Click on a Frequently Asked Question to read the answer.
Where can I find Indiana adoption records?
Beginning your Genealogy Research
How do I begin my genealogy research?
Where can I find cemetery records?
What state census records are available at the Indiana State Library?
What federal census records are available at the Indiana State Library?
Where can I find information about post 1930 federal census records?
Do you have a book about my family at your library?
Can I borrow books or microfilm from the Genealogy Collection through inter-library loan?
Locating living friends or relatives
I am looking for a living person. Can you help me find him or her?
I am looking for information on my Civil War ancestor. Can you help?
I am looking for information on my Revolutionary War ancestor. Can you help?
Native American (Indian) Ancestry
How can I prove Native American (Indian) ancestry?
Where can I find naturalization records?
How do I obtain a copy of an obituary?
Where can I find ship passenger lists?
Vital Records (Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce)
Where can I find Indiana birth and death records?
Where can I find Indiana marriage records?
Where can I find divorce records in Indiana?
My ancestor was born in the early 1800's. How can I find his parents names?
All Indiana adoption records are kept by the Clerk of Court in the county in which the adoption took place. Some records are also kept by the Indiana State Department of Health. The Indiana State Library does not have adoption records.
Access to adoption records may be limited depending on when the adoption occurred. Records created prior to 1941 are able to be accessed through the county Clerk of Court’s office. Records created between 1941 and 1993 are currently closed, but will be made open to adult adoptees through the Indiana State Department of Health beginning in 2018, although some restrictions may remain. Records created between 1993 and the present may be requested by adult adoptees. For more information on these laws and on access to records for medical history purposes, please visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s Adoption Information page.
Beginning your Genealogy Research
Start with what you know. Compile the names of your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., as far back as you are able. Also write down when and where they were born, married, and died. Approximate dates are fine. Many records and books are organized by geographic location and date range, so knowing this information will help narrow down your search.
Census records are one of the best places to start looking into original records. The federal census began in 1790 and was conducted every 10 years after. The most recent census available to researchers is the 1940 Census. You can access census records through subscription databases such as Ancestry Library Edition/Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest or through the free website Family Search.
We also have a brochure, Beginning Your Genealogy Research, which provides additional tips for getting started.
If you have questions, feel free to visit the Indiana State Library or to contact us. We can provide additional assistance based on your specific research needs. Please note that due to staff and time constraints, we cannot conduct extensive or open-ended research.
If you are looking for original cemetery records, they are generally held by the cemetery. For cemeteries that are no longer active or maintained, the records may have been donated to a local library or historical society, or they may have been destroyed. For cemeteries managed by or associated with a religious group, that group may have the records.
Many cemeteries have been indexed and the indexes placed in libraries. Search our online catalog to see our cemetery index holdings. The websites Find a Grave and Billion Graves also have free, searchable cemetery indexes.
If you are researching the history of a cemetery, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology maintains the State Historic Architecture and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD), which documents the locations of cemeteries throughout Indiana and provides historical resources about the cemeteries.
What state census records are available at the Indiana State Library?
Although the Indiana Constitution of 1816 provided for regular state censuses, in practice the state was enumerated on an irregular schedule and many of the censuses were “enumerations” in the strictest sense of the term: enumerators counted the number of white males in each township and county without listing any personal information about any individuals. Most of these enumerations have not survived at the state level, although some may still exist in various county auditors’ offices.
For researchers interested in Indiana pre-statehood and between federal censuses, the lack of resources can be discouraging. However, there are alternate enumerations that, while not full-fledged censuses, still provide information on the residents of a given township or county. Some counties recorded the number of free blacks living in the county, while others recorded males over the age of 21 or registered voters. Many counties recorded the names of school-aged children, along with their parents or guardians.
A guide to state censuses and alternate enumerations can be found on our Indiana County Research Guides page under the Subject Guides section.
The Indiana State Library has all federal censuses of Indiana from 1820 through 1940; censuses and Soundex indexes for all other states from the earliest census through 1880, and for 1930; and many censuses and indexes for surrounding states for 1900, 1910, and 1920. Please view our online census chart to learn what is available on microfilm at the Indiana State Library. We also have two online subscription databases, Ancestry Library and HeritageQuest , that have federal census records for the entire country for all available years. These databases are available at no cost within the library, or we can check a few indexes for you with specific information (timeframe, name of person, county).
Please note that the 1940 census is the latest available for research.
The U.S. Census Bureau does not release information collected in the Decennial Census of Population and Housing on individuals for 72 years. The 1940 census is the latest year made available to the public. The U.S. Census Bureau provides an Age Search Service to the public. They will search the 1910-2000 population census which produces a transcript that may contain: age, sex, race, state, or county of birth, and relationship to the head of the household. This service is provided for the following reasons: evidence to qualify for social security and other retirement benefits, making passport applications, prove relationship in settling estates, in genealogy research, etc., or to satisfy other situations where a birth or other certificate may be needed but is not available. This information can only be released to the named person, his/her heirs, or legal representatives.
