African Ancestry in Indiana
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  Donna Stokes Lucas and Mary E. Jewell

  • Genealogical Resources on the Internet
  • Guide to African Ancestored Research


    The Land that is now Indiana was once part of a great wilderness. By early 1700's, the wilderness was called New France, a few settlers, fur traders and explorers had seen this wild land,but few records were kept.

    Some explorers bought slaves with them, so it is very likely that blacks were among the first to explore Indiana. The first records of blacks in Indiana were written in 1746. There were forty white men and five Negroes in a French settlement on the Wabash River. This was the beginning of the city Vincennes; which is along Indiana's southwestern border. Some French settlers had Indian slaves, but soon the French were buying black men from trading post on the lower Mississippi River.

    In 1787, congress passed a group of laws called the Northwest Ordinance. One of the Laws indicated that there would be no slavery. Slavery was legal when Virginia still owned the land which is now Indiana.

    Slave holders soon found ways to bring slaves into the territory as long-term indentured servants. Substantial debates continue about the status of blacks in the state. Indiana was perceived as a hostile state toward people of color during the most unfriendly years of 1816-1865. Many thought that indentured servitude was just another form of slavery. In 1831, legislators passed a bill to keep 'Negroes' out of Indiana.

    The American Colonization Society was established in 1817 to send Blacks Back to Africa. In 1850, Indiana Govornor, Joseph A. Wright, petitioned the legislature for money to help build a settlement for Blacks in Liberia. Most Indiana blacks were against the Back to Africa Movement. By 1853, thirty three Blacks had sailed for Africa and another fourteen followed in 1854. By 1851 article 13 had been passed (93 - 40) to keep 'Negroes" from coming to Indiana. More than 1,350,000 people lived in Indiana by 1860, and a little over 11,000 were of African descent.

    Not all Blacks in the Territory were slaves or indentured servants. By the time Indiana became a state, in 1816, many free men were already settled in Indiana. Some were born free, others were set free and moved from other states. There were over 20 black settlements, (most inhabited by people of mixed race) in the years before the Civil War. Most of the settlers were born in North Carolina and move to avoid restrictive laws of the South. Over 1300 Black men from Indiana fought with the Union Army in The United States Colored Troops.

    Recommended Readings:
    • 'Indiana Negro Registers 1852-1865" by Coy D. Robbins
    • "Reclaiming African Heritage at Salem, Indiana" by Coy D. Robbins
    • "Forgotten Hoosiers: African Heritage in Orange County, Indiana by Coy  D. Robbins
    •  African American Soldiers from Indiana with the Union Army in the Civil War 1863-1865 compiled by Coy D. Robbins
    •  "Indiana African American Heritage" Edited by Wilma Gibbs; Indiana
    •  University Press "The Negro In Indiana Before 1900" by Emma Lou Thornbrough; Indiana University Press

    Indiana Ethnic History

    Hoosier Heritage

    Indiana History OnLine

    Indiana Native American Bibligraphy


    Indiana State Library Genealogy Division

    Allen County Public Library

    Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

    St. Joseph's County (South Bend area) County Public Library - Local History/Genealogy

    Indiana Marriage Index up to 1850

    Indiana Genealogy

    Indiana African American Genealogy

    Indiana Family History Centers

    Everton's Genealogy Resources in Indiana

    Indiana Genealogy Online - INGenWeb

    American Indian Center of Indiana

    1850 Allen County Slave Owner Schedule

    Indiana Vital Records Information - birth or death certificates, divorse records, marriage license, etc.

    Marion County Health Department (Order your Indianapolis Birth/Death Certificates here)

    Genealogical Societies - Indiana

    Genealogical Society Of Marion County

    Kentuckiana Genealogy

    Census Online - IN

    Indiana African American Census Schedules on-line

    Marion County County Census (actual pages)

    1850 Census of African Americans in Washington County, Indiana

    Free Black Men in Washington County, Indiana in 1820

    Gibson County, Indiana Births - WPA readings

    Gibson County, Indiana Deaths - WPA readings

    Cyndi's List - Indiana Links

    Find-A-Grave, Indiana

    Crown Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home - Marion County

    Internet Funeral Service Directory - Indiana

    Indianapolis OnLine, the Community Network for Central Indiana

    City of Indianapolis/Marion County Homepage

    The Indianapolis Star Newspaper

    Indiana Avenue Revisited

    Madam C. J. Walker

    Indiana Yearbooks

    Indiana High School Alumni

    The Indiana Page Coordinators are Dona Stokes-Lucas and  Mary E. Jewell.   They can be contacted at or

    This area will contain other transcribed African American records for various IN counties in the very near future.


    Names, and email addresses of volunteers willing to do research and/or lookups will be posted soon.

    Until then please send queries to Query Coordinator

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    Placed online: 26 Sep 1999 | Updated: 25 February 2002
    Questions or comments: Donna Stokes Lucas or Mary E. Jewell
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