African American Resources for Indiana

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Introduction

To learn how to get started with African American research, find research facilities, and websites click here.

Online Resources


Research Strategy

History

There were many African-Americans in Indiana dating from the early 1800s. In 1850, the federal government passed laws that endangered the liberties of free blacks in the South. At that time, many migrated north, some with Canada in mind as a destination. Some of these stopped in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and formed communities, often near Quakers. By about 1852, there were approximately 3,000 free African-Americans in Indiana. Free blacks often followed the migration patterns of their white neighbors. Large numbers of blacks in Indiana in the mid-19th century came to the state from North Carolina or Virginia. Some of the black Indiana farmers of the mid-1800s were large landowners.

In 1825 the Indiana General Assembly passed a resolution directed toward African Americans to provide for the gradual emancipation of slaves and foreign colonization. In 1830 the Negro Convention Movement peaked nationally with increased interest in 1850's. The movement encouraged the African Americans to organize and devise ways to improve their condition. The Anti-Slavery Society was formed in Wayne County, Indiana by Quakers in 1840 as an auxiliary to the Indiana State Anti-Slavery Society. Records of the Economy Anti-Slavery Society reflect the organization's effort to stop the practice of slavery and the racial exclusion laws. In 1851 Indiana revised its Constitution preventing "new" black residents from entering or settling in the state. An 1852 act established a "Register of Negroes and Mulattoes" to be maintained by county clerks. Beginning in 1877, the state census enumerations listed the name and age of white male residents 21 or over and a separate list of names of African American males 21 or over. These names are listed under the heading "Negro".

See Early Black Settlements and Being Black in Indiana to learn more about African Americans in early Indiana history. Moment of Indiana History: Indiana's African-American History also discusses African Americans in Indiana history.

The following books and periodicals contain histories, bibliographies, and essays about African Americans in Indiana:

  • Gibbs, Wilma L., ed. Indiana’s African-American Heritage: Essays from Black History News & Notes. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society, 1994. FHL book 977.2 F2i This contains many insightful articles on education, culture, women, and history and includes some biographical sketches of noteworthy African Americans.
  • Thornbrough, Emma Lou. The Negro in Indiana Before 1900: A Study of a Minority. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1993. FHL book 977.2 F2t. This book details the population changes and social history of African Americans in Indiana.
  • Robbins, Coy D., comp. Indiana Negro Registers, 1852–1865. Bowie, Maryland.: Heritage Books, 1994. FHL book 977.2 F2r. The lists are alphabetical by county and give name, age, physical description, place of birth, residence, names of witnesses, and date registered. This book includes records of 2,138 free African-Americans in 15 counties: Bartholomew, Floyd, Franklin, Gibson, Harrison, Hendricks, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Knox, Martin, Ohio, Orange, Switzerland, and Washington.
  • Taylor, Robert M. Jr. and Connie A. McBirney, eds. Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society, 1996. FHL book 977.2 F2p. This 703-page book gives the background history of 30 ethnic groups.
  • Hine, Darlene Clark, The black women in the Middle West Project. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society, 1986. FHL book 977 F2h

For a listing of books about minorities, such as the African Americans, see the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

INDIANA-MINORITIES

Resources

Biographies

Cemeteries

INGenWeb has pages for all of the counties in Indiana. Some of these counties have transcribed their cemetery records and/or uploaded photographs of the tombstones. These are available online.

The Indiana Genealogical Society has indexed many cemeteries in Indiana. Some of these indexes are available on their website for free. To find these indexes, visit INDGenSoc County Records.


Census Records

Beginning in 1877, the state census enumerations listed the name and age of white male residents 21 or over and a separate list of names of African American males 21 or over. These names are listed under the heading "Negro". A few fragments of the 1877 census are at the Indiana State Archives. These are not on microfilm at the Family History Library. County offices might have the original records.

Index to the Blacks, Mulattoes, and Indians, 1870 Federal Population Census of Indiana. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1987. FHL film 1509480 ( first of 5). The names are listed alphabetically.

Index to the Blacks, Mulattoes, and Indians, 1880 Federal Census of Indiana. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1987. FHL film 1509284 item 2 (first of 8). The names are listed alphabetically.

