October is Family History Month

October was designated Family History Month by the Senate in September of 2001. Senate Resolution 160, sponsored by Orrin Hatch, and cosponsored by 84 other members was passed unanimously on Sept. 26, 2001. Hatch noted, “Genealogy is currently the second largest hobby in the country and is very unique in that it crosses over all religions, ethnic backgrounds and age groups. Essentially, we are all immigrants to this country. Our ancestors came from different parts of the globe and by searching for our roots, we come closer together as a human family.”

Here are some of the resources we provide at the Indiana State Library to assist you during Family History Month.

The library subscribes to several databases, including Ancestry Library Edition, Fold3, American Ancestors and Fire Insurance Maps Online. We are also a Family Search affiliate library, which allows patrons to access civil, church records and digitized books in the Family Search catalog. Additionally, we provide several databases outside of the library, including Indiana Legacy and the Indiana State Library Digital Collections.

Photograph of a Barnard family reunion, 1950. Indiana State Library Digital Collections.

We have the largest collection of Indiana newspapers on microfilm in the state available in our Indiana Division, along with access to Newspapers.com, Newspaper Archive and the Indianapolis Star. Indiana newspapers on Newspapers.com are available to Indiana residents through INSPIRE, and our Hoosier State Chronicles database is available to everyone.

Explore our print materials
The Genealogy Division has over 50,000 titles in our collection. In addition to our family histories and various state, county and city records, you can learn how to identify photographs, cite genealogy research, organize and conserve your family papers and genealogy materials and learn to read document a variety of languages. Also, check our online catalog, both the Indiana Division and our General Collection have materials that could be useful to someone researching their family.

The Parrish family, circa 1920. Indiana State Library Digital Collections.

Manuscript collections
While you are taking a look at our print materials, you may also want to look through our manuscript catalog. There are over 5,000 collections from both the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division as well as the Genealogy Division. You might find letters, diaries, photos or completed research on your family.

Try to knock down a brick wall
If you have a brick wall or are just unsure of how to continue researching part of your family, we might be able to help. The Genealogy Division offers 30-minute one on one sessions to go over a particular query or topic. The library also offers an Ask-a-Librarian service where you can submit your questions and they will be answered by one of our librarians.

Hopefully, these resources will assist you on your genealogical journey.

Blog written by Sarah Pfundstein, genealogy librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3689 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Newspapers, a great source for family history… and other tidbits

Newspapers are a great source for genealogy and history information. They can provide new details about your family through obituaries, human interest stories and the society pages. Newspapers can also provide background stories and unexpected context that flesh out your ancestors’ lives and experiences. So, here are some examples of the family history information to be gleaned from newspapers.

Indianapolis Times, March 21, 1936, page 12

Vital records articles cover birth, marriage and death information. These can include vital statistics columns from local hospitals, marriage announcements in the society pages and obituaries. Those columns give you biographical details on specific ancestors and can help you outline familial structures. Obituaries are a particularly good source for details, as they often name parents, siblings and children. They are especially useful prior to the use of birth and death certificates.

Jasper Weekly Courier, June 1, 1894, page 4

Legal notice articles also provide insight into your ancestors’ lives. Court notices may list all the cases being heard in local courts or they may list cases where public notice is required, such as name changes. These columns also include listings of land transfers, so if you are researching property or trying to figure out exactly where your ancestors lived, these articles can help.

Richmond Palladium, June 29, 1921, page 4

Society pages document the doings of the members of a community. In big cities, these columns often focus on the lives of the rich and famous, but in smaller communities everyone is covered. Do you want to know what they ate at the annual community picnic?  Interested in what your great-grandmother got at her wedding shower? These articles are for you! Beyond knowing the minute details of your ancestors’ lives, those who attended momentous life events were often close friends and family, giving you an idea of who your ancestors knew and with whom they associated.

Indianapolis Times, February 23, 1934, page 30

Even advertisements tell us about our ancestors’ lives. Grocery ads, clothing ads, car ads, etc., show us the products people of the past bought and used. Some products are still on the market today, but many are things that are no longer available. Relatedly, columns covering fashion, cooking and housekeeping also show how people lived.

Daily Wabash Express, November 24, 1889, page 6

Local news columns show details about the past, from weather forecasts to crime reporting to local election results. These articles show the day to day events our ancestors experienced as well as local responses to and state and national events. They provide a contemporaneous perspective on past events.

Looking for newspapers? All the images used in this article were taken from Hoosier State Chronicles, the Indiana State Library’s free digital newspaper database. We also offer access to several subscription newspaper databases in the library, as well as the world’s largest collection of Indiana newspapers, accessible on microfilm.

This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, Genealogy Division supervisor.

