I spent the last week researching at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration regional branch in Kansas City. Friday afternoon was spent on Leavenworth Prison records. Some prisoners have extensive files with names, birthplace, offense, when sentenced, aliases, previous prison/jail stays, fingerprints, letters from and about the prisoner requesting parole or a different job in prison, mulitple health forms, and lists of visitors and correspondents — complete with where they live and the relationship to the prisoner. Each file is a bit different. The prisoners were from many states.
And how did I know what I wanted to look at? Go to http://www.archives.gov/ and in the search box at the top of the page simply type “Lavenworth Prison index.” The index covering 1895-1920 is online. These records are part of Record Group 129, Records of the Bureau of Prisons, United State Penitentiary Leavenworth, Kansas, Federal Inmate Case Files 1895-1920.
I did find files for a client but none for my own family so far. I had some possibilities but they did not turn out to be family.
If you are hesitant about checking such records, reread the first paragraph and it might convince you of the value of the information in these files. On the opening page for NARA’s website, click on the “Locations and Hours” in the left most column and link to details for all the regions and more.
© 2007, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.