First explored for France by Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, in 1679–1680, the region figured importantly in the Franco-British struggle for North America that culminated with British victory in 1763. George Rogers Clark led American forces against the British in the area during the Revolutionary War and, prior to becoming a state, Indiana was the scene of frequent Indian uprisings until the victories of Gen. Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers in 1794 and Gen. William Henry Harrison at Tippecanoe in 1811.

The State of Indiana was organized as territory on May 7, 1800 and entered the union as the 19th state on Dec. 11, 1816. It has 92 Counties. The capital is Indianapolis and the official state website is http://www.in.gov/.

How to Search for Indiana Genealogy Data

Indiana is among the Midwestern states that have seen a huge amount of “traffic” as the United States grew and expanded. Because of this, there is a large demand for information relating to the genealogy of those who passed through or settled in this primarily agricultural region. Today, there is an impressive array of resources for Indiana genealogy researchers available.

Effective Methods to Use for Indiana Genealogy – Many researchers quickly discover that, in their search for Indiana genealogy data, they can use many of the state’s online resources to begin acquiring facts and copies of the materials they need. Just because there are so many resources online, however, it does not imply that all of the information has been put online.

We already mentioned that Indiana is well ahead of many other states in terms of digitizing a large number of archives, but there are still many groups that have not yet been able to afford to tackle such a project. This means that anyone doing research for an Indiana genealogy project will also have to familiarize themselves with offline locations that will be of use to their efforts. It is extremely useful for genealogists to familiarize themselves with the tools to use for Indiana genealogy, and how to understand which are online resources, and which are not.

A Totally Modern Approach for Indiana Genealogy – Public records easily qualify as some of the most frequently used resources for Indiana genealogy, and they are found in the following categories:

  1. Vital Records – these will always cover the basic birth, marriage, divorce, and death records from county, state, and national archives. These might also contain newspaper items, military records, immigration and naturalization details, cemetery or obituary information, census records, and passenger lists and records as well. These are going to be available as online or offline resources for Indiana genealogy.
  2. State Records – from probate information to surname lists, state census information, private manuscripts, newspapers, military or veterans information, marriage details, maps, land records, genealogical folders, estate information, deeds, death records, cemetery information, birth certificates and more; such records are available as online and offline resources for Indiana genealogy.
  3. Local Records – state research tends to begin in a county clerk’s office or website, and then moves on to the small local libraries, historical societies, local genealogical societies, and school or college libraries for Indiana genealogy data. These are materials that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.

Strong and Effective Tools for Indiana Genealogy – As a modern researcher, you will need to learn which tools work for Indiana genealogy, and which provide you with the most information for your particular project. Below we have indicated some of the strongest for Indiana genealogy, and which will be found in person or online at:

  • Vital Records, Indiana State Department of Health, P.O. Box 7125, Indianapolis, IN 46206-7125; Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/indiana.htm . This is where anyone can order birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request or even online.

Additional state and local records can be found at the:

  • Indiana State Archives, 6440 East 30th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46219; Website: http://www.in.gov/icpr/2358.htm . Indiana is going to great lengths to get their archives online. They have a very progressive group of organizations and individuals (including more than six partner states) working to get historical and genealogical data available to the public via the Internet.

Finally, these three popular websites provide a tremendous amount of state-specific details to those in search of details for Indiana genealogy projects.

Finally, these websites provide a tremendous amount of state-specific details to those in search of facts for Colorado genealogy projects.

Indiana Ethnic Group Research

African Americans – The 1787 Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in what later became Indiana. However, that didn’t stop French households at Vincennes from keeping slaves in the late 1700s and early 1800s. An 1802 repeal request was sent to Congress because residents believed that legalizing slavery would encourage new settlers to come to the area. That petition was denied, but the government allowed slaves to be brought to the area as of 1805 and kept for indentures that were “longer-than-life.”

When the state’s government was transferred from a governor to a 43-delegate convention leading up to statehood, the subject of slavery came up again. In 1816 a ruling prohibited it. However, the constitution of the state allowed owners to keep 190 slaves that were listed on the 1820 census records. Slavery was made completely illegal in the southeast part of the state. Then, in the 1820s, it was made illegal statewide by the Indiana Supreme Court. Nevertheless, as of the 1830s there were still a few slaves in Indiana. Even free African Americans were not given the rights to testify in a court of law, marry white people, or vote. However, it was common for them to marry Native Americans.

Intermarriage was fairly common in Indiana’s early history. So, researchers need to take that into account. Researchers should also note that several free African Americans owned their own land. Indiana was also a major Underground Railroad hub. In the 1870s the Indiana-based Emigrant Aid Society helped African Americans move to Indianapolis from North Carolina by the thousands.

  • McDougald, Lois. Negro Migration into Indiana, 1800–1860. Bloomington: the author, 1945.
  • Lyda, John W. The Negro History of Indiana. Terre Haute, Ind.: the author, 1953.
  • Thornbrough, Emma Lou. The Negro in Indiana: A Study of a Minority. Indiana Historical Collections. Vol. 37. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1957.
  • Witcher, Curt Bryan. Bibliography of Sources for Black Family History in the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Department. Fort Wayne: Allen County Public Library, 1986.
  • Indiana African American Books (amazon.com)

Native-Americans – St. Mary’s Treaty, which was enacted in 1818, ceded land in the middle of the state from the Delaware tribe and others to the United States. That land was called “The New Purchase” and the purchase of it caused the Delaware people to move to the Mississippi River’s West. From 1820 onward the two main tribes still in Indiana were the Potawatomi and the Miami. In 1826 a “trade” was made that gave some of their lands to the United States for the Erie and Wabash Canals, as well as the Michigan Road. The remaining Native Americans were removed from the state in the 1830s as part of the 1830 Federal Indian Removal Act. The Potawatomi were supposed to be removed in 1838, but some of them resisted. That led to an armed militia marching 800 of them out of the area in a march that was so tragic that it was given the name “Trail of Death.”

The Miami were required to move out of the state by the Treaty of 1840. They were to move to Kansas, but they didn’t actually do so until 1846. Also, several Miami families were allowed to stay in the Fort Wayne region.

  • Dillion, J.B. National Decline of the Miami Indians. Indianapolis: Indiana State Historical Society, 1897.
  • Rafert, Stewart. “American-Indian Genealogical Research in the Midwest: Resources and Perspectives,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 76 (September 1988): 212-24. See more detail in Wisconsin—Native American.
  • ——. The Hidden Community: The Miami Indians of Indiana, 1846–1940. N.p.: the author, 1982.
  • Witcher, Curt Bryan. Bibliography of Sources for Native American Family History in the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Department. Fort Wayne: Allen County Public Library, 1988.
  • Indiana Native American Books (amazon.com)

Other Ethnic Groups – From 1850 through 1920, Indiana’s population was never more than 10% foreign-born. Those that were foreign-born were mainly Germans. The German culture thrived in the state, thanks to the founding of German social clubs, churches, and schools.

There were also several Irish immigrants in the area, and some immigrants came from eastern and southern Europe. However, none of those groups were particularly prominent in the region.