State Supreme Court Cases
The Indiana State Supreme Court has partnered with the Indiana State Archives in sponsorship of a new database of Indiana Supreme Court cases.
The cases begin with the first session in 1817 with Indiana’s entrance into the Union. Territorial Cases will soon be added. Researchers will notice some overlapping of court proceedings between the territorial period and statehood.
These historic cases involve freedom suits, Native American land claims, railroads, numerous criminal appeals, and legal disputes.
The database was created using an old system of index cards. Phase I of this enormous undertaking spans until approximately 1872. Phase II is underway, with cases now dating to 1880. More are added to the database almost daily.
The database is the first step in providing greater access to these invaluable records, which help to document the growth of Indiana.
The Supreme Court has generously funded the hiring of a part-time employee, who along with occasional aid from student interns and volunteers, painstakingly unwraps the documents, which have been folded for nearly two centuries. Many cases will require conservation work, such as dry cleaning, mending, humidification, and flattening. This work is performed by our Conservation Technician, again with the assistance of student interns from Butler and IUPUI during the semesters they are available. Additional volunteers are needed to add more detailed information into the database.
Tips for Searching the Database
- Try a variety of spellings. Individual names have been spelled numerous ways over the years. Even if your family name has remained constant throughout history, the clerk recording the case might have recorded a slightly different variation.
- Term Years. Even if you feel certain about the term year of a particular case do not disregard other possibilities. Term years overlap calendar years and can lead to confusion.
- County names. Indiana counties have changed many times since statehood. Some counties no longer exist. The county of Richardville, named for Chief Richardville of the Miami Nation, is present day Howard County. The counties’ sizes, shapes, and even locations have altered drastically over the years. View the maps for a quick look at the evolving county boundaries of Indiana.
- Check back frequently. As volunteers process these delicate documents additional cases, information, keywords, and corrections will be added.