Photo of Greenlawn Cemetery, ca. 1920. “A Transcript of the Grave Stones Remaining in Greenlawn Cemetery Indianapolis.” Indianapolis: Emmerich Manual Training High School, 1920.
The Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library recently digitized our records pertaining to Greenlawn Cemetery in Indianapolis. These records were created in the early 1920s to document the remaining graves in Greenlawn before they were removed. Many of the records come from the company that owned the land at the time. However, the most interesting part of the records are the photographs, which were created by staff and students at Emmerich Manual Training High School as part of a class project.
Greenlawn Cemetery in 1898. “Insurance Maps of Indianapolis, Indiana, Volume 1.” New York: The Sanborn-Perris Map Co. Limited, 1898.
A new city needs a new cemetery Greenlawn was the first public cemetery in Indianapolis. Established in 1821 near the White River and present-day Kentucky Avenue, many of the earliest residents of the city were buried here. As the main city cemetery, Greenlawn served as the final resting place for everyone from those buried at public expense to prestigious Hoosiers Indiana Governor James Whitcomb and early settler Matthias Nowland.
A Long, Slow Decline
Indianapolis death records from September 1872. Greenlawn is referred to as City Cemetery in these records. “Death Records Indianapolis, Indiana 1872-1874.”
By the 1860s, the trustees of Greenlawn became concerned that the cemetery was nearing capacity. They could not purchase adjoining land due to encroaching industrial and commercial development. Despite concerns about overcrowding, burials continued in Greenlawn for another 30 years, although more and more families chose to purchase plots in the newly developed Crown Hill Cemetery.
The last burial in Greenlawn took place around 1890. By this point, the cemetery was already deteriorating. Vandalism and flooding from the river, along with neglect by the cemetery caretakers, resulted in many broken and missing tombstones and unidentifiable graves.
Greenlawn in the early 20th century
Among the events held in Greenlawn Cemetery Park was a ragtime concert by the Indianapolis Military Band. Indianapolis Star, July 31, 1904.
Public complaint about the condition of the cemetery led city and cemetery officials to move many of the remaining graves to Crown Hill and to seek other uses for Greenlawn. By 1904, part of the land had been reclaimed as a park. Although events and concerts took place there, the park did not garner much popularity with the public. In an article published on Nov. 22, 1908, the Indianapolis Star referred to the area as “Neither a first-class cemetery nor a first-class park” and proposed that the remaining graves be removed and the area converted to a “modern park.”
Newspapers reported on what was being done at Greenlawn throughout this time period. Indianapolis Star (l-r) July 7, 1907; Nov. 15, 1911; March 4, 1917.
Plans for the expanded park never materialized, but redevelopment of the land continued. In 1907, the Vandalia Railroad sought to build tracks across another section of Greenlawn. Over the next decade, more graves were cleared to make way for the railroad, cutting across the northern section of the cemetery.
The former Greenlawn area in 1927. Most of the cemetery has been overtaken by railroads and industrial development, while the city retained ownership of a few parcels on the river. “Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Indianapolis.” Philadelphia: G. W. Baist, 1927.
By the 1920s, manufacturing and industrial sites on the White River took an interest in expanding onto the Greenlawn site. During this time, the few remaining legible grave markers were documented and the records deposited at the State Library before the last visible traces of Greenlawn Cemetery were removed. Although future construction would continue to turn up evidence of burials, even into the 21st century, the cemetery largely slipped out of public memory just as it disappeared from the public eye.
More images from Greenlawn ca. 1920. “A Transcript of the Grave Stones Remaining in Greenlawn Cemetery Indianapolis.” Indianapolis: Emmerich Manual Training High School, 1920.
This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, Genealogy Division supervisor.
Searching for information on a historic business, building or other site can be both rewarding and frustrating. Beyond the standard resources such as fire insurance maps, online newspapers and city directories, here are suggestions to find images and more.
Make sure to check digital memory projects since these collections often include photographs and postcards with images of streetscapes, historic districts and buildings. That smaller building might be included due to its proximity to a more famous landmark. In Indiana, the best statewide aggregator of local history photos and documents is Indiana Memory.
Many libraries and history-focused organizations have added unique photos and materials from their local collections to Indiana Memory. A notable contributor of over 23,000 images to Indiana Memory is the Indiana Album online catalog. The Indiana Album project seeks out rare photos from attics and private collections statewide and scans are made for the online collection. Please note that clicking on an image result from Indiana Album will then link outside of Indiana Memory to the Indiana Album online catalog.
