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Combing the Indiana Records

The hunt for information about my 2nd great-grandmother, Katherine Stillenbaugh, continues. To make any progress I must follow a disciplined research plan.

I start with the only fact I know about her. She lived in Indiana in 1865. There she bore a daughter, my great-grandmother Anna Petronellia Sherman, in April of that year. The family always reported that Anna Petronellia was born at Indianapolis and Katherine died there, but Anna P.’s 1885 Kansas census record gives her birthplace as Edinburg, Indiana. This town lies 20-30 miles south of Indianapolis in Johnson County near the intersection of three counties—Bartholomew, Johnson, and Shelby.

With Indiana as a starting point, I began my research by identifying what Indiana records might exist and where they might be housed. During a visit to the Denver Public Library a couple of weeks ago, I consulted the National Genealogical Society’s Research in The States guide for Indiana. It provides many research options.

I decided to begin with online offerings at the major state repositories. These include the following:

  • Allen County Public Library,
  • Indiana Historical Society,
  • Indiana State Archives,
  • Indiana State Library,
  • Several academic libraries.

Over the last two weeks I began visiting the websites for these institutions. I found little useful information on the Allen County site, and I learned that the Indiana Historical Society has no online databases.

The Indiana State Archives offers a digital archive. There I found some military records and commitment papers for the Stilgenbauer family but nothing for the Shermans. I continue to work under the hypothesis that because of the similarity of names, the Stilgenbauers might be my Katherine’s family, so I collected their information. Unfortunately, nothing here offered any evidence of a connection to my ancestor.

The Indiana State Library has several digitized genealogical resources, and I looked first at Bartholomew County, for no other reason than it is first alphabetically on the list of the three counties of interest. The library holdings included county histories from 1888 and 1904—long after my ancestor died and her daughter had moved on to Illinois and beyond. Neither volume mentioned the Sherman family at all nor did they contain any relevant information about the Stilgenbauer family. The third book was The People’s Guide, an 1874 county directory that serves as a census substitute in the absence of a state census.

The People’s Guide tells me that Nicholas Stillabower, born in 1823 in Germany, lived seven miles west of Taylorsville (about 5 miles south of Edinburg). He had settled there in 1851. He was a Democrat and a Lutheran. From earlier research, I know that Nicholas did have a daughter Catherine who was born in 1847, the right age to be my Katherine. Unfortunately, this Catherine married someone named Long and lived until 1883. The only way she could be my ancestor is if the story of Katherine’s death in childbirth is wrong. Instead, the death story would have been concocted after she and the baby’s father had separated. Before going down this road in my research, I plan to continue the search for my Katherine elsewhere. Still, it is a possibility to keep in mind.

My next step will be to continue my research at the Indiana State Library by moving on to Johnson County. This takes a tremendous amount of time, but I must search every source available. Doing it from home certainly takes much less time and money than making a trip to Indiana to do it. I may need to go there eventually, but much remains for me to do from Colorado first.

 

 

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