Step-by-Step Indiana Research, 1850-1900
A suggested approach to genealogy research in Indiana online family history records.
See also How to Use "Record Hints"[edit | edit source]
In this period of Indiana, census records are the most valuable record because statewide civil registration does not begin until 1907. Collecting vital records and cemetery/obituary records will then provide clues for searches in even earlier census records. Then, there are a variety of records that take a bit more work, but can produce good results. Collecting all the available information may make it possible to piece together a puzzle, even if no one record completely describes your family!
Step 1. Find out everything you can from living relatives and their family records:[edit | edit source]
What should you ask?[edit | edit source]
In order to extend your research on your ancestors, you are looking for names, dates, and places. Everything you learn that tells you about when and where a relative lived is a clue to a new record search. Be sure to ask questions that lead to that information, including about their occupations, military service, or associations with others, such as fraternal organizations. See also:
- Fifty Questions for Family History Interviews What to Ask the Relatives
- Genealogy: 150 questions to ask family members about their lives
- Creating Oral Histories
What documents should you look for and ask to copy?[edit | edit source]
Family Members Born After 1940[edit | edit source]
Because the most recent census available was taken in 1940, family documents and the knowledge of living family members play a vital role in identifying these people. Once you have learned names, places of residence, and clues to estimate approximate birth date, the next important step is to send for birth, marriage, and death records for them. Skip to Step 3: Find birth, marriage, and death certificates for your ancestors and their children.
Using the clues to lead to census record searches.[edit | edit source]
- Suppose that your home records, you find this family Bible record for your Indiana ancestors. You notice that although the dates given for deaths are in the 1940's, many of the birth dates seem to be in the 1890's. Therefore, most of these people should be listed in the 1900 census of Indiana.
- we find a family in the to the 1900 census of Perry, Martin, Indiana. Click on the link to see the search results. Most of the names in the index match up nicely with names in the family Bible.
- The index has a link to the image of the actual census record. Now, since the 1900 census lists the month and year of birth, we compare the birth dates in the family Bible and the census, and we realize that you have indeed found this family in the 1900 census.:
- We notice that the parent of this family were born in the late 1850's. So we decide to look for Patrick E. Grannon in earlier census records--working back from 1880, through 1870, and 1860. Click on the links to see that we found Patrick living with his parents, Patrick and Phoebe A.
Step 2: Search the 1900, 1880, 1870, 1860, and 1850 census records online.[edit | edit source]
A census is a count and description of the population of a country, state, county, or city for a given date. A census took a "snapshot" of a family on a certain day. For each person living in a household you might find (depending on the year) their name, age, birthplace, relationship to head of household, place of birth for father and mother, citizenship status, year of immigration, mother of how many children and number of children living, native language, and whether they were a veteran of the military.
To learn more about census records, including search strategies, see United States Census Records for Beginners.
Look at the samples of census records below to become familiar with the types of information found in each.
United States census records[edit | edit source]
1900 U.S. Census[edit | edit source]
- The 1900 census is particularly helpful because it states month and year of birth, how many children a woman has born, the year of immigration to the U.S., among other things.
1880 U.S. Census[edit | edit source]
1870 U.S. Census[edit | edit source]
1860 U.S. Census[edit | edit source]
1850 U.S. Census[edit | edit source]
Census Links to Start Your Own Research in Census Records[edit | edit source]
Now you will want to find your family members in every possible census, using these convenient links:
- Note: The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire.
- You will want to find and keep notes on census records from every census during each ancestor's lifetime.
- With the census records you will be able to estimate approximate birth dates and marriage dates. These records will lead you to new searches because you will find the names of other members of the family. You will find clues to other states and countries your family lived in before coming to Indiana.
In steps 3 and 4, we will use what we learned from the census records to help search for birth, marriage, and death records. But first, we will try to gather more clues from several collections of death, obituary, and cemetery records that may give us clues that help us search for birth and marriage records.
Step 3: Try to find additional details about your ancestors in Social Security, obituary and cemetery records online.[edit | edit source]
U.S. Social Security Death Index[edit | edit source]
The U.S. Social Security program began in 1935 but most deaths recorded in the index happened after 1962. The Social Security Death index includes those who had a Social Security number and/or applied for benefits. The index entries give the person's full birth date, last known residence, and residence at the time they first enrolled. Women are listed under their married name at the time of their death. You can search these records online at United States Social Security Death Index. Also at Ancestry.com, ($), index.
The Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off, by providing information filed in the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. Unless the deceased would be at least 75 years old today, the parents' names are not published. You will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI, as criteria for inclusion differs.
If you find your ancestor in the SSDI index, you can order a copy of their original Social Security application (SS-5). If you can prove the individual has died (by sending an obituary or copy of their cemetery headstone), the application will also give the deceased's parents' names, if listed.
Obituaries and cemeteries[edit | edit source]
Obituaries[edit | edit source]
- Frequently, a death is announced in the newspaper with an obituary.
- These obituaries may supply missing birth or death dates and name the parents of the deceased.
- Obituaries may also name family members, their spouses, their current residences, and whether they died before the person or are still surviving, especially in obituaries written in the last half of the 20th Century.
- Try these Indiana links:
Cemeteries[edit | edit source]
- Cemetery records may only give the names and dates stated on the tombstone, but as in the case of FindAGrave, sometimes pictures of the deceased and their tombstone, children's or parents' names and links to their graves, and marriage information have been added. Always verify information added by others.
- Frequently family members are buried in the same cemetery often in neighboring plots.
- Try these Indiana links:
- Web: Indiana and Michigan, Michiana Genealogical Cemetery Index, 1800-2010 ($)
- Indiana Cemetery Records at Interment.net.
- BillionGraves Indiana Cemeteries.
- Cemetery Junction Indiana by D'Addezio.
- Surname index to Roster of soldiers and patriots of the American Revolution buried in Indiana, vol. I & II ($)
- African American Cemeteries Online
- Indiana Deaths and Burials, 1750-1993, index.
NOTE: Each database covers different cemeteries, although some may overlap. Don't be discouraged if you do not locate your individual in the first database. Check each collection.
- Here is a typical Find A Grave record:
Step 4: Find birth, marriage, and death certificates for your ancestors and their children.[edit | edit source]
States, counties, or even towns in some states recorded births, marriages, and deaths. You have probably seen these types of certificates and have your own. In addition to the child's name, birth date, and place of birth, a birth certificate may give the birthplaces of the parents, their ages, and occupations. A death certificate may give the person's birth date and place, parents' names and birthplaces, and spouse's name.
Remember that for family members born after 1940 you do not have census records to rely on. The information from interviewing family members will hopefully give you enough detail that you know approximate years of birth, marriage, or death. Sending for certificates will help verify identities, prove relationships, and fill in greater detail.
Studying what you have found:[edit | edit source]
- Review what you have found to see if there is missing information that could be found in a birth, marriage, or death record for your ancestors and their children.
- If you are missing the names of parents, find a person's death certificate. It may contain the names of the deceased's parents, which would extend your pedigree back one more generation.
- If you find a child listed in a census record, try to find a birth record to learn their full birth date.
- If a married couple is shown in the census records and you need the wife's maiden name, search for their marriage record or her death record. The mother's maiden name should also be given in her children's birth records.
Online databases[edit | edit source]
- This chart gives links to some Indiana online databases for these records. These are indexes of records. Frequently, the actual record will give greater detail.
Also, see How to Find Indiana Birth Records.
Also, see How to Find Indiana Marriage Records.
Also, see How to Find Indiana Death Records.
Examples of Index Entries[edit | edit source]
Birth Index[edit | edit source]
Marriage Index[edit | edit source]
Indiana marriage record "Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XXN9-BGJ : accessed 24 February 2016), Patrick E Grannan in entry for Frank B Grannan and Antoinette Weber, 1925.
Death[edit | edit source]
Birth records lead to other searches[edit | edit source]
- If a birth record gave you parents names you did not have before, you can return to the census records again and search for additional family members.
- Search the birth index again using only the surname and the parents' names to find other additional children.
- If the time period is early enough, try searching for the parents as children in the birth index.
- With the additional family names discovered, look for marriage records for the parents and their children.
Records at the County Courthouse[edit | edit source]
From the date of the formation of a county until the establishment of state civil registration, birth and marriage records were kept by the County Clerk. They may have been microfilmed, or you can write for them. It is appropriate to write asking for either a single record or for a list of all the marriages for a given surname. This Letter Writing Guide will help you with phrasing a letter. This online directory by Genealogy Inc. will give you the address of the County Clerk. Click on the map to select a county, then scroll down to the "Courthouse and Government Records" to find the address and phone number.
