Monday, June 1, 2015

Inside the Genealogy Society of Marion County - Family History Assistance

     Since I believe that there are many researchers (historians, genealogists, folks…) in and around Indianapolis who could be benefiting more from the Genealogical Society of Marion County (GSMC), I'm sharing the wealth here on my blog.  Jerry and I volunteer two Thursdays per month to keep the library open.  Here's another one of those stories:
      The GSMC library was bustling last Thursday.  There were interesting family history questions from visitors.  And, in our down time, I pulled a book off the U. S. History shelf and came across beautiful depictions of migrations across the National Road.  We keep exploring those shelves and new donations arrive all the time.
     But about those research questions, Jerry and I were glad to have the opportunity to help people who stopped in searching for answers and new sources.  Our first visitor came with notes in hand that his deceased father left him about a half brother. He gathered some preliminary background based on sketchy information. Now, he's looking for leads or advice on his next step.  We put our heads together to analyze and plan.  First, we explained that due to privacy laws, he may run into some issues with birth records.  Or, the family connections may never happen for these two brothers.  But we had a few suggestions.  His bits of information included a cause number from Marion County so we suggested he start there with a visit to the Marion County Archives in the sub-basement of the City County Building, downtown on Market Street.  To confirm the answer on a birth record, we also gave him the location of the Marion County Department of Health at 3838 North Rural in Indianapolis.  Contacting living relatives is a personal decision he has considered but hasn't made yet.  He seemed glad to have a discussion of his research; and was planning to see where these next steps led. I hope he comes back to let us know. 
     Our other two visitors were brothers, one from Ohio visiting the other in Indianapolis.  They are on a quest to not only complete their own family history but to piece together the stories of a few people that they knew as students at Lawrence Central High School on the east side of Indy.  We had fun discussing with them their father's history with the City of Indianapolis and also touching on these friends that have passed on.  Of course, like many other people they would prefer to find sources that are free.  So, we answered a few questions about and some cemetery websites.  Then we shared information on the Indiana State Library and Marion County Public Library resources, such as microfilmed newspapers and city directories.  We all had some fun browsing the yearbooks and other books on the shelves at GSMC, prompting a little sharing of our own high school stories. Of course, we pointed out the genealogy resources on the GSMC website ( so that they could take their time at home to look over everything there. 
     During the time we had on our own at the library, I came across a history book that helps complete the picture of my Keen family's life as they moved from the east coast through Ohio and into Indiana. Anyone who has ancestors that followed the migration path through Maryland, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois on the National Road might gain some understanding of their lives from the descriptions inside this book.  The title of the book is "The National Road." In the forward the author, Philip Jordan, says: "Leading straight toward the western sun and running through a frontier back of beyond, the National Road yoked together the states of the Union.  It helped open the West to settlement, and it pointed to thousands of acres of rich land."   In my photos below you can see the map that shows the path from Baltimore, MD, to Vandalia, IL.
     I enjoyed the portraits Jordan created through his characterizations of people, the terrain and the circumstances during this development of the country in the 18th and 19th centuries. The book tells the story of Ebenezer Zane forging Zane's Trace in the 1700s when emigrants were flowing into Virginia and eastern Ohio.  Followed by the history of the U. S. government allotting funds for the National Road and then the states taking over before the railroads ended that progress in the 1850s and 60s. He explains how settlers traveled the road, first in wagons, then in stage coaches, stopping at roadside inns and choosing their new homes.  In one place the author is describing the migration of the 1800s; he says, "It looked as if an entire nation were on the move."  The book's written in an engaging style that makes for easy reading.    The table of contents below gives an idea of some of those stories.  I'd recommend The National Road by Philip Jordan to give some context to your family history.  Stop by the GSMC library if you'd like to take a look.
GSMC Library, The National Road by Philip JordanGSMC, National Road Map, The National Road by Philip Jordan
GSMC Library, The National Road by Philip D. Jordan, Table of Contents

     We invite you to the GSMC Library on Wednesday and Thursdays from Noon to 4 p.m.  Free webinars are planned on Wednesday, June 3 and June 13.  Go to the website for details:
     Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties,

Copyright© 2015 Nancy Niehaus Hurley

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