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Genealogical Research in Indiana

Genealogy Research Indiana

From the early days of the wilderness explorers to modern times, Indiana has been known as the crossroads of America. Many of those passing through settled in the area, and as a result there are a wide variety of multi-cultural genealogical records available for the state. To get you started in tracing your Indiana ancestry, we’ll introduce you to which of those records you’ll need, and help you to understand:

  • What they are
  • Where to find them
  • How to use them

These records can be found both online and off, so we’ll introduce you to online websites, indexes and databases, as well as brick-and-mortar repositories and other institutions that will help with your research in Indiana. So that you will have a more comprehensive understanding of these records, we have provided a brief history of the “Hoosier State” to illustrate what type of records may have been generated during specific time periods. That information will assist you in pinpointing times and locations on which to focus the search for your Indiana ancestors and their records.

A Brief History of Indiana

Indiana’s earliest known settlers were the Native American mound builders, and it wasn’t until the late 17th century that the first Europeans entered the area. Those early explorers were mainly French, and they discovered the region to be inhabited by the Delaware, Miami, and Potawatamie tribes. The first permanent settlement was established in 1732 at Vincennes, and the French controlled the area until 1763 when they ceded the land to Great Britain at the End of the French and Indian Wars.

With the implementation of the Quebec act in 1774, Indiana was united with Quebec, and at the end of the revolutionary War, the British ceded Indiana and the rest of the Old Northwest to the United States. Indiana became a part of the Northwest Territory when it was established in 1787, and the area at that time was still largely unsettled. Native Americans resisted any settlement by white Europeans, though that resistance was eventually ended at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.

The Indiana territory was established in 1800, and included the states of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Indiana as well as parts of Minnesota and Michigan. The original capital was Vincennes, but was moved to Corydon in 1813. Indiana achieved statehood in 1816, and Indianapolis was made capital in 1824-1825. The Wabash and Erie Canal opened in the 1840’s giving Indiana a link to eastern markets via Lake Erie. In the same time period the first railroad to Indiana opened, and the modern era began.

Indiana experienced many changes during the Civil War era, the state voting for Abraham Lincoln, and supporting the Union cause. There was one Confederate raid into Indiana during the Civil War, but otherwise the state saw little action except for that of its troops sent to the southern arena.

  • Important Dates in Indiana History
    • 1679 - Claimed by France
    • 1732 - Vincennes founded
    • 1763 - Ceded by French to Great Britain
    • 1784 – Clarksville founded
    • 1787 – Becomes part of Northwest
    • 1800 – Territory of Indiana created
    • 1811 – Native American tribes defeated at the Battle of Tippecanoe
    • 1814 – Organized as separate territory
    • 1816 – Statehood
    • 1839 – Regular railroad service begins

Famous Battles Fought in Indiana

Several military confrontations have occurred within the boundaries of what is modern-day Indiana. Many took place during The French and Indian War between 1754 and 1763. Many other skirmished occurred during the War of 1812, and battle accounts as well as service and genealogical records for soldiers who fought during those battles can be found at The Society of the War of 1812 in the State of Indiana.

The battle accounts can be very effective in uncovering the military records of your ancestor. They can tell you what regiments fought in which battles, and often include the names and ranks of many officers and enlisted men.

Common Indiana Genealogical Issues and Resources to Overcome Them

Boundary Changes: Boundary changes are a common obstacle when researching Indiana ancestors. You could be searching for an ancestor’s record in one county when in fact it is stored in a different one due to historical county boundary changes. The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries can help you to overcome that problem. It provides a chronological listing of every boundary change that has occurred in the history of Indiana.

Name Changes: Surname changes, variations, and misspellings can complicate genealogical research. It is important to check all spelling variations. Soundex, a program that indexes names by sound, is a useful first step, but you can't rely on it completely as some name variations result in different Soundex codes. The surnames could be different, but the first name may be different too. You can also find records filed under initials, middle names, and nicknames as well, so you will need to get creative with surname variations and spellings in order to cover all the possibilities. For help with surname variations read our instructional article on How to Use Soundex.

Indiana Genealogical Organizations and Archives

Genealogical resources include not only records, but the organizations that house them, or can direct you to them. These institutions include: Archives, Libraries, Genealogical Societies, Family History Centers, Universities, Churches, and Museums.