If you are at the main Family History Library, check first to see if microfilms of the county vital records are available. In the search field of the FamilySearch Catalog, enter the state and county. Then click on the "Vital Records" subject. The cost of renting the microfilms at a Family History Center probably makes it less expensive to just write to the County Clerk.
Step 5: Search military records: World War I and II draft cards and Civil War pension records online.[edit | edit source]
- There are many different types of military records, some covered in online collections, some microfilmed, and some requiring you to order them from government repositories with a fee. For more information, read the U.S. Military Records Class Handout. Information in military records can vary from a simple lists of name, age, and residence, to more detailed records including name, residence, age, occupation, marital status, birthplace, physical description, number of dependents, pensions received, disabled veterans, needy veterans, widows or orphans of veterans, and other information.
World War 1 Draft Registration[edit | edit source]
- One of the most helpful military records is the draft registration of 1917-1918. During three separate registrations, men born between 1873-1897 were required to register in the draft for World War I. Cards may give birth date, birth place, residence, occupation, employer, physical description, next of kin (usually the wife or mother), and number of dependents. Search for your male relatives born in this time period at U.S. WW I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
- Here is an example of a typical draft card.
World War II Draft Registration[edit | edit source]
Likewise, the World War II draft in 1942 may give birth date, birth place, residence, occupation, employer, and other family members as contacts. Not every state is included now. Although the draft cards for Indiana are not included, draft cards for men born in Indiana but living in an included state during the draft" can still be found. Search for your male relatives born in this time period at
- U.S. WW II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, index and images.
Civil War Pensions[edit | edit source]
- Pensions were given to Union Civil War soldiers who sustained war-related disabilities from the Federal Government.
- There are several Civil War pension indexes online:
- United States Civil War and Later Pension Index, 1861-1917 at FamilySearch
- General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934, Civil War at Ancestry - $
- Civil War Pensions Index at Fold3 - $
- United States Civil War Widows and Other Dependents Pension Files, 1861-1934 This collection indexes approved pension case files of widows and other dependents of soldiers submitted between 1861 and 1934 and sailors between 1910 and 1934. The wife's maiden name is used along with her married name.
This collection consists of two card indexes to widows who had applied for a pension renewal. The first covers service between 1812-1860 and the second covers service in the Civil War and later. This is helpful in locating a woman in census and death records under her new surname.
Pension Records for Other Wars[edit | edit source]
- This record might help by naming a wife or widow of a Revolutionary War veteran who settled in Indiana: U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications, 1800-1900 Index
- This record is comprised mostly of Native American names, year of birth, and date of enlistment: U.S., Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914 Index and images.
- These records might help by naming a wife or widow of a veteran who settled in Indiana:
- U.S., Old War Pension Index, 1815-1926 Index Only.
- U.S., Index to Indian Wars Pension Files, 1892-1926 Index only.
- U.S., Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926 Index only.
- For a more complete list of available online military records and indexes, see United States Online Military Records.
Other Military Records Unique to Indiana[edit | edit source]
American Revolution[edit | edit source]
- Surname index to Roster of soldiers and patriots of the American Revolution buried in Indiana, vol. I & II ($)
- Indiana Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Register for Nineteen Hundred and Eight with Roll of Members and Their Revolutionary Ancestors and Other Information of Interest to the Society
- Roster of Members of the Society of Sons of the Revolution in the Commonweath of Indiana, 1899. Index.
- Revolutionary soldiers buried in Indiana; 300 names not listed in the roster of soldiers and patriots of the American Revolution buried in Indiana, e-book
War of 1812[edit | edit source]
- Indiana University-Purdue University Inianapolis, University Library Indiana Muster, Pay and Receipt Rolls, War of 1812.
Mexican War[edit | edit source]
Civil War[edit | edit source]
Spanish American War[edit | edit source]
Step 6: Use the clues you have gathered to search in earlier censuses than before.[edit | edit source]
Now you will use the clues you have gathered from the more recent census records, cemeteries and obituaries, and birth, marriage, and death records to search even earlier census records. Searching additional census records may give clues that take you back to birth, marriage, and death records. You will probably go back and forth between all these record groups again and again.
