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Overheard in GenForum: WPA Records in Indiana
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

July 15, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Does anyone know if there are records for the WPA projects in Indiana? If so, where can I find this information -- Kay

A: The WPA was the Works Project Administration. It was a part of the New Deal under Franklin Delano Roosevelt in an effort to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression. The Works Project Administration supplied work for the various teachers, writers, reporters and investigators who were now out of work due to the depression. And it is through the efforts of the WPA that we have many of the indexes and records that we possess, including the soundexes to the census records that are currently available.

In addition to the census soundexes that they were compiling, another major work to come out of the WPA was the Historical Records Survey. This project spanned the years 1936 through 1942. It was only discontinued because World War II made it no longer practical. The work force could be better used in other areas. However, in that time period, hundreds of volumes of inventories and surveys would be published. And while the records surveyed were not done so with genealogy in mind, genealogists find that a vast majority of the records are of use in genealogical research.

The Historical Records Survey of the WPA spanned the years 1936 through 1942 and created hundreds of volumes of inventories.

What Records Were Inventoried?

The inventories and surveys that were published include a number of different record types as the surveyors went from repository to repository. The different repositories surveyed included the following:

  • Churches and religious organizations
  • Church records and archives
  • County records and archives
  • Federal records and archives
  • Manuscript records
  • Microfilmed records
  • Miscellaneous records
  • Public archives
  • State records and archives
  • Town records and archives
  • Vital statistic records

County Inventories

You asked specifically about WPA records for Indiana. The Inventories of the various county archives are available for the following counties:

  • Allen
  • Blackford
  • Boon
  • Clay
  • Delaware
  • Fulton
  • Greene
  • Howard
  • Jay
  • LaPorte
  • Marion
  • Marshall
  • Monroe
  • Morgan
  • Posey
  • St. Joseph
  • Shelby
  • Tippecanoe
  • Tipton
  • Vanderburgh
  • Warrick
  • Wells

A number of these inventories can be found in book and microfilm formats at the Family History Library.

Microfilmed Records

The microfilmed records of the WPA for Indiana are probably going to interest you the most. The records that have been transcribed and microfilmed cover many different record types, including:

  • Births
  • Commissioners' Records
  • Court Records
  • Deeds
  • Estray Books
  • Land Entry Books
  • Marriages
  • Probate Records
  • Wills

The dates covered by these records vary widely from county to county. Most of the available counties begin in the early 1800s and continue on past the mid-1800s.

Like the inventories many of these records are also available in manuscript and microfilm formats at the Family History Library. This means you can borrow them through your local Family History Center.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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