Background Sources for Kentucky

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This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D., FUGA, for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Kentucky Family History Research series.
History of Kentucky
Kentucky Vital Records
Census Records for Kentucky
Background Sources for Kentucky
Kentucky Maps
Kentucky Land Records
Kentucky Probate Records
Kentucky Court Records
Kentucky Tax Records
Kentucky Cemetery Records
Kentucky Church Records
Kentucky Military Records
Kentucky Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Kentucky Archives, Libraries, and Societies
African Americans of Kentucky
Kentucky County Resources
Map of Kentucky


Many county and state histories are available for Kentucky. Because Virginia was its parent state, some early Kentucky history through 1792 is recorded in Virginia documents. Everton’s “Sources of Genealogical Information in Kentucky” can be accessed at www.everton.com/usa/ky.htm. For other genealogical resources on the Internet for Kentucky, see www.personal.umich.edu/~cgaunt/kentucky.html.

Historical material pertaining to Kentucky can be found in many excellent publications. A few include these:

  • Allen, William B. A History of Kentucky. 1872. Reprint. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1973.
  • Bryant, Ron D. Kentucky History: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.
  • Chinn, George Morgan. Kentucky, Settlement and Statehood, 1750–1800. Frankfort, Ky.: Kentucky Historical Society, 1975.
  • Clark, Thomas D. Kentucky: Land of Contrast. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.
  • Coleman, John Winston. A Bibliography of Kentucky History. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1949. Kentucky histories written prior to 1949 are listed in this bibliography.
  • Collins, Lewis, and Richard H. Collins. History of Kentucky. 2 vols. 1874. Reprint. Frankfort, Ky.: Kentucky Historical Society, 1979.
  • Filson, John. The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucky. Wilmington, Del.: James Adams, 1784.
  • Harrison, Lowell, and Klotter, James. A New History of Kentucky. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997. Includes an extensive bibliography. Replaces Dr. Clark’s classic work cited above.
  • Hogan, Roseann Reinemuth. Kentucky Ancestry: A Guide to Genealogical and Historical Research. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992. A good reference book.
  • Kincaid, Robert Lee. The Wilderness Road. Harrogate, Tenn.: Lincoln Memorial University Press, 1955.
  • Kleber, John, Harrison, Lowell, and Klotter, James, eds. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992.
  • Littell, William. The Statute Laws of Kentucky to 1816. 5 vols. Frankfort, Ky.: William Hunter, 1809–19. Most important work concerning Kentucky laws.
  • Van Every, Dale. Forth to the Wilderness, 1754–1774. New York: Mentor Books, American Library, 1962. A good brief history of the struggle to conquer the Appalachians and settle the western frontier. Available in paperback.
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