Church Records

The Indiana Genealogical Society has made a few church histories available online for free. To find these histories, visit INDGenSoc County Records.

Emancipation Records

Funeral Homes

The Indiana Genealogical Society has made a few funeral home records available online for free:

Genealogies

Land and Property

Plantation

Oral Histories

Other Records

Military Records

The Indiana Genealogical Society has made many Indiana military records available online for free. To find these records, visit INDGenSoc Military Records.

Newspapers

Probate Records

Reconstruction Records

Freedman's Bank

An excellent source is the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (visit the African American Freedman's Savings and Trust Company Records page to learn more). This company was created to assist African American soldiers of the Civil War and freed slaves. Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company signature cards or registers from 3 March 1865 to 25 July 1874 may list the name of the depositor, date of entry, age, birthplace, residence, complexion, name of employer or occupation, wife or husband’s name, death information, children’s names, name of father and mother, brothers’ and sisters’ names, remarks, and signature. Early books sometimes contained the name of the former master or mistress and the name of the plantation. Copies of death certificates were sometimes attached to the entries. The collection is organized alphabetically by state, then city where the bank was located, then date the account was established, then account number.

Online collections of Freedman's Bank records:

Freedmen's Bureau

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was created by the US government in 1865 until 1872 to assist former slaves in the southern United States. The Bureau created a wide variety of records extremely valuable to genealogists. Such documents include censuses, marriage records, and medical records. These records often include full names, former masters and plantations, and current residences.[1] For 1865 and 1866, the section on abandoned and confiscated lands includes the names of the owners of the plantations or homes that were abandoned, confiscated, or leased. It gives the county and location, a description of the house, the number of acres owned, and the number of cabins of former slaves. These films do not appear to contain the names of former slaves.

To find Freedmen's Bureau records:

Other FamilySearch collections not included:

Visit the African American Freedmen's Bureau Records page to learn more about utilizing these records.

School Records

Slavery Records

The Family History Library has microfilms for some slavery records in Indiana. These are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

INDIANA, [COUNTY]- SLAVERY AND BONDAGE

Index to the Blacks, Mulattoes, and Indians, 1870 Federal Population Census of Indiana. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1987. FHL film 1509480 ( first of 5). The names are listed alphabetically.

Index to the Blacks, Mulattoes, and Indians, 1880 Federal Census of Indiana. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1987. FHL film 1509284 item 2 (first of 8). The names are listed alphabetically.

Vital Records

Birth

  • Indiana, Birth Certificates, 1907-1940 - lists name, birth date and place, gender, legitimacy, number of children of the mother, and parents' names, residence, race, age, birthplace, and occupation

Marriage

  • Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 - information listed can include the marriage date and place and the bride and groom's name, gender, race, age, birth date and place, and parents

The Freedmen's Bureau (1865-1872) was created by the US government to assist former slaves in the southern United States. One of their responsibilities was to record the marriages (past and present) of the former slaves. These records can be found in the collections below and include the lists of marriages that occurred previously, marriage certificates, and marriage licenses. The information contained on the records may include the name of the husband and wife/groom and bride, age, occupation, residence, year or date of marriage, by whom, number of children, and remarks.

Death

Divorce

Voting Registers

Archives and Libraries

Indiana University: Archives of African American Music and Culture
2805 E. Tenth St., Suite 180-181
Bloomington, Indiana 47408-4662
Phone: (812) 855-8547

The Archives of African American Music and Culture is a repository of materials covering a range of African American musical idioms and culture expressions from the post-World War II era.

Societies

Indiana Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 10507
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46852-0507

The Indiana Genealogical Society has many online databases; some are free but most are only available for members of the society. See Premium Databases for a list of all of the databases available for members. See FREE Databases for a list of all of the free databases available. The free databases contain records such as: indexes to cemeteries, funeral home records, business and phone directories, county and church histories, school records, indexes to probate records, military records, and death records. Go to Databases to access these records.

Indiana African American Genealogy Group
P.O. Box 1811
Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-1811

The IAAGG was created to enhance the availability of resources for the study of African American genealogy.


References

  1. "African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau," "African American Heritage," National Archives, accessed 11 May 2018.