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The Indiana State Library has an extensive collection of family histories both in print and on microfilm or microfiche. Our pamphlet collection includes many family histories donated by researchers. To make best use of this collection, we encourage you to visit our library. However, we may be able to check a source for you with very specific information. Please note that your local LDS Family History Center may have your family history available on microfilm for rental. If you would like to donate your family history research or other materials, please contact us. Donations to the Indiana State Library Genealogy Collection are deeply appreciated and are tax deductible. You may also wish to search our online catalog for the availability of a book on your family history. Search by keyword, i.e. "Brown family" to identify sources in our collection.
Items in the Genealogy Collection, whether books or microfilm, may not be checked out. However, some print materials are available for inter-library loan, provided the items meet the following requirements:
- The item must be published after 1950
- The Genealogy Division must have at least two copies of the item, and both copies must be in good condition
- The item will be loaned to another library, not an individual, and the item must be viewed at the borrowing library; it may not be checked out to the individual
- The final decision regarding inter-library loan is up to the Genealogy Division staff
For information on requesting a Genealogy item for inter-library loan, please visit the Indiana State Library’s Interlibrary Loan Information page.
If an item cannot be loaned, the Genealogy Division staff may be able to photocopy an excerpt from the book. Copy requests may be submitted through the Ask-a-Librarian service. Due to copyright restrictions, we may not be able to copy more than 25% of an item. Please see our Service Fees and Fines for details on our photocopy policies.
Genealogy microfilm is ineligible for inter-library loan; however, much of the film collection is also available through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. That library has satellite Family History Centers located around the world, and anyone may have microfilm sent from the Family History Library to alocal Family History Center.
Locating living friends or relatives
Due to privacy laws, many records pertaining to living persons are sealed or otherwise unavailable, even to close friends and family. Also, we do not have access to most modern records, as they are kept at the county in which the person was born, married, etc.
Some records have been made available online for researchers. For example, Indiana birth records 1907-1940 and death records 1899-2011 are available through Ancestry Library Edition and Ancestry.com. Indexes to Indiana marriage records 1958-present may be found through our Online Resources page under the “Resources Provided by the Indiana State Library” section.
Cyndi’s List also maintains a list of resources for finding living persons.
The Indiana State Library Genealogy Colection has a copy of the Roster of Union Soldiers (call number 973.7 Allre), Roster of Confederate Soldiers (call number 973.7 Allreu), Civil War Roll of Honor (call number 973.7 Alla), soldiers killed in action, Report of Adjutant General Indiana War of the Rebellion 1861-1865 (call number 973.7 I39ad), gives the date a soldier mustered in and out. The Indiana State Archives has state records of Indiana soldiers who served in the Civil War, including the muster rolls. The Indiana State Library has the T-288 microfilm series Index to the General Pension Files 1861-1936, in its collection. This source is also available online via Ancestry Library, a subscription database available for free at the Indiana State Library. If you are unable to visit our library, you could borrow the microfilm from the National Archives. Many genealogy libraries around the country have this microfilm series as part of their collection.
You may wish to contact the Indiana Collection of the Indiana State Library for information on Indiana regimental histories. The Manuscript Section has a collection of Civil War era letters, diaries and photographs from Hoosiers. The Library also holds the microfiche set Regimental Histories of the American Civil War, which contains Civil War regimental histories from across the United States.
The National Archives in Washington D.C. has the largest collection of civil war records , including the compiled military service records of Union soldiers.
The Genealogy Collection has several print indexes in its collection that may be useful, including the Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files (call number 973 A11whg), an every name index including soldier's, wives/widows, Index to Revolutionary War Service Records (call number 973.34 A11whi), gives the date a soldier mustered in and out, Index of the Rolls of Honor in the Lineage Books of the N.S.D.A.R (call number 973.346 D2aL v.1-4), Ancestor's Index, DAR Patriot Index (call number 973.346 D2adp v.1-3) Revolutionary Patriots 1775-1783, Roster of Soldiers and Patriots of American Revolution Buried in Indiana (call number 973.34 I385d v.1-2). On microfilm, we have the Revolutionary War Pension & Bounty Land Warrant Application Files.
Reference librarians at the Indiana State Library are usually unable to check these sources for patrons via e-mail or letter unless the soldier has an Indiana connection. However, these sources are widely available at genealogy libraries around the country. One of the local chapters of the DAR, the Caroline Scott Harrison Chapter has volunteers at the Indiana State Library every Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. to assist prospective members.
Native American (Indian) Ancestry
Native American ancestry can be very difficult to prove. Our staff is unable to undertake this type of extensive research. However, beginning Native American research is conducted using the same genealogical sources as anyone just starting his search, births, deaths, marriages, census, etc. You will need to work your way backwards to the point where you can identify the specific individual who is the Native American ancestor. When that person has been identified, you will then need to determine that person's tribal affiliation. After the tribe has been identified, an investigation of resources specific to that tribe then can be initiated. The Indiana State Library Genealogy Collection has compiled a Native American bibliography that may be helpful. There are several Internet sites that may be useful on Cyndi'sList.
