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begin in 1887, though there was at one time an earlier birth record volume, 1882-1886, and the Genealogy Center has an unpublished name-index-only manuscript (977.201 AL5hea) to that volume, created by the county, covering original volumes A-P, and apparently including the original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 The Grabill-New Haven-Woodburn Birth and Death Records span 1907 to 1937 and are available in a separate has an unpublished typescript abstract (Genealogy Center call number 977.201 AL5gra).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


How to Begin

June 24, 2010

Are you wanting to learn how to begin doing genealogy? Are you looking for a refresher on research basics? The Genealogy Center offers two online tutorials on getting started in genealogy.

The Mystery of Your Family History features a basic course on beginning your search, while How to Start Researching Your Family Tree offers a more in-depth tutorial.

Check out these online offerings and begin charting your family tree.

July 4th Hours

June 21, 2010

The Genealogy Center, along with the Allen County Public Library, will be closed Saturday July 3, Sunday July 4, and Monday July 5, in observance of the holiday. Use your holiday weekend to talk to relatives to gather and share family stories and activities. We will be back to our regular summer schedule on July 6th.

The next page is not always the next page

June 19, 2010

If you find a family listed at the top or bottom of a page in the census, take care about blithely hopping to the “previous” or “next” page. Occasionally pages are out of order, so that the family’s continuation is actually not on the page one would assume it will be. If the enumerator has written the surnames in every line, or at least at the top of the next page, this may be easily seen, but sometimes one has to check the page numbers to determine if you are really seeing entries for the rest of the family. However, this

Oktibbeha County, MS, 1930, Enumeration District 24-16, page 2B

example from Oktibbeha County, MS in 1930 lists parents William T. and Lucy Cothran with sons Pope M. and Carl C. on page 2B, while the rest of the household, sons William and James and Lucy’s father, Pope Williams are at the top of page 2 A.

Oktibbeha County, MS, 1930, Enumeration District 24-16, page 2A

Only the dwelling and family visitation numbers reflect the fact that this is a family. So instead of going to the next page, to find the continuation of the family, one must look at the top of the previous page. So remember to examine your material thoroughly to verify that the family grouping is complete and correct.

Missing Ancestor: Gone to California — and Prison?

June 15, 2010

If you have an ancestor who disappeared from the old homestead and family memory between 1851 and 1944, he or she might have gone to the Golden State to make a fortune, but found trouble instead. The Genealogy Center has San Quentin Prison List of Convicts (979.4 M33RO and M33ROA) which provides an alphabetical list of inmates with their convict numbers. The introduction cautions a researcher to be aware that first and last names were occasionally reversed, and that, of course, spelling of names could be inaccurate. No further information is provided in the index, but there is a guide to the years in which specific numbers were issued to narrow down a search. The records themselves are held by the California State Archives.

World Vital Records.com

June 11, 2010

Another database available at the Genealogy Center is WorldVitalRecords.com. The online site takes a different approach to searching for family history. Besides offering you access to information off their site, such as vital records and military records, they are a clearinghouse that guides you to other genealogy web sites. For example, you can search for one individual and find links to Find A Grave, Newspaper Archive, National Personnel Records Center, Footnote, Find My Past, and the Godfrey Collection.

Where Did I Find …?

June 8, 2010

It is never too late to start logging your sources. Knowing where you gathered particular details on an ancestor is very important in your research. When evaluating incongruous information, reviewing which source the details are from can help you decide what is more accurate. Another reason to keep track of your sources is so others can verify or follow-up on your research.

Some ways you can keep track of where you found information on your ancestors are:

1. Maintain a log of sources in a notebook or on your genealogy software.

2. Copy the title page of sources you have viewed.

3. Note materials you have searched, but in which you did not find information. It prevents you from repeatedly returning to the same source.