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Connecting Researchers with Kentucky Roots

In 1973, an enthusiastic group of genealogists and family researchers formed the Kentucky Genealogical Society. This is where our history begins.

The society idea came from the first president, Charles Edwin Shelby, who had moved to Frankfort, Kentucky from Iowa. While in Iowa, he was a member of an active genealogical society. He considered Kentucky one of the more important research centers in the country, so it surprised him there was not such a group here. 

In his first letter to the members in 1974, Shelby described how bothered he was at the poor communication among the Bluegrass area genealogists. The energetic leader noted the organization should allow family researchers to gather “to brag about their ancestors, exchange information, and share techniques.” 

KGS Officers 1973-74

Kentucky Genealogical Society Officers 1973-1974 GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY OFFICERS-New officers of the recently-formed Central Kentucky Genealogical Society are, from left, Charles E. Shelby, president; Mary Jane Rodgers, first vice president; Marguerite Thompson, second vice president; James Terry, third vice president; Rosemary Weddington, recording secretary; Judy Campbell, corresponding secretary; and Robert Smith, treasurer. Society members plan not only to trace their ancestors, but to work on historical research projects and sponsor educational programs. Photo Credit: Linda Moreland

Forming the Kentucky Genealogical Society

Here are his words from the first issue of Bluegrass Roots:

“While visiting with Dr. Frank Bean, Dean Community College Division, Kentucky State University, the suggestion was made that a course in genealogy be taught in the evening school. He subsequently decided to go along with the idea. In the fall semester of 1972, a class of 13 students was organized, using the text Know Your Ancestors, by Williams. From time to time, the possibility of organizing a society in this area was broached. 

In a makeup session, Feb. 7, 1973, a number of the class met and decided to organize a society. A public meeting was called for Feb. 28, 1973. The 27 persons who met were so enthusiastic that the first regular meeting was held about a week later, March 7. Again, a slightly different group of 31 people met.

A steering committee of eight volunteers chaired by me met March 11, 18, and 25, to draw up a Constitution and Bylaws and to nominate dual slates of officers. Attendance at the second regular meeting, March 14, was 51 persons. Officers were chosen at this meeting. Charter membership lists were closed at the third regular meeting with 37 family and 47 individual memberships.

Meeting attendance reached a peak of 73 participants at the May 14, 1973 meeting.”

The group started out as the Central Kentucky Genealogical Society. Less than one year later, the group would transform into the Kentucky Genealogical Society. 

KGS Additional Officers 1973-1974

KGS Additional Officers 1973-1974 OTHER NEW OFFICERS of the Central Kentucky Genealogical Society are, from left, Mildred Riedel, librarian; Eloise Caroland, editor; Mrs. Douglas Harnice, historian; Carrie Hamilton, genealogist; Charmaine Downs, parliamentarian; and Mrs. Mason Winkler, auditor. Absent from photo is Ruth Kemper, co-historian. The Society hopes to engage in such projects as publishing local tombstone inscriptions, tax lists, marriage books and family Bible records.

A Long History of Gathering Kentucky Records

Shelby further described the group’s activities and accomplishments. Even the young organization knew that vital records and other historical artifacts were needed to support the genealogical studies. 

The first projects included gathering important Kentucky records and documentation:

  • Cataloging tombstone inscriptions for 74 cemeteries in Franklin County
  • Collecting a list of Kentucky surnames being researched
  • Transcribing and indexing the 1850 Fayette County Kentucky census 
  • Indexing the history of Kentucky counties
  • Collecting family bible records 
  • Collecting genealogies and family lines to share

The society was also active in advertising themselves to local media, Kentucky county historical societies, and libraries. The first issue of Bluegrass Roots was established and mailed to the membership. 

Within the year, this group of Kentuckians expanded to 180 members. The group has not slowed down since that time.

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