Indiana Archives

  • Following are links to their websites, and a summary of the records.
    • Indiana State Archives

       – military records, county and Supreme court records, orphanage records,

      6440 E. 30th St.
      Indianapolis, Indiana 46219
      Phone: (317) 591-5222

    • Indiana State Library, Genealogy Collection - family histories, indexes to records, cemetery transcriptions, microfilmed federal census records, county records, passenger lists, and military pension data

      140 N. Senate Avenue
      Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
      Phone: (317) 232-3675

    • National Archives Great Lakes Region (Chicago) - federal censuses, passenger lists, naturalization indexes, General Land Office records for Indiana 1808–1876 ,Indian census rolls 1885–1940, records of marine inspection and navigation for Indiana ,1865–1968 including names of vessel owners, masters, and crew members, U.S. District and Circuit Court records for Indiana 1819 –1961, various military records

      7358 South Pulaski Road
      Chicago, IL 60629
      Telephone: 773-948-9001
      Fax: 773-948-9050

    •   Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center - databases of county and state, records as well as African-American, military, and Bible records. Some of the center’s resources have been digitized and can be searched online at Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections. Allen County Public Library 900 Library Plaza Fort Wayne, IN 46802 Phone: 260.421.1225 Fax: 260.421.1386 Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center link to: Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections link to:

Indiana Genealogical and Historical Societies

Genealogical and historical societies have access to extensive catalogues of genealogical data. They are also able to offer expert guidance for genealogical researchers. Many members are professional genealogists who are most willing to share their expertise in finding ancestors. 

Indiana Genealogical Society - more than 500,000 records representing all of Indiana’s ninety two counties
P.O. Box 10507
Fort Wayne, IN 46825-0507

Indiana Historical Society – manuscripts, oral histories, business collections, historical photographs (digitized),
315 West Ohio Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Telephone: 317-232-1882
Fax: 317-233-3109

Indiana Family History Centers

Additional Indiana Genealogical Resources

Indiana Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are internet based facilities that use email to distribute a single message to all who subscribe to it. When information on a particular surname, new records, or any other important genealogy information related to the mailing list topic becomes available, the subscribers are alerted to it. Joining a mailing list is an excellent way to stay up to date on Indiana genealogy research topics. Rootsweb have an extensive listing of Indiana Mailing Lists on a variety of topics.

Indiana Message Boards

A message board is another internet based facility where people can post questions about a specific genealogy topic and have it answered by other genealogists. If you have questions about a surname, record type, or research topic, you can post your question and other researchers and genealogists will help you with the answer. Be sure to check back regularly, as the answers are not emailed to you. The message boards at the Indiana Genealogy Forum are completely free to use.

Indiana Newspapers and Periodicals

Many genealogy periodicals and historical newspapers contain reprinted copies of family genealogies, transcripts of family Bible records, information about local records and archives, census indexes, church records, queries, land records, obituaries, court records, cemetery records, and wills.

  • Indiana newspapers and periodicals that you can search online or on-site.
    • Newberry Library - complete runs of many state and county genealogical and historical and publications, as well as important regional and national journals and British journals of local and regional history.

      The Newberry Library
      60 West Walton Street
      Chicago, IL 60610
      Tel: (312) 943-9090

    • Indiana Newspaper Project, (University of Indiana at Urbana-Champaign) – microfilmed and digitized newspapers dating from 1865-1922
    • – free searchable database of Indiana newspaper archives, 1818-2010
    • Library of Congress Digital Newspaper Directory – free searchable database of historical U.S. newspapers dating from 1690-present
    • The Online Books Page – links to historical books and periodicals available for viewing online, dating from mid-16th century
    • – largest online database of historical newspapers in the world.

Historical Indiana Maps and Gazetteers

Maps are an integral part of genealogical research. They help us to locate landmarks, towns, cities, parishes, states, provinces, waterways and roads and streets. They also help us to determine when and where boundary changes might have taken place, and give us a visualization of the area we’re researching in.

For locating place names, a gazetteer is the best possible resource for any genealogist. Gazetteers are also sometimes called “place name dictionaries”, and can help you to locate the area in which you need to conduct research.

Indiana City Directories

City directories are similar to telephone directories in that they list the residents of a particular area. The difference though is what is important to genealogists, and that is they pre-date telephone directories. You can find an ancestor’s information such as their street address, place of employment, occupation, or the name of their spouse. A one-stop-shop for finding city directories in Indiana is the Indiana Online Historical Directories which contains a listing of every available city and historical directory related to Indiana.

