Grant E. Lilly was born in Estill County on February 27, 1865. He was son of Colonel Henry Clay Lilly, a circuit judge of the Irvine district and a colonel in the 14th Kentucky Calvary, United States Army, during the Civil War, and Catherine Tracy, a member of a pioneer Pennsylvania family whose descendents moved to Kentucky.
Anna Dudley McGinn Lilly was born on February 27, 1872, in Maysville, Kentucky, the daughter of the Reverend John Bolivar McGinn and Mary Elizabeth Sheppard McGinn. She spent her early life in Versailles, where her father was minister of the Christian church.
On October 19, 1893, Grant E. Lilly and Anna D. McGinn were married in Versailles. They had one daughter, Austin Page, a son John Marion, and a younger son, Grant Lilly, Jr., who died at the age of 12 in 1916.
The Lillys spent their formative years in Richmond where Mr. Lilly practiced law, engaged in numerous civic activities, and participated in several local political campaigns. Mrs. Lilly devoted considerable time to civic duties also, including affiliations with the Woman's Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She also served as editor of the Kentucky Register newspaper and began to develop a strong allegiance to the Democratic Party. During the 1920's and 1930's the Lillys, having moved to Lexington, became more active in politics; especially Mrs. Lilly. She campaigned for women's political rights, civic reforms, and recognition of Kentucky's unique historical heritage. The collection also contains some information about Miss Austin Lilly's long tenure as a teacher in the Lexington public school system. Thus the Lilly Family Collection documents the contributions of a civic minded Central Kentucky family and also offers a glimpse into their personal lives.