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Douglas County records

Call Number: RH MS 451


This collection is the depository for the records of Douglas County, Kansas, comprising groups of records from most county government departments as well as the City of Lawrence. The records span the Kansas Territorial period (1854-1861) through 2000.


  • Creation: 1855 - 2000

Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of Douglas County

Douglas County, Kansas is a county located in east-central Kansas. It includes the city of Lawrence, its county seat, as well as nine other townships, with a total population of 110,826 as of the 2010 census. Townships include Clinton, Eudora, Grant, Kanwaka, Lecompton, Marion, Palmyra, Wakarusa, and Willow Springs.

The county was organized in 1855 as one of the 33 original counties under Kansas' Territorial government, and was named after Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas who drafted the Kansas-Nebraska Act the year before. Douglas County's location in Kansas, a free state, and its proximity to the border of Missouri, a slave state, placed the county at the center of the Bleeding Kansas conflict between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions prior to and during the American Civil War.

As of 2020, the Douglas County government consists of a Board of County Commissioners charged with overseeing the administration and operation of more than twenty county departments and offices that provide legislative, judicial, administrative, and social services to the county's citizens.

[Information retrieved from Kansapedia, Kansas Historical Society; Douglas County, Kansas government website; and materials in collection.]


1259.25 Linear Feet (1,274 boxes + 2,019 volumes, 58 microfilm reels, 7 oversize folders, 21 rolled oversize items)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The history of Douglas County is well documented through this extensive collection of local Douglas County, Kansas records held at the Spencer Research Library. This collection includes the records of 14 county government offices and the City of Lawrence spanning the Territorial Kansas period (1854-1861) through the late 1980s. The record types found in each office vary significantly, both as a result of the offices' diverse functions, and as a result of the degree of involvement of each office in the transfer of records to the archives. Date ranges can also be expansive but not necessarily inclusive; there are typically gaps in dates of records for any individual office.

Particular strengths of the collection include property appraisal files from the County Appraiser; property assessment rolls, assessment field books, property transfer records, and delinquent real estate tax sales records from the office of the County Clerk; records from the County Court, District Court, Lawrence Municipal Court, and Probate Courts, including civil and criminal case files, court journals, and trial dockets; tax sale records and tax rolls for the county, the city of Lawrence, and various townships from the office of the County Treasurer; and deed and mortgage records from the Register of Deeds. Also of particular interest to genealogical researchers are marriage records from 1863-1913, naturalization records from 1867-1929, and will records from 1873-1973, all originating in the Probate Court.

The records are primarily in the form of volumes and boxed materials, with some additional microfilmed copies, particularly for records from the District Court and Register of Deeds.


Due to the number of functions performed and administrative areas served by Douglas County, Kansas government, records in this collection have been arranged into record groups by government department. The final record group consists of records that originated in Douglas County government but that do not clearly pertain to a particular office, extant or obsolete.

As not all government offices have transfered their archival records to Spencer Research Library, certain record groups contains hundreds of linear feet of materials, while others may consist of only a single volume or box. As such, arrangement within each record group varies significantly but is generally based on a given office's primary functions.

The record groups are as follows:

  1. Board of County Commissioners
  2. City of Lawrence
  3. Commissioner of the Poor
  4. County Appraiser
  5. County Attorney
  6. County Clerk
  7. County Coroner
  8. County Election Office
  9. County Public Works
  10. County Treasurer
  11. District Court
  12. Douglas County Compensation Board
  13. Probate Court
  14. Register of Deeds
  15. Sheriff's Office
  16. County GPS Office
  17. Miscellaneous Douglas County records

Physical Location

RH MS 261

Physical Location

RH MS 451

Physical Location

RH MF 196

Physical Location

DCR, DCR Rolled

Physical Location

1990-06-16-KC, 1990-06-19-KC, 1990-06-24-KC, 1990-12-97-KC

Physical Location

1991-01-02-KC, 1991-06-21-KC, 1991-08-42-KC, 1991-10-93-KC

Physical Location

1992-02-10-KC, 1992-04-11-KC, 1992-11-90-KC

Physical Location


Physical Location

1994-02-01-KC, 1994-02-04-KC, 1994-06-06-KC

Physical Location


Physical Location

1997-02-01-KC, 1997-06-02-KC

Physical Location

1998-05-01-KC, 1998-05-02-KC, 1998-05-04-KC, 1998-05-05-KC, 1998-05-06-KC, 1998-05-08-KC

Physical Location


Physical Location

2001-03-04-KC, 2001-06-04-KC

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Douglas County 1981, 1990, 2015; Douglas County Board of Commissioners 1975, 1978; Douglas County Clerk 1979, 1995, 2011; Douglas County District Court 1975, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1997; Douglas County Treasurer 1985; Douglas County Register of Deeds, 1975; Douglas County GPS Office, 2015; Douglas County GIS Office, 2019; Mike Hoeflich, 2018; other unknown transfers and dates.

Related Materials

Douglas County tax certificates, RH MS P466, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office Collection, RH MS 855, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Douglas County Appraiser's Office Collection, RH MS P896, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Douglas County, Kansas Commissioner for the Poor record book, RH MS E114, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Records from Douglas County, State Archives Division, Kansas Historical Society.

Guide to the Douglas County Records Collection
Douglas County records
Finding aid prepared by vej. Finding aid encoded by vej. Finding aid revised by cmp, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Douglas County records, RH MS 451, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States