunday, February 8, 2015 - 2:00 p.m.
Central Library
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Richard L. Berkley once said, “I like meeting people.” As Kansas City’s mayor from 1979 to 1991 — and both before and after that lengthy tenure — he met hundreds of political leaders, entertainers, sports stars, and other celebrities. He also liked to take their pictures. Berkley’s personal collection ranges from images of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to Bo Jackson, George Brett, Annie Liebovitz, and Joanne Woodward. His illustrated retrospective coincides with a new exhibition of his collected images in the Genevieve Guldner Gallery of the Central Library, running through March 8th. The former mayor and shutterbug discusses his start with a camera, the stories behind the photos, and the ones that got away – those rare celebrities who turned him down.

Tales of the Historic West Bottoms - Steve Noll
Sunday, March 15, 2015 - 2:00 p.m.
Central Library
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Kansas City’s West Bottoms, the lowland bordered by rugged cliffs and the Missouri and Kansas rivers, provided the spark for a rugged cowtown to become an urban metropolis. Publisher Steve Noll draws from his personal collection of historic postcards and from Cowtown: Cattle Trails and West Bottom Tales, a new book by Edward T. Matheny, Jr., in recounting an epic story - how cowboys, stockyards commission men, meatpackers, railroaders, and assorted hangers-on formed a vibrant, now-vanished West Bottoms community. This new book is an innovative collaboration among a local author, the Jackson County Historical Society, and Woodneath Press, a new publishing service developed by the Mid-Continent Public Library.