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The Blog of the Indiana State Archives

  IARA Divisions State Archives Collections From the Vault Blog

The Research Indiana Indexes

For Ask an Archivist Day, we asked our staff some questions about the new Research Indiana Indexes site, which allows users to search the names, subjects, and corporations indexed across some of the Archives’ most interesting collections.

Read on to find out what they had to say. You may be surprised at some of the stories you can find in the Indiana Archives’ collections!

What is your favorite collection included in the Research Indiana Indexes?

It’s a close tie between the Foster Children database and the Secretary of State Pardon and Paroles Collections. Both sets of records typically offer insight to the lives of their subjects, with little known details often discovered. In the Foster Care files one can learn about the homes where the children lived and more about the circumstances that led to their situations. In the Pardon and Parole files there are often viewpoints from the incarcerated prisoner, and letters and petitions from those who either support or disagree with their possible release.  Some files are rather sparse and only contain a few pages, while others are quite large and informative. - Vicki, Director of Patron and Outreach Services

The Marion County Public Safety Employees collection is one of my favorites. There is a lot of useful genealogical information included in the files and the personnel records are really cool to look at. Some of them include photographs of the employee as well. It is fairly rare to have photographs included for a number of the other collections (offender records, state hospital inquests, naturalizations, etc.) utilized for genealogy in the State Archives for that time period. - Quinn, Director of Archival Processing

The State Agent’s Correspondence Collection is just so interesting! Each entry contains information on the child, including responses to letters that were included in the child’s file. I love that you can track the different changes and upheavals in the child’s life through the ‘Notes’ sections. For example, Blanche Bell was bounced from different homes and institutions across the state for several years. One note remarks it is ‘best not to remove Blanche from the institution as there has been much difficulty when she has been in a family home,’ which makes me wonder what happened to her. - Meaghan, Archivist

Tell us about an exciting discovery you’ve made in the Archives’ collections.

While proof reading the Marshall County Courts database I noticed the names of Joseph Burns, Joseph Byers, Art Silbert, and Peter Fox. In December 1920 they robbed a bank in Culver, Indiana. During the robbery Jacob Russell Saine was wounded attempting to stop the men. He died a few weeks later, resulting in a murder charge. The men were defended by Clarence Darrow. His defense meant the difference between life in prison or the electric chair. They were spared execution thanks to Darrow’s arguments on their behalf. Joseph Burns, whose real name was John C. Heaps, later became a member of the Dillinger Gang. After orchestrating several escape attempts, he finally succeeded as one of the escapees in the infamous Michigan City Prison break in 1933. - Vicki, Director of Patron and Outreach Services

I worked on the Marion County Coroner’s Inquests back when I was a volunteer at the Archives. I was sucked into reading the letters of William Cluck, and I found his letters to be eloquent, expressing gratefulness to his jailer and love to his sister.  I presumed the writer was educated and I wondered why he was in jail. He had murdered his wife!  He felt he hadn’t gotten a fair trial and didn’t want to be hanged, so he managed to get some morphine and killed himself before they could hang him.  The testimony of one of the doctors attending him included this line, “I saw death stamped upon his countenance.”  The situation seemed so sad, but so interesting that I have never forgotten it, although I couldn’t remember his name.  I was able to track it down on Research Indiana because of the inclusion of the notes field. - Elizabeth, Conservator (and former volunteer!)

I found a Marion County Court case involving Lew Wallace’s brother and nephew representing Butler University against a number of defendants, including Clemens Vonnegut, notable entrepreneur and great-great-grandfather of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. -Keenan Salla, Archivist

What are you most excited about regarding the new Research Indiana Indexes?

I’m most excited about being able to easily narrow down my search by using the ‘Category/Filters’ options on the left side of the page. I also really like the ‘Introduction’ section included on entries that describes the record and give a little more detail about the type of record they are looking at. I think that will be really helpful for researchers who are just beginning their search. We also have a page where they can read all of the index descriptions at once.  - Meaghan, Archivist

I’m most excited because the database is finally on line.  There are so many volunteers that waited so long for this that some of them, unfortunately, didn’t live to see it happen.  There are SO many new names out there and so many new collections represented. - Elizabeth, Conservator

Learn more about the Research Indiana Indexes on the State Archives’ website!