Preserving Indiana family history one county at a time

Last year the Genealogy Division at the Indiana State Library began a project to repair and rebind heavily worn and used materials in our print collection. We sent many books to the bindery, and made some Indiana county materials temporally unavailable. We worked quickly with our local book binding company to make sure that most materials were out of circulation less than a month. Last year we worked on Indiana print materials from counties A-C. This year we will again send out materials that are in need of some specialized care from our local bindery. For a short period of time, some print books in the Indiana counties from C-F will be temporarily unavailable. The counties affected are Clinton, Decatur, Daviess, Delaware, DeKalb, Elkhart, Fayette and Floyd.

Here is an example of the well-worn condition.

This ongoing project helps to ensure that our print collection will withstand the test of time and heavy use by family researchers. We understand that this might limit the availability of some materials that might be helpful to your genealogy research. This project will begin again in the first part of April and the items should be back by the first part of May. While some books from each county are sent out, not all books from that county will leave the library. If you plan to research in these particular counties you will still have plenty of books to choose from, as well as, our excellent databases and some online services that can help fill in the gaps. Researchers in these counties are encouraged to contact Crystal Ward before April, should you like to use these books before access is restricted.

The picture on the left is an example of how the books look when they leave the library and the finished product when they return is on the right.

We understand that this might be inconvenient to some and we are working as fast as possible to get the books back to the library. If you would like to know more about book binding and book repair, I have included a few links to some valuable information.

The Guild of Book Workers is one of my personal favorite organizations. They are the national organization for all the book arts. They have helpful guidelines on book binding but also promote book binding as an art form.

The Society of Book Binders is another good organization specializing in book binding.

If you check out the Indiana State Library preservation web page you will find many valuable resources about book repair and preservation.

This blog post was written by Crystal Ward, librarian in the genealogy department. If you would like more information, please contact the genealogy department at (317) 232-3689. 

Finding Indiana birth, marriage and death records online

Birth, marriage and death records form the core of genealogical research. They document the basic facts of a person’s life and familial relationships. However, finding these records can be difficult, particularly as one traces one’s family farther and farther into the past. With that in mind, here are a few pointers to help you find your ancestors’ vital and marriage records:

  1. Know what records are available

Birth certificate of Bernece Tipps, 1908. “Indiana Birth Certificates, 1907-1940,” Ancestry Library Edition. Accessed January 17, 2017.

Indiana did not issue birth and death certificates until 1882 and such records were not mandatory or collected at the state level until 1907. So, before 1882, there are no government-issued certificates recording these life events.

Under Indiana law, birth records are not available to the public for 75 years to protect privacy and identity. If you need a more recent record, see the Indiana State Department of Health Vital Records division for information on how to proceed. If you are researching birth records pertinent to an adoption, see the Indiana State Department of Health for more information on obtaining records.

Marriage records, on the other hand, were issued in each county from the establishment of that county. Because couples could not get married without a marriage license, these records tend to be complete all the way back to 1816 and even a bit before that in certain counties.

  1. Know where to find records

Death certificate of Violet Edwards Commer, 1959. “Indiana Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry Library Edition. Accessed January 17, 2017.

Birth and death records are available at the health department in each county as well as the Indiana State Department of Health (1907 forward). There is a small fee to obtain a copy, but a non-certified “genealogical copy” is usually cheaper and sufficient for genealogy purposes.

Marriage records are available at the clerk of court’s office in each county and also at the Indiana State Department of Health (1958 forward). Once again, there is a small fee for copies as well as the option for a non-certified copy.

If you need a copy of your own records, you will need to contact the county where the records were issued. The county of issuance is the only office permitted to certify a record.

  1. Know what research aids are available

Marriage record of Abraham Michael and Winna Smith, 1845. “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” Family Search. Accessed January 17, 2017.

There are a number of databases online that have indexes or full digital images of birth, marriage, and death records. Some are available for free, while others require a subscription or a visit to a library with an institutional subscription.

Database Title Date Range Record Type Source Availability Coverage
Indiana Birth Certificates 1907-1940 Full records Ancestry Library Edition In library/
Indiana Births 1882-1920 Index Ancestry Library Edition In library/
67/92 counties
Indiana Death Certificates 1899-2011 Full records Ancestry Library Edition In library/
Indiana Death Index 1882-1920 Index FamilySearch Online 67/92 counties
Indiana Deaths 1882-1920 Index Ancestry Library Edition In library/
67/92 counties
Indiana Marriages 1810-2001 Full records Ancestry Library Edition In library/
Not statewide
Indiana Marriages 1811-2007 Full records FamilySearch Online Not statewide
Indiana Marriage Certificates 1958-2005 Full records Ancestry Library Edition In library/
Not statewide
Indiana Marriages 1780-1992 Index FamilySearch Online Not statewide
Indiana Marriage Index 1800-1941 Index Ancestry Library Edition In library/
Not statewide
Indiana Marriages Early 1800s-1850 Index Indiana State Library Online Statewide
Indiana Compiled Marriages 1802-1892 Index Ancestry Library Edition In library/
Not statewide
Indiana Marriages 1958-2013 Index Indiana State Library Online Statewide
Marriage License Public Lookup 1993-present Index Indiana Office of Judicial Administration Online Statewide

A list of these databases is also available as a downloadable PDF on the Indiana State Library’s Indiana County Research Guides page.

