Did your ancestors blaze a trail? Are you the descendant of a pioneer hero? No matter where your ancestors came from, you can dig deep into your ancestry and uncover details that tell your family’s story in Independence, Missouri. Independence is home to the Midwest Genealogy Center, the nation’s largest free-standing public family history library, as well as the starting point for millions of pioneers heading West, making Independence a gold mine of family history information and one of the best places in the United States to trace your family tree. Then, retrace the steps of your pioneer ancestors and learn about pioneer life and struggles at 15 Independence heritage attractions.
Start off at the Midwest Genealogy Center (MGC), which houses more than 750,000 research sources on site! You’ll find complimentary programs, ancestor charts plus assistance from the librarians to help you begin to research your family’s history. The MGC website has suggestions on what you need to do in advance to maximize your time during your visit.
Among its many features, MGC houses a uniquely expansive circulating collection and almost completely open stacks. Technology is also a major attribute of the building: Microfilm reader-printers, a self-digitization station and database access allow researchers to use today’s technology to assist their investigations.
While visiting MGC, you’ll have unlimited complimentary access to more than 20 online genealogy websites including Ancestry.com (Library Edition); Findmypast.com, which offers access to over 3 billion records from the United States and around the world including military collections, immigration and naturalization records; American Civil War Research Database; Fold3 Library Edition and much more. A unique free service is the “Tell Me” Story initiative that allows you to make an appointment to record your family’s oral history with assistance from a trained oral history technician.
Discover your Pioneer Ancestors
Due, in part, to its historical significance as the starting point for millions of pioneers heading west, Independence is home to a gold mine of family history information. Fill in the blanks and be ready for some surprises as you explore your roots. Then, step outside the books & databases to see what your ancestors may have experienced.
Did your ancestors head west? They likely passed through Independence as the starting point for the California, Oregon & Santa Fe trails. Explore the National Frontier Trails Museum and its Merrill J. Mattes Research Library. The library contains thousands of original diary accounts of emigrants who traveled the trails in the 1800s. Maps, photos and secondary resources further enhance your research.
Tour the 1859 Jail that once housed notorious outlaw Frank James. Discover the wonders of the Lewis and Clark expedition that launched the whole Westward Expansion. Tour a 1829 Log Courthouse, the Bingham-Waggoner Estate or Vaile Victorian Mansion. Then, take a mule-drawn wagon ride to learn more about those that journeyed West.
Be sure to allow time to walk in Harry S. Truman’s footsteps and tour his Presidential Library & Museum. With friendly accommodations, hometown dining and shopping, be ready for some pleasant surprises as you explore your Missouri roots.
For more information, go to VisitIndependence.com.