Indiana History

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Brief History[edit | edit source]

The following important events in the history of Indiana affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping.

  • 1700–1735: The French established three outposts along the Wabash-Maumee trade route: one at the present site of Fort Wayne, one near present-day Lafayette, and the largest and most important at Vincennes.
  • 1732: French troops under Franocis de Vincennes built fort on site of Vincennes, first permanent white settlement in present state of Indiana.
  • 1763: The British took possession of the area and discouraged settlers, but the few hundred Frenchmen who were already there were permitted to remain, and Americans began filtering in.
  • 1783: Indiana is included in territory ceded by Britain to United States.
  • 1784: Clarksville, Indiana (on the north bank of the Ohio River, opposite Louisville, Kentucky), became the first authorized American settlement in Indiana.
  • 1787: The United States government established the Northwest Territory to open the land to Revolutionary War veterans and other settlers. See the information at the end of this section for The Territorial Papers of the United States.
  • 1790: Knox County was created, with Vincennes as the seat of government.
  • 1794: (August 20,) The Battle of Fallen Timbers. General Anthony Wayne and the Mississinewa Indians
  • 1795: Treaty to Greenville, Little turtle ceded land
  • 1799-1806: Moravian Indian Mission on White river
  • 1800–1809: The Indiana Territory was established in 1800.  Territorial government began July 4th, the capital was Vincennes.
  • 1805: The Michigan Territory was detached
  • 1809: The Illinois Territory was set off.
  • 1809: Treat of Fort Wayne, the Delaware, Potawatomi, Miami, Kickapoo, Wea, and Eel River Tribes ceded nearly 3 million acres of land.  Part of the land belonged to the Shawnee and their Chief Tecumseh declared the transaction illegal.
  • 1811: The battle of Tippecanoe U.S. under Gen. William Henry Harrison defeated the Shawnee, Chippewa, Miami, Kickapoo, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Sauk and Fox Indians. 
  • 1813: (October 5,)  Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief was killed in Battle of the Tames. By 1815 there was no effective Indian opposition to settlement in Indiana.
  • 11 December 1816: Indiana became a state. State capital was Cotydon. Slavery was prohibited by constitution but not finally ended in state until 1843.
  • 1817: Wyadot Indians ceded land
  • 1821: Land purchase from Potawatomi
  • 1826: Miami Indinans ceded land.
  • 1828: Eel River Indians ceded land
  • 1832: Black Hawk War
  • 1816–1835: A dispute on the border between northern Indiana and southern Michigan was settled in 1835.
  • 1836: Treaty of Yellow River
  • 1830s–1850s: New roads, canals, and railroads hastened settlement in central Indiana. The National Road reached Indianapolis in 1834. The Wabash and Erie Canal reached Terre Haute in 1850 and was completed to Evansville in 1853. Major railroad building was underway in the 1850s.
  • 1838: 800 Potawatomi Indians removed to Kansas - "Trail of Death"
  • 1847: Miami Indians removed to Kansas
  • 1840s–1910s: Germans, Irish, Scandinavians, Mennonites, and Poles came to rural Indiana for good, inexpensive farmland.
  • 1853: Settlers from Holland settled in New Paris (now Goshen), Elkhart County.
  • 1861–1865: Indiana remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War and contributed about 224,000 federal troops, although the southern heritage of some communities caused trouble. Former slaves coming north began to settle in Indiana.
  • 1867: Indians removed of Oklahoma
  • 1873 Naturalization of Adult male of Miami Tribes of Kansas and minor children
  • 1882: Studebaker wagon factory began to attract foreign workers to South Bend.
  • 1890s: Oil and gas development in Indiana increased the shift away from rural agriculture toward an urban industrial economy.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1900: The glass industry near Muncie started to attract thousands of skilled Walloon glass workers from Belgium.
  • 1904: Studebaker began manufacturing electric automobiles and recruiting more foreign laborers to South Bend.
  • 1906: U.S. Steel built large mills. Many eastern Europeans came to the new mill town of Gary.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1930s: The Great Depression slowed the immigration of foreigners.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's: The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Content[edit | edit source]

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

Indiana's "Gore"

When the Northwest Territory was divided, and shortly before Ohio was declared a state in 1803, the Indiana Territory was formed.  The year was 1800.  The western boundary of Ohio had been determined by the Greenville Treaty Line of 1795.  In 1803 a wedge, or pie shaped, piece of land on the Ohio/Indiana border was ceded to the Indiana Territory.  It was nicknamed "The Gore," and became Dearborn County   Records for this area were held at the county seat, Lawrenceburg.

