Indiana History and Research Overview

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The Miami, Wyandot, Wea, Potawatomis, and Delaware Indians gave Indiana its name. The earliest European settlers in Indiana were the French, who established trading outposts at Fort Wayne, Vincennes, and Lafayette in the early 1700s. The British took control of the area in 1763. In 1764, Clarksville (across the Ohio from present-day Louisville, Ky.) was established, Indiana’s first authorized American settlement. Indiana became part of Northwest Territory in 1787.

In 1800, Indiana Territory was organized. It was reduced in 1805 when Michigan Territory was created, and again in 1809 with the creation of Illinois Territory. After the War of 1812, Indiana settlement increased, with people who migrated from the Carolinas, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Maryland.

Indiana became the 19th state in 1816. The National Road reached Indianapolis in 1834, bringing an influx of settlers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Until 1850, most of the settlement was in the southern half of the state, and Indiana did not draw the large numbers of overseas immigrants that other midwest states did in the mid-19th century. But in the last half of the century, the development of roads, canals, and railroads brought more settlers from the east. The industrial growth of northern towns began to attract foreign immigrants. Inexpensive farmland drew many immigrants as well. Quakers fro Tennessee and the Carolinas came to Indiana, away from slavery. During the Civil War, Indiana provided more than 224,000 Union troops.


(click to enlarge)
Indiana state map with county outlines


  • The Indiana State Library has two divisions important to researchers. The Genealogy Division has an extensive reference library, and the Indiana Division houses manuscripts, state documents, newspapers, photographs and oral history collections
  • The Indiana State Archives is the official repository of Indiana government records
  • The Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne has one of the largest genealogical collections in the country.
  • Another important repository is the Indiana Historical Society, which houses a large collection of published materials as well as many photographs and important manuscripts.



  • Territorial census: 1807 (Dearborn, Knox, and Randolph counties)
  • Federal censuses: 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • State/territorial censuses: 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860 (enumerations of eligible voters only)
  • Mortality schedules: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880


  • Abstracts of the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana by Ruth Dorrel (Indiana Historical Society, ca. 1996-1999)
  • Biographical and Historical Sketches of Early Indiana by William Wesley Woollen (W.C. Cox, 1974)
  • A Biographical History of Eminent and Selfmade Men of the State of Indiana (Western Biographical Publishing Co., 1880)
  • The Black Women in the Middle West Project: A Comprehensive Resource Guide, Illinois and Indiana by Darlene Clark Hine (Indiana Historical Bureau, 1986)
  • A Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in Indiana by the Historical Records Survey (Indiana Historical Records Survey, 1941-)
  • Executive Journal of Indiana Territory, 1800-1816 by William Wesley Woollen et al. (Indiana Historical Society, Family History Section, 1985)
  • Finding Indiana Ancestors: A Guide to Historical Research (Indiana Historical Society)
  • Genealogical Sources: Reprinted from the Genealogy Section, Indiana Magazine of History by Dorothy L. Riker (Indiana Historical Society, 1979)
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to the Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Public Library by Karen B. Cavanaugh (McDowell Publications, ca. 1980)
  • A Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana State Library by Eric Pumroy and Paul Brockman (Indiana Historical Society, ca. 1986)
  • History of the Catholic Church in Indiana by Charles Blanchard (A.W. Bowen & Co., 1898)
  • A History of Indiana: From its Earliest Exploration by Europeans to the Close of the Territorial Government, in 1816 by John B. Dillon (Bingham & Doughty, 1859)
  • Hoosier Faiths: A History of Indiana Churches and Religious Groups by L.C. Rudolph (Indiana University Press, ca. 1995)
  • Illiana Ancestors: Genealogy Column in the Commercial-news, Danville, Illinois by Joan A. Griffis (J. Griffis, ca. 1984-1996)
  • Index to Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy by William Wade Hinshaw (Genealogical Publishing Co., ca. 1999)
  • Index, Indiana Source Books by Dorothy Riker (Indiana Historical Society, 1983)
  • Index to Indiana Wills: Phase 1, through 1850; Phase 2, 1850 through 1880 by Charles M. Franklin (Heritage House, ca. 1986-1987)
  • Indiana Friends Heritage, 1821-1996: The 175th Anniversary History of Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) by Gregory P. Hinshaw (Indiana Yearly Meeting, 1996)
  • Indiana Genealogical Resource by George K. Schweitzer (G.K. Schweitzer, ca. 1996)
  • Indiana Genealogy and Local History Sources Index by Stuart Harter (Stuart Harter, ca. 1985)
  • Indiana and Indianans: A History of Aboriginal and Territorial Indiana and the Century of Statehood by Jacob Piatt Dunn (American Historical Society, 1919)
  • Indiana Negro Registers, 1852-1865 by Coy D. Robbins (Heritage Books, ca. 1994)
  • Indiana Newspaper Bibliography: Historical Accounts of All Indiana Newspapers Published from 1804 to 1980 and Locational Information for All Available Copies, Both Original and Microfilm by John W. Miller (Indiana Historical Society, 1982)
  • Indiana Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (online at
  • Indiana Source Book: Genealogical Material from The Hoosier Genealogist by Willard Heiss, et al. (Indiana Historical Society, 1977-)
  • Indiana Sources for Genealogical Research in the Indiana State Library by Carolynne L. Wendel Miller (Indiana Historical Society, ca. 1984)
  • Indiana Territorial Pioneer Records, 1801-1820 by Charles M. Franklin (Heritage House, ca. 1983-1985)
  • Indiana’s African-American Heritage: Essays from Black History News and Notes by Wilma L. Gibbs (Indiana Historical Society, ca. 1993)
  • The Negro in Indiana before 1900: A Study of a Minority by Emma Lou Thornbrough (Indiana University Press, 1993)
  • The Old Northwest: Pioneer Period, 1815-1840 by R. Carlyle Buley (Indiana University Press in association with the Indiana Historical Society, ca. 1978)
  • The Old Northwest: Studies in Regional History, 1787-1910 by Harry N. Scheiber (University of Nebraska Press, ca. 1969)
  • The Origin and Development of the Missionary Baptist Church in Indiana by John Frank Cady (Franklin College, 1942)
  • Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience by Robert M. Taylor, Jr., and Connie A. McBirney (Indiana Historical Society, ca. 1996)
  • Pioneer Ancestors of Members of the Society of Indiana Pioneers by Ruth Dorrel (Indiana Historical Society, ca. 1983)
  • Preliminary Checklist of Archives and Manuscripts in Indiana Repositories by Donald E. Thompson (Indiana Historical Society, 1980)
  • Religion in Indiana: A Guide to Historical Resources by L.C. Rudolph and Judith E. Endelman (Indiana University Press, ca. 1986)
  • Searching in Indiana: A Reference Guide to Public and Private Records by Mickey Dimon Carty (ISC Publications, ca. 1985)
  • Who’s Your Hoosier Ancestor: Genealogy for Beginners by Mona Robinson (Indiana University Press, ca. 1992)

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From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.