Additional Indiana Memory collections that consist primarily of images include:
Indiana Landmarks Wilber D. Peat Collection – Along with images, the collection has articles (1928-1952) by Agnes McCulloch Hanna who wrote a column on Indiana architecture for the Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis News.
Not to be overlooked are the valuable clues in compiled sources, like the Interim Reports of Indiana Historic Sites and Structures. The printed reports usually have one county per volume. Indiana Landmarks in partnership with the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology started compiling data in the late 1970s to document buildings and sites of interest for historic preservation. The Indiana State Library has copies of all printed interim reports in the Indiana Reference Collection, call number IND. REF. 977.2 I385his. Some of the older reports have been digitized in the Indiana Memory collection Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory. Many reports were updated with a second edition, but the printed reports were phased out since the data is also entered into the Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database. As older sites are re-surveyed, newly-eligible sites will be documented for first-time inclusion in the survey. More information about SHAARD is available on the database site, with public access available through the link “Enter SHAARD as a guest.”
Indiana Historic Buildings, Bridges and Cemeteries Map
There is also a mapping component to SHAARD, the Indiana Historic Buildings, Bridges, and Cemeteries Map. This interactive map has features to research historic sites and structures. The points on the IHBBC map connect to data in the Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database. Since DHPA serves as the state historic preservation office for Indiana, their staff coordinate a statewide inventory, or survey, of historic properties. Surveyors create an inventory in a particular county by driving every road, recording data, and taking photographs of any property that is at least 40 years old or older and meets other criteria. After a hiatus, the DHPA survey program is resuming in 2023 and will start with Morgan County. Keep checking back for the latest data.
For questions about using any of the resources mentioned in this post, please contact the Indiana Division at 317-232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”
This blog post was written by Indiana Division librarian Andrea Glenn.
Maps are an incredibly useful tool for genealogy and local history researchers. They can show insights into how people lived that are not readily apparent through other documentary sources. They can be used to help untangle research questions and show off your research in new ways. Maps are also fun to use in research; they are often colorful and provide a level of visual interest not often found in written documents.
Maps show how people lived in and experienced their world
Southern Indiana as surveyed in 1815. Image from the Indiana State Library Digital Collections.
Maps are a useful snapshot of how a place was at a specific point in time. Looking at modern maps can be useful in your research, but an old map can show you how an area appeared at the time your ancestor lived there. Whether you are looking at a river that has changed its course or the expansion of a city over time, contemporaneous maps illustrated the environment that people of the past would have seen on a daily basis and also give you insight into how they lived. For example, you can see the distance people traveled to reach stores, entertainment venues and places of worship or see how close they lived to their friends and neighbors.
This 1887 fire insurance map shows the Indiana State Capitol Building bounded on the east and west by Tennessee and Mississippi Streets. These streets are now called Capitol Avenue and Senate Avenue.
If your ancestors were rural dwellers, you might be interested in rural route maps. Although these often do not name the residents of each house, you may be able to identify the households using census records. Soil survey maps are also of interest, as they show the soil type and quality for an area and may provide insight into the types of crops that were grown in a region.
Weather maps are also interesting to researchers. You can use them to look at weather patterns for a region or to find the weather forecast for your ancestors’ birthdays, weddings or other major life events. From the early 20th century on, weather maps were often published in newspapers on a daily or weekly basis. You can also use newspapers to find articles on significant weather events, such as tornadoes, hurricanes or blizzards.
Average temperature and rainfall for May; Indianapolis Star, May 3, 1936, page 34.
Topographical maps primarily show geographic, rather than man-made, features. They were invented to depict three-dimensional features such as mountains, hills and valleys in a two-dimensional medium. For family history researchers, these maps show how geography may have influenced settlement patterns and how people interacted with one another. For example, families who lived just a few miles from one another may not have socialized much if they were separated by steep hills or a large river.
Boundary changes, or how to move while standing still
Virginia as it appeared prior to the creation of West Virginia. Map published by S. Taintor & Co., Rochester, NY and Philadelphia, PA, 1862.
On June 19, 1863, the people of Charleston went to bed in Virginia. The next morning, they awoke in West Virginia. Were they sleepwalking? Abducted by aliens? No, on June 20, 1863, West Virginia became a state and thousands of people were suddenly living in a new place without even moving.