Ultimately Dearborn County was itself divided and portions of it, from 1811-1814, formed Franklin, Wayne, and Switzerland Counties.  Today this area also includes parts of Ohio, Randolph, Dearborn, and Union Counties, as well.  The earliest records of Dearborn County were destroyed by fire in 1826.

Thus, an early settler, without moving a foot from his original homestead,  may have lived in the Northwest Territory, Ohio, the Indiana Territory, and the State of Indiana, and always called "The Gore" his home.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies.

County History Indexes by the Work Projects Administration[edit | edit source]

During the late 1930s, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) carried out a program of indexing county histories, atlases, gazetteers, and miscellaneous records on a county-by-county basis. These were given the title Index of Names of Persons and Firms. The Family History Library has these indexes in book form or on microfilm for most counties. They are listed under:


State Histories Useful to Genealogists[edit | edit source]

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the lauditory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Indiana are:

  • Esarey, Logan. A History of Indiana from Its Exploration to 1922. 3 volumes. Dayton, Ohio: Dayton Historical Society, 1923. FHL book 977.289 H2e Each volume is indexed and contains information on the early development of Indiana. Volume three is a history of St. Joseph County.

For Indiana records concerning the years 1787 to 1816, see:

  • United States. Department of State. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 26 volumes. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0721. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1934–1962. FHL book 973 N2udt; films 929377–931. Volumes two and three are on FHL fiche 929377. This set has been digitized and images can be accessed through the FamilySearch Catalog. The records contain information about persons who resided in the area that now includes Indiana from 1787 to 1803. Each volume contains a name and subject index.
  • The Territorial Papers of the United States FHL Film 929380. This film has been digitized and images can be accessed through the FamilySearch Catalog. It contains The Territory of Indiana, for 1800 to 1810, and 1810 to 1816. Each volume has an every-name index and contains thousands of names of residents in what is now Indiana. There are lists of residents of particular counties who signed petitions to the government between 1805 and 1816, and information about persons associated with forts, land offices, Indian interpreters, express riders, and post offices.

Additional Sources For Historical Information[edit | edit source]

Much historical information about early settlers in Indiana is found in the following collection:

The Draper Manuscript Collection[edit | edit source]

The Draper Manuscript Collection is a significant regional source that includes records of Illinois.

  • Draper Manuscript Collection Draper, Lyman Copeland. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Library, 197–?. FHL film 889098 (first of 147 films. The collection consists of 491 volumes of manuscripts, papers, and books collected by Lyman Copeland Draper about the history of the trans-Allegheny West, a region including the western areas of the Carolinas and Virginia, all the Ohio River Valley, and part of the upper Mississippi Valley from the 1740s to 1830. The collection is divided into 50 series. Some series are titled by geographic area, some by the names of prominent frontier leaders, and some by topic. The bulk of the collection consists of notes from interviews, questionnaires, and letters gathered during Draper’s extensive travels and research to learn about frontier history. Personal papers are much more rare than government or military records.

The collection includes many items of a genealogical or biographical nature. For an inventory and partial indexes, see:

  • Draper Manuscripts
  • Harper, Josephine L. Guide to the Draper Manuscripts. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1983. FHL book 977.583/M1 A3h. This guide gives series and volume descriptions for some of the Draper manuscripts. There are several indexes at the end of the book, including a name and subject index, an additional personal data index, and a list of references to Indiana.
  • Wolfe, Barbara Schull. Index to Lyman C. Draper Manuscripts. Logansport, Indiana: B.S. Wolfe, 197–?. FHL book 977.583/M1 A3w. The name index gives the series and volume numbers, but is not complete.

United States History[edit | edit source]

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. FHL book 973 H2alm At various libraries (WorldCat) This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. FHL book 973 H2ad. At various libraries (WorldCat) This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: C Merriam, 1971. FHL book 973 H2v Limited view at Google Books [1]

Websites[edit | edit source]

A wiki artcle describing an online collection is found at:

Indiana, Death Index - FamilySearch Historical Records

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Worldcat This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.fckLRfckLR*Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w WorldCat 1770230 The full text available at Google BooksfckLRfckLRTo find more books and articles about Indiana 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Indiana history." FamilySearch Catalog Surnames Search lists many more histories under topics like: fckLRfckLR::INDIANA - HISTORY fckLR::INDIANA. [COUNTY] - HISTORY fckLR::INDIANA, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - HISTORY fckLR::INDIANA, BIBLIOGRAPHY