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Using Genelaogical Indexes

Indexes are compiled by individuals or groups and they're meant to provide easier access to information. While not a substitute for primary documents, indexes can assist you in finding ancestors and lead you to primary documents.


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Indexes are an important part of any research project. Indexes are compiled by individuals or groups and they're meant to provide easier access to information. Before the digitizing of the U.S. Federal Census records, census index books provided information such as the head of household and location of families. This information could then be used to aid in the search for that family on a microfilmed copy of the census. An index provides an easier way to search through a list of names, and once a name is found, it can then provide you with a less time-intensive way to find the same information in the original record.

While indexes can be found at libraries, historical and genealogical societies, they are also plentiful on the Internet. Web sites such as Ancestry, Rootsweb, and the US Genweb all host genealogical indexes. On Ancestry, indexes can be found by clicking on the ‘Search' tab and then selecting a collection to review, whether by a state or category, such as military records. Don't forget to look for indexes on individual historical and genealogical society web sites and web sites for museums, state libraries and state or county archives.

As mentioned previously, indexes can be transcription projects done by an individual or a group such as a genealogical society. These are sometimes published in an organization's local newsletters or journals which are then indexed by the Allen County Public Library in the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). PERSI is searchable through Ancestry or Heritage Quest. Once you have located the articles that you are interested in, you can request copies through the Allen County Public Library or through interlibrary loan.

The following list is a sampling of genealogical indexes that may be of use as you are researching your ancestor. Many more indexes are available. Peruse your local library or the Family History Library for others that are available for your locality. Please remember that these indexes are not primary documents and should always be used as a clue, and not the final word. Always consult the original document for more information. Indexes are transcribed documents, and with any transcription there are errors, so after consulting the index, look for the primary document on which the index is based.

The following are just some examples of genealogical indexes.


Alaska People Index. Bradbury, Connie, David A. Hales, and Nancy Lesh. (vol 1 & 2, 1935-1985) Anchorage: Alaska Historical Commission, 1986. "The Alaska People Index was compiled to assist genealogists, librarians, historians and other researchers in finding biographical information about Alaskans and individuals in the adjacent Canadian communities. The index includes over 20,000 names. Volume 1 is an index to names found in the Alaska Sportsman and its successor, Alaska Magazine, 1935-1985. Volume 2 is an index to the names of individuals that appear in 23 unique Alaskan resources covering the territorial years." Available at the Alaska State Library.


Mesa Regional Family History Center Obituary Index


California Information File

"The file includes indexing of early California newspapers, important periodicals, biographies, manuscript collections, and special files on California pioneers and other notables. An estimated 65 percent is indexed by personal names. This microfiche file may be found in the reference collections of many California public and academic libraries. The file contains some 721,000 cards bearing about 1.4 million citations of information in California periodicals, newspapers, 500 histories, theses, government documents, biographical encyclopedias, and special biographical files. Material cited dates from the 1840s through April 1986."


Colorado Portrait and Biography Index, available from Family History Library, film #1688548.


Barbour Collection, available from the Family History Library, and various other sources. Vital records prior to 1870, arranged alphabetically.


General Name File. A card index compiled by the Georgia State Archives staff.


Illinois Statewide Marriage Index 1763-1900


Biographical Index to the County Histories of Iowa by Charles Morford. Available from the Family History Library, FHL fiche # 6005292.


Draper Collection available at and FamilySearch.


Confederate Pension Application Database

North Carolina

McCubbins Collection, available at the Family History Library starting with film # 19828 through 19903. For an explanation on the collection, see


Genealogical Data Relating to Women of the Western Reserve, available from the Family History Library Fiche #6087501.


County Records Available on Microfilm Index

West Virginia

West Virginia Births 1853-1930

Western States

Western State Marriage Index

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2009.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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