Indiana Genealogical Records

Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Records – Also known as vital records, birth, death, and marriage certificates are the most basic, yet most important records attached to your ancestor. The reason for their importance is that they not only place your ancestor in a specific place at a definite time, but potentially connect the individual to other relatives. Below is a list of repositories and websites where you can find Indiana vital records

Some county clerks kept vital records as early as 1838. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of these documents for many counties which can be accessed at Indiana Family History Centers. Existing originals are found in the county clerk’s office or in the Indiana Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) for that county.

Original copies of Indiana Vital Records for death, birth, marriage, and divorce may be ordered from:

Indiana Department of Public Health
Division of Vital Records
605 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, IL 62702-5097
Telephone: (217) 782-6553
Fax: 217-785-3209

The Indiana State Archives has an Indiana Statewide Marriage Index, 1763–1900 which contains one million marriages, or two million names.

Census Reports

Census records are among the most important genealogical documents for placing your ancestor in a particular place at a specific time. Like BDM records, they can also lead you to other ancestors, particularly those who were living under the authority of the head of household.

Federal census records for Indiana exist from 1800 to 1990. Unfortunately the 1800 census was lost, and the 1810 census contains only a few names from Randolph County. The 1890 census was destroyed, though a few names from Mound Township in McDonough County remain.

Indiana Church Records

Church and synagogue records are a valuable resource, especially for baptisms, marriages, and burials that took place before 1900. You will need to at least have an idea of your ancestor’s religious denomination, and in most cases you will have to visit a brick and mortar establishment to view them.

Most church records are kept by the individual church, although in some denominations, records are placed in a regional archive or maintained at the diocesan level. Local Historical Societies are sometimes the repository for the state’s older church records. Below are links archives that maintain church records, as well as a few databases that can be viewed online.

The Family History Library contains many church records from a variety of denominations on microfilm.

The Indiana State Archives collected some early Indiana church records that are now held by the Indiana State Library.

St. Clair County Genealogical Society (SCCGS) has compiled the Index to Bethel Baptist Church Minutes and Membership Lists, 1809 - 1909 for St. Clair County, Indiana

Central Repositories for Denominational Records

Most of the records of individual denominations are kept in central repositories.

Indiana Military Records

More than 40 million Americans have participated in some time of war service since America was colonized. The chance of finding your ancestor amongst those records is exceptionally high. Military records can even reveal individuals who never actually served, such as those who registered for the two World Wars but were never called to duty.

Indiana Cemetery Records

As convenient as it is to search cemetery records online, keep in mind that there are a few disadvantages over visiting a cemetery in person. They are:

  • Tombstone information is not always accurately transcribed
  • The arrangement of the graves in a cemetery can be crucial as family members are often buried next to each other or in the same grave. This arrangement is not always preserved in the alphabetical indexes that are found online.
  • Databases that can be searched online for Indiana Cemetery records
    • Indiana Tombstone Transcription Project - death and burial records
    • African American Cemeteries Online – African American, slave, and Native American cemetery records
    • Access Genealogy – huge database of Indiana cemetery record transcriptions
    • Find a Grave – over 100 million grave records can be searched on this site. Search can be conducted by name, location, or cemetery name.
    • - A free online database containing approximately 4 million cemetery records from around the world.
    • Billion Graves – as the name implies, you can search a billion records including headstone photos, transcriptions, cemetery records, and grave locations.

Indiana Obituaries

Obituaries can reveal a wealth about our ancestor and other relatives. You can search our Indiana Newspaper Obituaries Listings from hundreds of Indiana newspapers online for free.

Indiana Wills and Probate Records

The documents found in a probate packet may include a complete inventory of a person’s estate, newspaper entries, witness testimony, a copy of a will, list of debtors and creditors, names of executors or trustees, names of heirs. They can not only tell you about the ancestor you’re currently researching, but lead to other ancestors. Most of these records must be accessed at a county court or clerk’s office, but some can be found online as well. You can obtain copies of the original probate records by writing to the county clerk.

Since 1964, the circuit court in each county has custody of the earlier court records including those of the former Cook County Superior Court and a few other Chicago area courts. They can be found at:

Clerk of Circuit CourtArchives Room 1113
Richard J. Daley Center
50 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
Telephone: 312- 603-6601
Fax: 312-603-4974

The Indiana Regional Archives has a huge database of court and county records for the entire state of Indiana

Family Search – has an online collection of probate records, which includes will, indexes, dating from 1819-1970

Indiana Immigration and Naturalization Records

The naturalization process generated many types of records, including petitions, declarations of intention, and oaths of allegiance. These records can provide family historians with information such as a person's birth date and place of birth, immigration year, marital status, spouse information, occupation, witnesses' names and addresses, and more.