This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, genealogy librarian. For more information, contact the Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689 or send us a question through Ask-a-Librarian.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes… Marriage Records?

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of genealogy is locating original records that document your ancestors’ lives. Finding original marriage records are no exception to this.

Unlike birth and death records, marriage records in Indiana date back to the establishment of each individual county. To this day, original marriage records are kept by the Clerk of Courts office in each of the 92 counties. If you know the date and place of your ancestors’ marriage, the research is easy: contact the county and request the record. What if you don’t know when or where your ancestors were married? What if the county where they got married doesn’t seem to have the record? Where do you go next? Continue reading

Evernote Assists Genealogists in Tracking Research

Genealogy remains one area of research where the latest trends in technology are often overlooked, especially in the area of digital organization. Family historians utilize searchable databases, internet searches, and digitization projects, but overlook one very powerful tool of organization: Evernote. In the search for an elusive ancestor or lost records, genealogists often amass a large amount of records or documents in both digital and print form. This collection of records can be gathered and archived with Evernote, a free, web-based downloadable program that allows users to collect and organize all their documents in one place.  Evernote has emerged as a clear winner for genealogy research, “It’s no exaggeration to say that this tool will change your research life. Evernote gives you a place to organize all your genealogical data,” stated Kerry Scott in the November 2015 issue of Family Tree Magazine.


Continue reading

Genealogy Division Provides ‘Family Search’ Service

The Indiana State Library Genealogy Division has many resources and services to make your family history search easier and more productive. An often overlooked and little known service is the ability to order microfilm from Family Search and view it at the Indiana State library. The library acts as a Family Search Affiliate location. Family Search’s microfilm ordering service is your gateway to a vast collection of genealogical and historical records.

Family Search is the world’s largest repository of free genealogical records and is managed by the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It has amassed billions of birth, marriage, death, census, land, and court records of genealogical significance from over 130 countries. Family Search is extending access to its collections by circulating microfilms of the historic records through select public library affiliates. The Indiana State Library is one of the Family Search Affiliates. The loan is free, but there is a small shipping and handling charge for each film. To order films from Family Search, create an account with family search and select Indiana State Library Foundation, Inc. as the destination for your microfilm order. To find records and microfilm available for loan, follow the easy steps below.

  • Go to the familysearch.org and select Search and click on Catalog
  • Search Place clicking on the tab
  • Search for a location such as Indianapolis, Indiana or any other location
  • Pick a topic and select available microfilm

The Indiana State Library Genealogy Division

The Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library collects genealogy and family history materials from across Indiana and around the United States and the world. The collection includes over 80,000 books and other printed materials, over 17,000 reels of microfilm, and access to online genealogy databases such as Ancestry Library Edition and Fold3. These resources are kept in open shelving on the first floor of the library to allow for easy browsing and access by library visitors.  One of the most popular items in the collection is the indexes to Indiana birth, marriage, and death records compiled by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. These indexes cover two-thirds of the counties in Indiana and provide the book and page number of the original records, so that researchers can obtain copies of the records from county offices.  The collection also contains many other resources about Indiana, organized by county. There is information from all 92 counties. Resources include cemetery records and listings, indexes to vital records, indexes to marriage records, county histories, and other information on family history research in Indiana.

Although the collection focuses on Indiana, there are more than just Indiana resources in the Genealogy Division. Every state is represented in the collection, although certain states are spotlighted for their connection to Indiana history and national migration patterns. Since people tended to move from east to west and from south to north, our holdings focus on the “border” and “feeder” states: those states that touch Indiana and those states where Hoosiers lived before they moved to Indiana. These states include Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. Other popular items include the indexes to passenger lists compiled by William Filby.


Housed on the second floor of the library, the genealogy microform collection includes Indiana county records on microfilm, select records from other states on microfilm, and family and local history books on microfiche. The microfiche collection includes rare books that can be found in only a few libraries in the original print format.

The Indiana county records on microfilm collection contains records from all 92 counties, covering marriage records, land records, vital records, and will and probate records. These films were made from the actual records in county courthouses throughout Indiana, so that you can see the handwritten records as they originally appeared.

The Genealogy Division reference desk is staffed by genealogy librarians who are experts at answering genealogy questions and assisting with family history research. The librarians host genealogy events throughout the year, including:

  • One-on-One Genealogy Research Consultations: 3rd Saturday of each month
  • Family History Tours of the Genealogy collection
  • Genealogy and Local History Fair: 4th Saturday in October
  • Genealogy for Night Owls: After-hours research time

The Genealogy Division also answers questions via email, telephone, mail, and Ask-a-Librarian online question service.

This blog post was written by Jamie Dunn, Genealogy Librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3689 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at