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Indiana resources

So The Legal Genealogist is winging her way westward this morning, to Indianapolis and the two-day event at the Indiana Historical Society that gets underway tonight.

It’s a fun evening that awaits folks tonight, when we look at Blackguards and Black Sheep: The Lighter Side of the Law.

Then, tomorrow, starting at 10 a.m., we have an all-day look at genealogy, the law, and the records created because of the law, with four presentations: “Deemed a Runaway” – Black Laws of the North; Inventing America – Records of the U.S. Patent Office; “No Person Shall … Gallop Horses in the Streets” – Using Court Records to Tell the Story of Our Ancestors’ Lives; and Through the Golden Door – Immigration Following the Civil War.

All of these, both tonight and tomorrow, take place in the Frank and Katrina Basile Theater at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in Indianapolis.

And beforehand… sigh… I get a tour. And — oh boy — am I ever looking forward to that.

The Indiana Historical Society is a member-supported library and archive that got its start in 1830. Here, in part, is how the society describes itself:

The Indiana Historical Society is one of the United States’ oldest and largest historical societies … the oldest state historical society west of the Allegheny Mountains.


Since 1830, IHS has connected people to the past by collecting, preserving, interpreting and sharing the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest. IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups, publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; and provides youth, adult and family programming, including Indiana’s participation in National History Day. We also appoint and train 92 county historians. IHS opened a new 165,000-square-foot headquarters in downtown Indianapolis in July 1999, built on the site of the prior Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. …


IHS Collections and the William H. Smith Memorial Library both preserve and make accessible one of the largest archival repositories of material on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest, including more than 1.7 million photographs, 45,000 cataloged printed items, 3,500 pieces of sheet music, 5,300 processed manuscript collections, 3,300 artifacts, 1,460 cataloged maps, 780 broadsides and 90 paintings. More than 50,000 searchable digital images are currently available on our website.


The IHS collections include many significant items, including Virginia Gov. Patrick Henry’s 1778 “secret orders” to Lt. Col. George Rogers Clark to organize troops and capture British forts north of the Ohio River, thus extending the Revolutionary War with the Battle of Vincennes. IHS also holds the Presidential Decree of 1793 to the Wea Tribe of the Miami – near present-day Lafayette – signed by President George Washington and first Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson after Arthur St. Clair’s defeat and before the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Other interesting items include a letter from Sarah Harvey in 1835 near Richmond containing several references to “Hooshers” and the earliest original manuscript reference to the word “Hoosiers” at IHS; maps from 1588 and 1801 showing what is now Indiana well before and on the eve of statehood; and one of the nation’s most extensive collections of historical Abraham Lincoln images, plus a rare original page of Lincoln’s 1820s sum book he wrote in as a young man in Indiana.


Subject strengths of our collections include Architecture, Agriculture, American Civil War, Business, Communities, Education, Ethnically and Racially Identified Groups, Families, Government, Journalism and Communications, Medicine, Military Affairs, Notable Hoosiers, Old Northwest Territory, Organized Labor, Politics, The Professions, Religion, Social Services, Transportation (including Railroad and Interurban History) and Women.1

I swear, I’m drooling just thinking of what IHS holds.

But… but… but… if you can’t join me on this tour of IHS, what does IHS hold for you? The reality is, there are all kinds of goodies you might find about your Hoosier ancestors or collateral kin in the massive digital collections of the IHS.

Let me point you in the direction of just a few of the IHS collections where there are holdings online that you can access from home, at 3 a.m., in your bunny slippers:

The Indianapolis Recorder (P 0303): “The Indianapolis Recorder is the longest continuously operated African-American newspaper in Indiana, and it regularly carried articles of interest to the African-American community statewide. The collection dates from circa 1900 to 1987. The digitization of this collection is a work in progress.”

Notable Hoosiers: “Notable Hoosiers consist of selected historically significant Indiana individuals who are well-known for their past activities or contributions to the state. Not all notables are native Hoosiers, but all spent some measurable amount of time in Indiana. There are many Hoosiers that would fit into this category, however, IHS has only a limited number of digital images that represent this topic. As more are received, they will be added to the digital collections.”

Civil War Home Front: “Original letters from, to and about Indiana soldiers and their family members comprise the vast majority of this digital collection. Although the conduct of the war and some military matters are also included in some of the letters, these particular selections were made because they contain a significant amount of collective commentary on home front topics of local, regional and national interest. A selected number of specialty items in this digital collection also provide a glimpse of some other contemporary dimensions regarding the home front environment in Indiana.”

Fighting Tuberculosis in Indiana: “In the first decade of the 20th century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in all age groups in the United States. It was estimated that the TB bacillus infected 80 to 90 percent of the population. Doctors and lay people formed the National Tuberculosis Association in 1904 to fight the disease, and the Indiana Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis was organized in the same year. By 1930, the TB death rate had dropped to 65.9 persons out of every 100,000 people in the state. In 1936, the Depression triggered a rise in deaths statewide. Tuberculosis associations nationwide emphasized the need for public health support, and once again lowered TB statistics. The first breakthroughs in drug therapy came as considerable money, much of it from TB associations, was spent for research after World War II. With little hope of a vaccine on the horizon, prevention remained a major activity for the association, as well as examining legal ways to force recalcitrant patients to “take the cure.” The disease is still with us today.”

Indiana Constitution, 1816: “The Indiana Constitution of 1816 was written in Corydon at the Constitutional Convention. This marked the end of the Indiana Territory and the beginning of the statehood of Indiana. This copy of the Indiana Constitution of 1816 is one of two copies written”.

Northwest Territory Collection, 1721-1825: “The Northwest Territory Collection consists of papers relating to the exploration, settlement and administration of the Northwest Territory. The bulk of the papers are from the period 1780 through 1801 and relate to the U.S. Army in the West; the campaigns of generals Josiah Harmar, Arthur St. Clair and Anthony Wayne against the Indians; Indian relations; French settlers at Vincennes and elsewhere in the territory; the Ohio Company and other American settlers; and the administration of the territorial government.”

And those are just a few of the digital collections you’ll find at IHS.

Archives and libraries are the absolute treasures of society, and those with the scope and breadth and depth of IHS are pearls without price.

Take a look, if you think your people even wandered through Indiana.

You never know what you might find.


Image: Indiana Historical Society, photo by Bedford via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Our History,” About IHS, Indiana Historical Society ( : accessed 18 May 2017).
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