Family Research Tools

Family Research Tools

Every family has a story to tell.  Sometimes, however, those stories are found only through research and study.  Libraries have a variety of resources to assist. To highlight strategies for family research, the IU East Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the Campus Library are hosting a workshop with Thomas Hamm, Professor of History and Quaker Scholar in Residence at Earlham College.  Campus and community members are welcome to attend on Tuesday, September 13 at 2:00 PM in the Community Engagement Commons, located in the IU East Library, Hayes Hall.

Genealogy is the study of generations, particularly of a family.  It involves the use of several different tools, such as censuses, newspaper searches, and databases, to discover the full picture of an individual or family.  Tools such as these can help reveal stories like a beloved family member’s real name, or uncover the full background behind well-known family history.

The first source many genealogists use is Heritage Quest, a full-scale genealogy database that covers census records, immigration logs, government documents, city directories and more.  These records are important because they show where people moved over time and can help identify family members who served in the military, purchased or were deeded land as payment for wartime service or lived on reservations.  Heritage Quest also contains many local history books, which can provide information about activities of family members in their communities.

In addition to genealogy databases, newspapers are an excellent tool for researching family history (Microsoft stock photo)

Another excellent source for genealogy is the daily newspaper.  The IU East Campus Library subscribes to several newspaper databases, including Hoosier State Chronicles, which covers local Indiana papers dating to as early as the 19th century.  For instance, issues of the Richmond Palladium (the local paper before the Pal-Item) date to the early 1830s.  These are full-text scans, which means they are searchable using keywords.  Other newspaper searches include Newspaper Source Plus and News and Newspapers.

Page from the 1800 US Census showing the address of then-president John Adams. (National Archives.)

The US Census is also a rich source of information for finding information about relatives and their migrations.  Since 1790, the US had conducted a census every ten years, accounting for every person in the country.  Most of these censuses are available to search, either through Heritage Quest or via the National Archives.  From these search records, genealogists can learn the names and addresses of family members, occupations, land ownership and nationality, among other data.  One of the biggest stories in recent genealogy research is the release of the 1950 US census, which happened in 2020.  When new census lists are released, researchers are offered new tools to conduct their research and learn more about their families. 

Wedding photo of Walter Kute and Katie McDonnell Kute, taken January 19, 1877, in Richmond, IN. (Indiana Memory)

Indiana Memory is another tool that can be used for genealogy.  It is a combination of local resources that include high school yearbooks, family photos donated to collections, museum and archival objects, university folklore collections and election memorabilia.  Unlike the other collections listed here, Indiana Memory focuses more on ephemeral material that is not usually collected by government or news agencies. Therefore, it can be useful for viewing objects that are associated with family members.  Family research and activities are featured in a local history guide that includes ideas to recognize and celebrate family history, such as family trees, timelines, and recipe books.  

With all the resources available, genealogy can be interesting and rewarding.  Looking for lost family records?  Want to know more about your own family tree?  Intrigued by the possibilities of discovering new family information?  Ask Us! or click this button:

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