Most boundary changes are not quite so dramatic and involved either the establishment of a new county or the redrawing of county or township lines as population levels grew over time. One of the best resources for tracing boundary changes in the United States is the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries hosted by the Newberry Library.
Make your own maps! There are many mapping apps and software available online, in both free and paid versions. You can use these to make your own maps that document information relevant to your ancestors. That may include mapping migration routes, cemeteries, land ownership or other geographic information.
For example, the map above shows Indiana cities and towns that a family lived in between 1800 and 2000. The different colored pins denote different branches of the family. These pins show how the family moved and interacted over the years.
The map above shows select cemeteries between Paragon and Martinsville in Morgan County, Indiana. The family members who are buried in these cemeteries were all rural dwellers and locating their exact residences has proved difficult. However, by mapping the cemeteries used by the family, we are able to narrow down the area where they lived. If you are having trouble locating cemeteries, Find a Grave provides the geocoordinates of almost every cemetery they have indexed, which makes pinpointing the cemeteries a breeze.
Looking for maps? You’re in the right place Do you need a plat map? Highway map? State park map? The Indiana State Library has digitized a wide variety of Indiana maps, which are available through our Digital Collections and are available to researchers everywhere.
This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, Genealogy Division supervisor.
The Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library has 12,210 PAM files. Wow, that’s a lot of PAM files, but what is a PAM file? PAM is a shorten form of the word pamphlet. These type of files are also sometimes known in other libraries as clipping files, vertical files or family files.
What kind of information can I find in a PAM file?
You can find family information, photocopies of family Bible pages, family trees, newspaper clippings, cemetery information, city information, county information, state information, photocopies of original records, research notes and some genealogical newsletters.
Tracing Your Ancestors in Britain; call number: [Pam.] ISLG 929.12 NO. 3
Where are the PAM files located?
The PAM files cabinets are located by the elevators in the Genealogy Division reading room in the Indiana State Library.
Revolutionary Soldiers in Indiana, A-Z; call number: [Pam.] ISLG 973.34 I UNCAT. NO. 1-3
How can I find PAM files?
You can either search the Evergreen online catalog or browse the filing cabinets.
To search the catalog, try this:
Start with the Evergreen Indiana Advanced Search. For the subject type the last name of the family you are wanting to find plus the word “family.” For the format, select “All Books,” for the shelving location select “Genealogy Pamphlet,” and for the library, select “Indiana State Library.”
To browse the cabinets, first select the cabinet you are interested in browsing. Next, look for your family surname or subject in alphabetical order. A list of subjects and their cabinet locations is below:
Family surname cabinets: 929.2
United States Military, Revolutionary War cabinets: 973.34
United States Military, War of 1812 cabinets: 973.5
United States Military, Civil War cabinets: 973.7
Geographic locations cabinets, Northeastern states (New England): 974
Here at the State Library, we do a variety of things. Our library’s print and online resources cover a wealth of subjects and the assistance we provide gives patrons and data users a vast array of options for finding answers to their questions. Librarians and staff here are cross-trained in assisting with answering questions about genealogy, Indiana history, general reference, data about Indiana, specifics about library usage and research in federal and state government documents, among other topics.
Our library fits a few different categories.
We are considered a research library, and many of our employees have belonged to the ACRL, the Association of College and Research Libraries. Although we are not an academic library – a library associated with a college or university – we do provide access to several in-depth special collections such as our Genealogy, Indiana, Rare Books and Manuscripts, cage and Holliday collections. The State Library is a research library in the broader sense of the term.
We are considered a special library by the American Library Association definition because we are a library that operates within a state government. If you view the history of the library, you’ll see that we were originally created to serve our state legislature. The library’s mission has grown over the years. For a brief period beginning in the 1930s, the library was part of the Indiana Department of Education. We now serve under the executive branch of state government and we are open to the public.
We are also a government information library. Several of our librarians consider themselves to be government information librarians. We handle requests about federal and state government documents and data on a regular basis. The government documents collections here include our Federal Depository Library Program collection, our Indiana state documents collection and our State Data Center collection.
Our focus is on Indiana history. Many of the patrons we serve are looking for the history behind a certain person, group of people or Indiana location. Our history resources include original census records going back to the first census in 1790, county histories and maps of Indiana available from before statehood in 1816, rare family history volumes from residents of Indiana and surrounding states and the largest collection of Indiana newspapers in the world. Indiana history is one of our specialties here, so Indiana State Library staff are happy to help with history questions. Our building is also a living historical artifact. Built in 1934, it contains beautiful architectural details that you’ll need to visit to see. Contact us for a tour of the State Library!
