County historian Fern Eddy Schultz spoke at the La Porte County Genealogical Society meeting Tuesday, May 11. She encouraged those attending to be more ambitious when they go to the courthouse to research their ancestors. Most people look only for a few things -- records of marriages, wills, landholdings, and naturalizations. In La Porte, we have much more, including partition records (division of property after a family member's death), tax duplicates (starting in 1864), county commissioners' records (from 1832), mortgages, insanity records, and Miscellaneous Record books that include many Civil War veterans' discharges.
The county historical society also holds records that have been discarded, including licenses for junk dealers, physicians, nurses, dentists, and teachers; coroner's records from the 1950s to 1979, and numerous old school and township records. Some were in such bad shape when acquired that she had to piece them together in order to index or transcribe them. The society also has very detailed La Porte marriage applications 1890-1905, a full fifteen years before they were required statewide.
Concerns were expressed in the talk and the discussion afterwards about inadequate security in the vault in the La Porte courthouse, and excessive security in the Michigan City courthouse, where employees have forbidden visitors to examine public records.
The society's April 21 bus trip to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne was a success, with the largest group ever. Our bus driver was able to do some research as well!
Future plans include a visit to the Sauktown Cemetery in June, and programs for July (research when the record you want isn't there), August (how to organize and continue to improve your genealogy after the first steps), and September (movie stars in Michigan City).
Two indexing and abstracting work projects continue at the courthouse. Applications for residency societies and genealogist of the year are available; the awards will be made at the December supper meeting.
The society meets at 7 pm on the second Tuesday of every month at the Swanson Center for Older Adults, 910 State St., La Porte. The public is welcome at all meetings. For a list of upcoming programs and more information about the society's activities in awards, research, publication, and records preservation, visit our web site.