Friday, May 25, 2012

Hidden in plain sight: Indiana Historical Society manuscripts

As a member of the Indiana Historical Society, every other month I get a newsletter, INPerspective, in the postal mail from the society. I always turn to the page near the back full of fine print that says, "New in Collections and Library," and look at the manuscript collections that have recently been "processed, cataloged and made available for research," as we say in archive world.

In the May/June issue, my eye fell on "Martindale Family Papers, 1839 to 1948," IHS collection M 1026. I went to the "Manuscripts and Visual Collections" page and then to the on-line finding aid for this collection. Hello, any researchers in Warren County? That was the home base for this family. The bulk of the collection is financial papers and accounts for their farm and business operations, but also some World War I information, including "a panoramic photograph of the all black 317th Trench Mortar Battalion, 92nd Division taken upon their return home."

At this point I took a look at a nearby collection in the M's: "Methodist Episcopal Church Cicero Circuit Records 1845-1861," IHS Collection SC 2553. Of course it helps to know stuff, like where Cicero is. This collection consists of just one notebook, about the circuit centered in Jackson Township, Hamilton County, Indiana: "Minutes are largely concerned with the licensing of preachers and exhorters. In other sections of the book are a list of members; marriages 1845-1849; baptisms 1847-1848; and genealogical records of the Bowman and Gipps (Kipps) families." Anybody got a mid-19th-century brick wall in Hamilton County?

The point? You never know until you look. It's true for books, web sites, and most of all archives.

Note: Many of the collections listed on the IHS web site don't have on-line finding aids. Do yourself a favor and stop by their actual building soon (Tuesday-Saturday). It's also the best parking deal in downtown Indy.

Harold Henderson, "Hidden in plain sight: Indiana Historical Society manuscripts," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 25 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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