*A friendly research tip, while you perform your research here, remember to collect information on the sources you view. This will ensure you do not repeat research you’ve already done and it helps while you’re creating citations for your reference lists and works cited pages.
In addition to our research collections, we also house the Indiana Young Readers Center and the Talking Book and Braille Library, both services of federal library programs through the Library of Congress – the Indiana Center for the Book and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, respectively.
The Indiana State library’s Genealogy Collection has several newly-added resources for people researching their military ancestors in print, along with new items available in the library’s digital collections.
“Finding your Father’s War; A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II U.S. Army” by Jonathan Gawne is a nice handbook for someone who wants to learn more about their ancestor’s Army service in World War II.
The book contains a brief history of the army leading up to World War II, along with explanations of the various army units, insignia, awards and terms for those who may not already be familiar with the organization of the U.S. Army. There are also sections that discuss the distinct types of records and where to search for information about an ancestor’s military service.
Both the series “Union Casualties at Gettysburg,” along with “Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg,” a comprehensive record by John W. and Travis W. Busey contain a trove of information for someone researching their ancestors or a unit that fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. The authors organized the volumes by state, then by regiment and unit listing the wounded and the killed. Some entries for the wounded contain biographical information about the individual soldier that goes beyond the end of the Civil War. There are multiple appendixes that go over statistical information, the locations of field, general and convalescent hospitals treating the wounded and burial locations for each side.
In both “Borrowed Identity; 128th United states Colored Troops” and “Voices from the Past; 104th Infantry Regiment, USCT Colored Civil War Soldiers from South Carolina,” John R. Gourdin uses Civil War pensions to create biographical entries that contain surnames along with family relatives, friends, clergy and prominent members of the communities where the soldiers where living when they applied for their pensions.
In the Genealogy section of the Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections several images from the Kuhlenschmidt collection (G118) have been digitized. The images feature Albert Henn, Henry Kuhlenschmidt, and others as they served in World War I.
More photos from the collection can be viewed here, here and here.
The Betty Montoye Collection (G038) contains photographs and postcards from World War I along with the discharge papers for Paul Castleman and Oscar Ross.
More photos from the collection can be viewed here and here.
Hey daddy-o, you’ve got it made in the shade! Word from the bird says something happened recently that’s the living end. If you know what happened, some might say you’re the ginchiest. If you don’t know, you are going to flip your lid when you find out. So, if you’re hanging out in your pad, you might want to hop on the internet and take a look at what all the fuss is about. On April 1, the long-awaited 1950 U.S. census was released to the public with great fanfare! It’s all copacetic now. You dig? You’re a cool cat now that you’re in the know.
Yes, you heard it right. After waiting 72 years, the 1950 U.S. census was just released to the public. Your first question might be, “Why did it take 72 years to be released?” According to The Pew Research center, the most common explanation is that 72 years was the average lifespan at the time this law was established. The U.S. Census Bureau states, “The U.S. government will not release personally identifiable information about an individual to any other individual or agency until 72 years after it was collected for the decennial census.” If you are interested in the nitty gritty of the 72-Year Rule you can visit this National Archives blog titled, “Census Records: The 72-Year Rule.”
Not to dampen the excitement of searching for loved ones and ancestors in the 1950 census, but there are a few things you need to know first. If you’re used to searching the censuses previous to the 1950, you know that it’s a “fairly” easy thing to do by using Family Search, Ancestry, My Heritage, etc. because the previous censuses have all been indexed by names. Currently, this newest census will still need to be indexed to be able to search by names. The indexing is taking place as I write and some say it might be finished by the end of this month. Indexing of the 1940 census took about five months to complete when it was released in 2012.
Near the end of 2020, the National Archives and Records Administration announced they would have a dedicated website for the 1950 census that would include a “name search tool powered by artificial intelligence.” In other words, this AI is “handwriting recognition technology.” Along with searching by name, one can also filter by state, county/city, or enumeration district (ED) number. I was excited to see if I could find my parents and sister on this census. The “census gods” were with me on my very first search, which was on the National Archives site. I popped in my father’s name, city, county and state and his census page came up right away! There was just something amazing about seeing my parent’s names and my sister’s name on her very first census. Unfortunately, my luck ended there on the NARA site with searching for both sets of my grandparents by their names and living in Indianapolis at the time. I had to revert to searching by address and enumeration districts. The AI handwriting recognition technology is off to a great start, and I can imagine it will only improve greatly in the years to come.