Naturalization is the process in which an immigrant (alien) living in the United States becomes an American citizen. It is a voluntary act; naturalization is not required. Many Indiana counties have transferred their naturalization records to the Indiana State Archives. They maintain a database which includes Indiana naturalization records prior to 1951. It is important to note that all naturalization records from this time period are not included in this database. Please read this Indiana State Archives webpage for more information on the naturalization process.
Please be aware that many immigrants, especially women, did not complete this process. The declaration of intent will have the most information of genealogical value. The Indiana State Library has some information on naturalization, including a few indexes and some records on microfilm that may be useful. We can check the only statewide index of naturalization information available, An Index to Indiana Naturalization Records found in Various Order Books of the Ninety-two local courts prior to 1907 (call number 977.2 I3773 2001).
Beginning in 1870, the question of whether a person was naturalized was included in the federal census. This question was asked if a man was age 21 years or older. If they were naturalized, "NA" will be written in the column. The 1880 census does not include a question about citizenship. However, the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 census does. The 1920 census indicates the year a person was naturalized. Beginning in the 1900 census, the year a person came to this country was listed.
The Indiana Collection of the Indiana State Library has the largest collection of Indiana newspapers in the world. Staff have created a listing of newspaper titles for each county that are available from its collection. If you know the date of the obituary, not the date of death, and the newspaper in which it was published, the Newspaper Section will photocopy the obituary for you. Due to staffing constraints, staff cannot search newspapers for obituaries. However, microfilm copies of Indiana newspapers are available from the Indiana State Library through interlibrary loan. Your local public library can assist you in processing your interlibrary loan request. You will need to know the county where the obituary was published, the name of the newspaper, and the approximate date of the obituary.
The Genealogy Collection has some indexes of obituaries in some counties. Dates covered in the indexes can vary. Some indexes include only one or two years while others span ten or more years. If we have an obituary index for the place and time in which you are interested, we can check those indexes for a particular name. Please note that full obituaries were not common in Indiana newspapers until the late 1800's. Prior to that time there may be only a one-line death notice, or no announcement at all.
For information on the collection and borrowing newspapers on microfilm, contact the Newspaper Section
It is important to note that America's most famous port of entry, Ellis Island, did not open until 1892. The Indiana State Library has some passenger lists on microfilm. There is a finding aid to published passenger lists in our collection that may be helpful:
Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index: A Guide to Published Arrival Records of ... Passengers who Came to the United States and Canada in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Centuries (3 volumes plus annual supplements) (call number 929.11 P287f)
Due to staffing and time constraints, reference librarians cannot check these sources for you. If you are unable to visit our library, you could borrow the passenger lists on microfilm from the National Archives. The Filby index is available at most genealogy libraries around the country. Be sure to check the census records for clues. Beginning in the 1900 census, the year a person came to this country was indicated.
Indiana began issuing birth and death certificates in 1882; however, these records were optional until 1907. Vital records from 1882 to the present are kept by the local Health Department in the county in which the birth or death took place. From 1907 to the present, the records are also kept by the Indiana State Department of Health.
The Indiana State Library does not have official birth and death records. We do have indexes to vital records for almost every county in Indiana, although the years of coverage vary by county. Please consult the library catalog or the Indiana County Research Guides to see our holdings by county.
For births and deaths occurring prior to 1882, you will need to consult alternative record sources, such as religious records, cemetery records, census records, county histories, family histories, family Bible records, or other places where vital information may have been recorded.
Original marriage records are kept by the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the marriage license was granted. This may not be the county where the actual marriage ceremony took place, as some couples filed for a license in the county where they lived, but married in a different county. After 1958, marriage records were filed with the state as well, and are kept by the Indiana State Department of Health as well as the county.
The Indiana State Library has a large collection of print indexes to marriage records as well as copies of many original records on microfilm. There are also several marriage indexes available online that are free for public use:
- Indiana Marriages through 1850 (Provided by the Indiana State Library)
- Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007 (Does not cover every county; provided by Family Search and the Indiana Genealogical Society)
- Indiana Marriages, 1958-2013 (Provided by the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana State Library)
- Marriage License Public Lookup, 1993-present (Provided by the Indiana Supreme Court, Division of State Court Administration)
Unfortunately, at this time there is no statewide index that covers the years 1851-1957.
Divorces in Indiana were granted by the Indiana General Assembly prior to 1852. An index to the names of those couples can be found in “Divorces granted by the Indiana General Assembly prior to 1852” ISLG 977.2 N548D c1981.
After the adoption of the new state constitution in 1851, the authority to grant divorces was shifted to individual county jurisdiction in the court of common pleas. There is no state-wide index available for divorce records after 1852. You will need to contact the county clerk or recorder in the county where the divorce was filed http://www.in.gov/library/3263.htm
Births were not recorded in Indiana until 1882. Members of the household were not listed in census records until 1850. Parents' names were not listed on marriage records until the late 1800's to the early 1900's; depending on the county. If the person died after 1882, the death record or obituary may reveal the parents' names. Sometimes there are biographical sketches in county histories that may indicate the parents' names. The Indiana county history collection is housed in the Indiana Collection of the Indiana State Library. Contact them directly for a check of the county history indexes.
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