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Indiana Boys' School

The Indiana State Archives houses the records from the Indiana Boys’ School. These records may be of interest to genealogists researching formerly incarcerated boys. The school was located in Plainfield, Hendricks County, Indiana and operated from 1867 until 2005. The files contain letters to the school from former residents that, in some cases, exhibit the success of the school. Letters sometimes include positive memories, expressions of gratitude, requests for personal information, requests to visit, or simply requests for updates on the school. Former residents include their inmate numbers and family numbers as well as the names of school employees.

The superintendents responded to many letters. Such responses often included information about the school, daily routines, and encouragement for the addressee.

Through these letters, we know that some former inmates became doctors, bankers, musicians, and members of other highly regarded professions. Some young men, such as Samuel Woodfill, enlisted in the military during WWI. Woodfill served in France as an acting captain and received the U.S. Medal of Honor.

Along with allowing the reader to imagine what life was like at the Boys’ School, these letters also provide valuable genealogical information such as addresses, family information, and professions information. Additionally, after 1888, the school documented the physical descriptions and personal information of the inmates in the school’s files. Some records documented height, weight, complexion, build, education level upon entry to the school, and church affiliation. Many records include information regarding the boys’ relatives such as names, addresses, and occupations. A few files even contain photographs and newspaper articles.

State Archive volunteers put the files into acid-free folders for better preservation and accessibility in 2011. They also constructed a database searchable by name for boys committed to the institutions between January 23, 1868, and 1945. Database entries include each boy’s name, date of admission, the inmate number assigned to him, and his county of residence. Juvenile records in the state of Indiana are not public record for seventy-five years, therefore researchers interested in boys admitted after 1945 should contact the archives directly to determine if records exist. The database is accessible online via the Indiana Digital Archives . Complete files are available for viewing at the Indiana State Archives upon request. Patrons must be able to prove their relationship to the boy if medical records are included in the file. If a researcher visits the archives, they may also access a set of bound volumes for the Indiana Boys’ School known as Commitment Records. These volume entries are in chronological order.

Adapted from Glenda Thompson and Judy Ditzler’s “The Indiana Boys’ School: Records at the Indiana State Archives Offer Genealogical Information and Tell Stories of Incarcerated Hoosier Boys,” Connections, vol 51, issue 2, fall/winter 2011, pp. 56-61.