Hints for Indiana Vital Record Searches

June 29, 2010

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begin in 1887, though there was at one time an earlier birth record volume, 1882-1886, and the Genealogy Center has an unpublished name-index-only manuscript (977.201 AL5hea) to that volume, created by the county, covering original volumes A-P, and apparently including the original 1882-86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 The Grabill-New Haven-Woodburn Birth and Death Records span 1907 to 1937 and are available in a separate has an unpublished typescript abstract (Genealogy Center call number 977.201 AL5gra).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.


Blizzard of’78

January 24, 2010

It started on Wednesday, January 25, 1978, with snow, cold and wind. By afternoon, a blizzard warning had been issued for the state, and businesses were closing down. By the next morning, 17 inches of snow had fallen on Fort Wayne, temperatures were in the single digits, and additional snow fall drifted in front of the wind to make visibility poor and driving dangerous. Emergency workers and essential personnel struggled to aid victims and begin the clean up, but for several days, most residents stayed home or visited neighbors, and enjoyed the enforced vacation before emerging to gaze in awe at snowdrifts that might reach the roof. A number of collections of blizzard photographs were scanned for inclusion in the Allen County Public Library’s Community Album, and are available for viewing. If you have a similar collection you are willing to loan, we’d love to include your visual memories as well.

Allen County and Fort Wayne Obituary Index

December 18, 2009

Among the Genealogy Center’s most popular databases is one for local obituaries. This index covers area deaths listed in Fort Wayne newspapers, and is separated into two parts. The first part of the index, covering 1841 to 1899, was originally printed in book form, and, as specific newspaper titles and precise dates are not included, locating a specific item can be challenging.

The second part of the index, which provides specific citations, begins with 1900. New citations are added regularly by staff and volunteers to cover recent deaths, and to add material which was missed in earlier versions. Microfilm copies of these newspapers are located in the Genealogy Center’s microtext collection, which can be used onsite, and, for those out-of-area researchers, copies can be obtained by sending an email request to Genealogy@ACPL.Info. Copies are mailed, so mailing addresses should be included in requests. Cost is $2.50 per obituary, billed when the material is sent.


December 1, 2009

Genealogy Center staff members are always answering the question, “Why genealogy in Fort Wayne?” So we thought a little bit of how our collection came to be in order. But the idea of having the largest genealogy collection in a public library did not spring into someone’s mind as a single idea, and it took a number of steps to build what we know today.

Less than a decade after the dedication of the Carnegie Library on West Wayne Street, the Mary Penrose Wayne Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution asked for, and was granted, space on the library’s shelves for copies of the society’s lineage books and other research material. Later, the chapter was encouraged to donate family or biographical histories to the DAR shelves, eventually building to about 400 volumes.

Another facet of the Center’s history involves two men, a station wagon and lots of road trips. During the 1930s and 1940s, library director Rex Potterf, and employee Fred Reynolds roamed the highways of the Midwest, visiting used book stores and estate sales, buying used books to stock the library. Among the fiction, general interest and children’s books were many family and county historical sources. But the actual formation of the Genealogy Department waited until Reynolds became Library Director, when the local DAR began encouraging the library to “do something for genealogists.” Reynolds responded by opening the Indiana History and Genealogy Room on January 3, 1961. The decades that followed saw the collection grow not only by donations and purchases, but also in untraditional methods. These methods included the photocopy exchange programs with researchers and other libraries, and arrangements such as the one with R.L. Polk & Company which supplied copies of the city directories the company published.

Of course, there is a great deal more to the history of the Collection in Dawne Slater-Putt’s Beyond Books: Allen County’s Public Library History, 1895-1995, from which this information has been taken, and future posts will provide snippets, but we in Fort Wayne are very proud of how all of the little pieces came together to create our facility. Far beyond a shelf and a station wagon, the Genealogy Center now accepts electronic files and indexes, and digitizes family Bible records, photographs, and military records for the various databases the Center’s webpage hosts. We’ve come so far in less than fifty years. Stay tuned for what comes next!