A 1950 Census page from Indianapolis, Washington Township, Marion County, Indiana.
Genealogist Steve Morse has a great page to help with locating the enumeration district of your ancestor. The Unified 1950 Census ED Finder was a great help to me in finding the ED’s where my grandparents lived in 1950. Once I discovered the ED and clicked on the number, it took me to a different screen where I could select the viewer I wanted to use: NARA viewer, FamilySearch viewer or Ancestry viewer. I found the Steve Morse site the easiest to use in finding the ED and then being able to choose the viewer right from that page was a stroke of genius! I chose Ancestry and was taken to the beginning of the pages of that particular ED. Then I searched through those approximately 20 pages for the correct address to find my grandparents. One can actually search this way from the 1870 through the 1950 Census using this ED Finder.
Numerous websites have sprung up to help you navigate this census. The online Family Tree Magazine has a great 1950 Census Research Guide. It includes tips on how to prepare for your research and what questions were asked on this census that include household information and employment questions. This article also includes the history and creation of the 1950 census, recording the census, tips and tricks on searching through this census and a list with links to 1950 census research resources.
If you’re so excited you’re ready to jump out of your skin, you can even sign up to volunteer to help transcribe the 1950 census! WOW, wouldn’t that be a fun thing to tell your grandchildren all about! Family Search is looking for volunteers to help with reviewing by becoming a part of The 1950 U.S. Census Community Project.
Ancestry, along with the other sites are currently indexing the census, but you can still try searching by name or you can explore maps in their 1950 census district finder to help you find your ancestors. You can visit Ancestry’s Welcome to the 1950 U.S. Census webpage for even more resources. Ancestry also released a new tool called the Census District Finder that will help in finding enumeration districts. Here is a short video by Amy Johnson Crow explaining how to use the Census District Finder on Ancestry and a link to a few more short videos about using the 1950 census.
In our Genealogy Division, as we’ve been searching for our ancestors, we discovered some fun comments in the “notes” section of the census pages that were written by the enumerators:
“A youngster grabbed the sheet from my lap and had torn it quite badly before it could be taken from her. The last name is spelled Buckanaber. I spelled it as it sounded to me and was incorrect.”
“I know these people. I have reported all information possible at this time as they are in Sarasota, Florida. They make the trip every winter.”
“In my opinion the price value given is about $2,000 to high.”
If you’re waiting with great anticipation for the release of the 1960 census, you’ll have to keep your excitement to a minimum until 2032. I’m pretty stoked about it myself because it will be the first census in which I appear. But for the time being, happy hunting in the 1950 census.
Please contact Indiana State Library librarians and staff. We’re here to help!
Indiana State Library
315 W. Ohio St.
Company newsletters can provide details about your ancestors’ lives. The details are not just limited to work life, either. Company newsletters contain wedding and birth announcements, obituaries and reports on employee sports teams, employee clubs and other social events.
The Indiana State Library Digital Collection contains 43 company employee newsletters to explore for information about your ancestors, including: Bell Telephone News, Dodge News, MagnaVoice and Studebaker Spotlight.
To start searching, it helps to know the following: the name of the company – or at least the industry – your ancestor worked for, the residence of your ancestor and the approximate time period your ancestor would have worked for the company. If you do not already know this information about your ancestor, you may be able to find their place of work mentioned in an obituary. Also keep in mind that variations of names could be used in company newsletters, such as initials or nicknames – and don’t forget to search those as well.
I will use my own family as an example of how to search the collection. I knew that my great grandmother worked for Perfect Circle in the 1950s and I knew that the Indiana State Library had the Perfect Circle company newsletter featured in the digital archives; however, I didn’t want flip through each and every issue with hopes that I would find her. How was this going to work? It turned out that it was super easy, barely an inconvenience.
So, how did I do it?
I just went to the Indiana State Library’s collection of Company Employee Newsletters and in the search bar in the upper left hand corner, I typed her name, “Sara Martin.”
My returned results showed three issues of The Circle – the company newsletter for Perfect Circle – at the very top of the results.
I clicked on one of newsletter titles, “The Circle, 1952-12-19,” and I saw the exact page – or pages – where my search results could be found. To the right of the page are the thumbnails of pages in the newsletter that I’ve selected. At the top of the thumbnails is the phrase “2 Results found in.” This lets me know that my two keywords “Sara” and “Martin” were found together on a page. There is also a vertical red bar to the left of the page where those results were found.