US National Archives – Immigration and Naturalization records for the entire United States

Family Search has two searchable online indexes, the Indiana, Northern District (Eastern Division), Naturalization Index, 1926-1979, and the Indiana, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950

Indiana Native American Records

Missing Matriarchs – Resources for Researching Female Indiana Ancestors

Looking for female ancestors requires an adjustment of how we view traditional records sources. A woman’s identity was often under that of her husband, and often individual records for them can be difficult to locate. The following resources are effective in locating female ancestors in Indiana where traditional records may not reveal them.

Marriage and Divorce Records

The earliest marriages were recorded in the Parish registers of the Catholic Church, starting in 1749. The following records are available on microfilm:

  • Saint Nicholas Xavier de Oubache parish registers, 1749-1786, (film 1026606) at the French National Archives in Paris, and transcripts at the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, and parish registers, 1780-1960 (film 1433361 ff.) at Saint Francis Xavier Church in Vincennes.

County clerks have recorded marriages since around 1817, and state-wide registration commenced in 1958. The state legislature granted the first divorces from 1817-1851. Since 1852, county courts of common pleas have held jurisdiction over divorce.

The Indiana State Library has a database of Marriages through 1850 extracted from county records and Indiana Marriages 1958-2004.


  • The Divorce Issue and Reform in Nineteenth Century Indiana, Richard Wires (Ball State University Press, 1967)
  • Women’s History Collections Bibliography, Indiana Historical Society Library
  • When the Truth is Told: A History of Black Women’s Culture and Community in Indiana, 1875-1950, Council of Negro Women
  • Pioneer Women of Lake County, Indiana 1834-1850, Avis Bryant Brown and Ethel Alice Vinnege, (The Authors, 1979)

Selected Resources for Indiana Women’s History

Lewis Historical Library
Vincennes University
Vincennes, IN 47951

Allen County Public Library
900 Webster St.
Box 2270
Fort Wayne, IN 46801

Common Indiana Surnames

The following surnames are among the most common in Indiana and are also being currently researched by other genealogists. If you find your surname here, there is a chance that some research has already been performed on your ancestor.

Abell, Adams, Albin, Allen, Allmon, Allstatt, Anderson, Apple, Ash, Ashworth Askren, Ayers, Bain, Baker, Bales, Barbre, Barger, Barr, Bates, Beach, Beatty, Beauchamp, Belcher, Bell, Bennington, Berry, Bishop, Bledsoe, Blunk, Bogue, Bolen, Bolling, Boyd, Branson, Brown, Brubech, Burlison, Burress, Busick, Carroll, Case, Chatham, Coffin, Condry, Conn, Conrad, Cook, Cope, Courtney, Cox, Crecelius, Crum, Curry, Cuzzort, De Witt, Denbo, Denney, Dickerson, Dillard, Dillon, Drake, Driskell, Duckworth, Eastridge, Enlow, Epler, Fee, Femin, Ferguson, Fields, Flick, Ford, Fuller, Gard, Gass, Gilliatt, Glenn, Goldman, Gregory, Grimes, Grose, Groves, Hammond, Hammonds, Harmon, Harris, Harrison, Haskins, Hatfield, Hawhee, Hoag, Hobbs, Hobson, Hollen, Humphrey, Hunt, James, Johnson, Kellams, Kendall, Keysacker, Kimmel, King, Knight, Land, Lane, Laswell, Lawrence, Leakey, Leatherburry, Leonard, Lett, Livingston, Lockridge, Lowe, Luttrell, Macy, Maloy, Marlett, Martin, Mason, Matthew, Mauck Maxwell, McCarty, McDonald, McIlvain, McIver, McQueen, McWilliams, Meredith, Messick, Mills, Miner, Mize, Morgan, Morin, Nation, Neal, Newbold, Newkirk, Newton, Pace, Palen, Palmer, Parks, Parsons, Patton, Paul, Polen, Polk, Price, Quick, Rankin, Renshaw, Rice, Riley, Roberts, Rogers, Scott, Searbrought, Sexton, Seybold, Sibens, Sinclair, Smith, Spears, Speedy, Spencer, Spicer, Stapp, Stephens, Stockinger, Stovall, Stroud, Sturm, Swayze, Taylor, Teaford, Thacker, Thatcher, Thompson, Thrash, Thurston, Trusty, Tucker, Underhill, Van Buskirk, Van Dorin, Van Winkle, Vernette, Walls, Weaver, White, Wilbur, Wiles, Wilkins, Williams, Wilson, , Woods, Wright, York

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