Indiana can be a difficult place to conduct genealogy research. There are few states which seem to have so few apparent records as Indiana, which can make any researcher wary of looking for ancestors in the ‘Crossroads of America’.
We’ve had three patrons in two weeks ask a few of the same questions: How do I search for Indiana records? Why isn’t there a lot of records available on Ancestry or Family Search Labs? Where can I find the records I’m looking for?
Checking the Facts on Indiana Records Access
In my years of research, the folks at the Indiana Genealogical Society (IGS) have been very generous and helpful with my questions. So when I contacted
IGS Corresponding Secretary and Query Editor Marlene Polster to pose the question which has taunted genealogists since the advent of internet research: ‘Why are Indiana records so hard to find online?’ Marlene was quick to respond to my e-mail.
“The reason why there isn’t much for Indiana on Ancestry or Familysearch.org is because they don’t have the information.” Marlene wrote. “Familysearch is just now digitizing the Indiana marriages, however the images will not be going online because of a agreement made by the clerks and the Indiana Superior Courts. However they do have some of the church records for Indiana Micorfilm, but not online yet.”
Well, there goes the all-nighter genealogy marathon I’d been hoping for.
Popular Online Offerings
Let’s take stock of what is auto-magically available online.
Ancestry and FamilySearch offer Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941; Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920; Indiana Births, 1880-1920; Indiana Marriages, 1802-1892; and Indiana Marriages to 1850.
The Indiana State Digital Archives offers a solid collection of materials from institutional and military records to an excellent array of naturalization records. It’s important to note that these death records for the state are based solely though the Social Security Death Index, so you won’t have access to records for anyone with out a Social Security Number.
Finding more than the Census on Censusfinder
A secret weapon for accessing interesting, obscure, and sometimes highly useful information is Censusfinder.com. The Indiana Censusfinder page lists online records by county, so you’ll need to have a solid location for your ancestor. Records available vary from county to county, and are updated and maintained by volunteers. So if you don’t see a lot of information for the county you need, don’t loose hope. Censusfinder offers free records for every US state, Canadian province, and UK county.
Ordering Death Certificates from the State of Indiana
Most death certificates have to be ordered by each individual county vital records office, and the price varies from place to place. On average, most offices charge between $5 to $20 per certificate, and may or may not include a genealogy research fee.
A full list of county offices and fees can be found at: http://www.in.gov/isdh/20422.htm
You can get buy with a little help from the IGS
There is a great deal of information to be found online at the Indiana Genealogical Society (IGS) website, which offers a fair share of free and members only databases. I found a list of all IGS online records at http://www.indgensoc.org/membersonly/databases_list.pdf. There’s a very comprehensive selection of cemetery, school, military, business, and tax records available. You’ll really have to visit this site to see how these IGS records can impact your research.
Belonging to IGS will not give you a discount to the vital records in Indiana. Many counties in Indiana to not use Vital Check, so be prepared to send your request by mail to a county vital records office or county court house.
Note: Membership for the IGS runs from January 1 to December 31 every year, and the membership fee is not pro-rated. So make sure to budget for full membership no matter what time of year you join.
Tips and Information You Need to Know
In your search for family history in Indiana, Marlene said most records are still in book form at the local county level. Researchers should be checking the local libraries websites in the counties they require, along with contacting local genealogical, and historical societies. Marlene also suggests taking a road trip to the Porter County Public Library in Valparaiso Indiana, which provides a lot of information for each county in the state of Indiana. This library is only an hour drive from Bolingbrook. Marlene added she considers it the second best library in the state next to Allen County (Fort Wayne).
As your friendly librarian, my advice is to set yourself a genealogy budget and stick to it. Keep your stamps and self addressed envelopes handy. Make sure your patience is ample supply. Online records for Indiana might not be available tomorrow, but there are great records out there today if you you’re willing to invest in the search to find them.
Wishing you happy trails on your way through the ‘Crossroads of America’,