Hints for Indiana Vital Record Searches

By John

Indiana birth and death records can sometimes be confusing to use, especially in Lake and Allen counties. When the act creating the State Board of Health was passed in 1881, many individual cities established their own local health departments, which gathered birth and death information in separate books from those of the county. For most counties, these records were gathered together and published in single volumes by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, typically covering the period 1882 to 1920. Most of these are available in a statewide index on Ancestry.

In Lake and Allen (and perhaps a few other counties as well), not all of the indexes were combined. Lake County, for example, had a county office, as well as separate offices at Crown Point, East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Hobart, and Whiting. The WPA published these records in individual volumes, so if you have ancestors in that county, you may wish to search all of the volumes.

Allen County is more problematic. In the early twentieth century, separate health departments existed for the county, as well as in Fort Wayne, Monroeville, Grabill, New Haven, Woodburn, and Leo. The WPA volume included only the Fort Wayne and County birth and death reports. Death records for the county begin in 1882; deaths for Fort Wayne begin earlier, in 1870. Birth records begin in 1887, though there was at one time an earlier birth record volume, 1882-1886, and the Genealogy Center has an unpublished name-index-only manuscript (977.201 AL5hea) to that volume, created by the county, covering original volumes A-P, and apparently including the original 1882-86 book, which is now no longer extant. This index does not include the birth date information or parents’ names – only the name of the child and the page reference in the original book.

The records for the other towns were not included in the WPA volume. If your ancestor was born or died in one of these other Allen County town or in the country near these towns, he or she may not appear in the Allen County birth and death indexes, or, for that matter, in the Ancestry index. The Monroeville Birth and Death Records cover the period 1906, 1909-1937. These volumes have been microfilmed and are indexed in a separate bound volume (Genealogy Center call number 977.201 AL5mon). The Grabill-New Haven-Woodburn Birth and Death Records span 1907 to 1937 and are available in a separate has an unpublished typescript abstract (Genealogy Center call number 977.201 AL5gra). The Leo vital records have not been published and remain in the office of the Allen County Department of Health.

So when researching Allen County, be aware that there is no central index of all public vital records in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While the reporting of births and deaths was never complete, it is possible that the event was recorded in one of these separate town vital record office books. Perhaps one day all of these indexes will be combined into a single source.

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One Response to Hints for Indiana Vital Record Searches

  1. [...] One thing we almost always learn from such careful examinations is that the popular derivative sources (in this case the typescript WPA indexes and the Ancestry.com database derived from them) are not always complete, or as simple to use as one might think. There’s more going on here than the usual problem of derivative sources being copied at several removes from the original records. Check it out! [...]

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