On this page, I clicked on the blue expand button at the top right of the page. I can see my search result is a photo of my great grandmother in the EEA Women’s Chorus that was formed at Perfect Circle.
The Circle, Dec. 19, 1952, page 9
I was inspired to try other names from my family, like Brammer and Swank. I found a baby photo of my dad.
The Circle, March 7, 1952, page 8
And a photo of my grandmother.
The Circle, July 1956, page 14
I even found out where the whole Brammer family went for Thanksgiving in 1952.
The Circle, Dec. 19, 1952, page 7 and 8
The Circle, Dec. 19, 1952, page 8
Sometimes what is found isn’t all that exciting, but rather more informative, such as service years anniversaries. The International Harvester 20 years service award for my grandfather is seen below.
I H News, Sept. 9, 1966, page 3; Allen County Public Library Digital Collections
In 2021, there have been a healthy amount of professional development offerings for Indiana residents interested in developing their data skills. With many of us working remotely for part of the year, these offerings can be explored from work or home.
Earlier this year, Indiana’s Management Performance Hub hosted Indiana’s Data Day virtually over two days in March. You can watch the event here on the MPH website.
The MPH also offers a free ongoing proficiency program in data skills. You can take the classes online and earn points here.
In April, the Indiana SDC Program, IGIC and GENI co-sponsored a webinar with Lorraine Wright, “GIS in the 1700s! Indiana’s Historic Land Record Field Notes Digitized into Online Maps.” The recording is available here on YouTube.
The Census Bureau made several opportunities available upon the release of the 2020 Census PL-171 redistricting data in August. These data provided the basic final counts for the 2020 Census down to the census block level. Take a look at the Census Academy here, with the most recent video at the top of the page, The Comprehensive Course for Accessing 2020 Census Redistricting Data. View additional recorded webinars going back to 2016 here.
In November, for Indiana Library Federation attendees, the SDC Program provided “Finding and Using Indiana’s Data Access Points, Census and More.” Thank you for those of you who were able to attend under challenging circumstances!
This month, the Indiana State Data Center hosted its annual training meeting online. Our three speakers from the Census Bureau were Andrew W Hait, Ronald Williams and Michael B Hawes. Recordings of these sessions will be available soon and each session will be eligible for one LEU for Indiana library staff.
In the summer of 2022, the Census Bureau will release a file called the DHC, or the Demographic and Housing Characteristics file. This will contain what has been called in the past – Summary File One, or SF1 data – for the 2020 Census. The State Data Center will provide access to the data and training for retrieving the data upon release.
This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.
The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress is a biographical dictionary of all present and former members of Congress. Researchers can look up anyone who has served in Congress by their name, position, state, party, year or Congress. The directory, first published in 1859, contains valuable information about the more than 13,000 individuals who have served in Congress. The publication became an online database to allow researchers to search more easily. The image below is the directory’s current homepage, though a new website design will be coming soon.
The searching feature is very simple. Users can search by name, state, political party, position or year. The features allow for broad information gathering. A researcher can easily find every member of Congress from their state over time or discover who was serving in Congress during a particular period. Users can also research individual politicians as well. For example, searching for John Tipton produces one match. The user can see Tipton’s position(s), political party, state and time served in Congress, even before viewing his biography page.
The biography section contains a brief bio and portrait of the Congressman or Congresswoman. The biography page also includes a Research Collections section that lists the repositories of primary source materials and an Extended Bibliography for published biographies.
The Research Collections section lists the locations of the individual’s primary sources. For John Tipton, the Indiana Historical Society and Indiana State Library both have collections. The Indiana State Library has 8,000 items in their John Tipton collection. The section is an excellent starting point for tracking down where a politician’s papers are located, but it is important to know the Research Collections list is not conclusive. For example, searching the directory for Schuyler Colfax lists several repositories of his manuscripts, but does not mention the Indiana State Library’s collection. The database is an excellent resource, but should not be considered one-stop researching.
The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress has long served as a useful resource for researching the history of Congress and its members. The directory is updated every new Congress and has advanced from its initial printed format to its current online database. More changes are on the horizon, too. The website will soon have a revamped, more vibrant and engaging redesign. At the time of this writing, the new design is not live yet, but below is a sneak peek at how the directory will eventually look. The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress is an excellent resource to know. Researchers can locate any current or former members of Congress and discover primary and secondary source information with ease.
This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”