For example, we learned from the records we found that Patrick Grannan born in 1858 was married to Bridget Tucker, and Patrick Grannan born in 1811-1814 was married to Phoebe Ann Mullen. So we can search in earlier census records for the Tucker and Mullen families. Census records we find for them will then take us back into all the other record groups.
Again, here are the links to these earlier census records:
Step 7: If your ancestor was an immigrant, search immigration and naturalization records online.[edit | edit source]
The census records may show that your ancestor was born in another country. It will be necessary to try to find the town or city they were born in to continue research in that country. So searches of immigration records (usually passenger lists) and naturalization (citizenship) records are the next goal. Immigration refers to people coming into a country, such as the United States, and emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. Usually these records are passenger lists of the ships they sailed on. A typical record will show name, age, and country of origin, but many times you can find the actual town of birth, the next of kin still living in the old country and their residence, and the names of relatives in the place they are traveling to.
Here is a simple framework of what we have found so far:
Census clues to Immigration records[edit | edit source]
Census records can provide important clues about nationality and immigration. This chart lists data that can be found in each of the census records. Gather the information in the census records specifically about immigration, as it will help narrow down your search.
Immigration records[edit | edit source]
There are too many immigration records to list here. Click here to see a complete list of available immigration records online. Notice that they are listed by state, but under the letter "U" there is a long list of records that cover all of the United States. Unless family information tells you the port where family arrived, you will need to search all of the United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records for the time period when your ancestors arrived.
In this example of a passenger list, you see at #22, the family of Eduard Hepper of Gross Liebenthal travelling to Java, South Daokta.
Naturalization (Citizenship) Records[edit | edit source]
Naturalization is the process of becoming a citizen. Records can include the immigrant's declaration of intent to become a citizen, applications for citizenship, and final citizenship papers. The records can show birth date and place, spouse's name, marriage date and place, and lists of children with their birth dates. Click here to view examples of declaration of intent records and the information they give.
Indiana naturalization records are organized by county. Look for them in any county where the person lived, unless the census tells you the year they were naturalized, and you have evidence of where they lived that year.
Indiana Naturalization and Citizenship Online Records[edit | edit source]
Here are the naturalization records available from the Indiana Digital Archives for the surname Humbert (Louise Humbert Main's possible immigrant ancestors). We would want to order the full original files listed in this index. See How do I order copies of records from the Indiana State Archives?
Step 8: Search a printed local history or biography online.[edit | edit source]
Local histories[edit | edit source]
Biographies[edit | edit source]
These collections of Indiana biographies can be searched online. Most have a table of contents and an index. Or you can use the "Find" function on your computer.
Here is an example of the genealogical information you might find in Indiana history with biographies, from Men of progress, Indiana : a selected list of biographical sketches.....1899:
Step 9: Write to a county for wills and probate indexes.[edit | edit source]
County probate records[edit | edit source]
This Ancestry.com collection can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah: Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999, ($), index and images, incomplete.
Step 10: Search land records online.[edit | edit source]
Step 11: Contact a county historical or genealogical society.[edit | edit source]
This online directory by GenealogyInc. lists historical and genealogical societies by county. Click on the map to select a county, then scroll down to the historical or genealogical society listings. Note: some Indiana counties are so sparsely populated that they do not have the population to support a society.
Here is an example of an internet website for a local genealogical society. Notice that it gives details on how to pay for searching services.
Step_12:_If your family was African American, also search these specialized collections.[edit | edit source]
If your family was African American, they are generally recorded in all the above records. However, there are a few specialized records pertaining directly to African Americans.
Gather All the Evidence and Put It Together[edit | edit source]
After online research, search the collection at the Family History Library or a Family History Center.[edit | edit source]
Records are catalogued by location. Do these three searches for each place: Indiana; the county (or counties) where your ancestors lived; and the town (or towns) where they lived. After clicking on "Search", you will next see a list of topics. Click on any topic, and the list will expand to show the records available.
Search by state.[edit | edit source]
Search by county.[edit | edit source]
Search by town.[edit | edit source]
Index to holdings for a locality.[edit | edit source]
After you initiate a search for a locality, a list of topics (record types) for that will come up. Clicking on a topic will then show the available records.
Expanded list of library holdings, showing actual records and call numbers.[edit | edit source]