What is it?
The Genealogical Index, a surname index to 3,000 local histories, genealogies, and genealogical periodicals published before 1917, can be the key to many genealogical locked doors. Coverage is best for New England, with secondary coverage for midwestern and mid-Atlantic states. The Genealogical Index is available in print at the Newberry, and volumes one through three are freely available in full text online.
How can I use it?
The Genealogical Index is not a difficult source to use. First look up the surname you are interested in. Following the name is a very abbreviated citation to a work and page number on which the surname appears. For example, the citation “Wilson family – Sangamon Co. Ill. (Power, J.C.) 1876: 412” leads you to look up “Wilson” on page 412 of John Carroll Power’s History of the early settlers of Sangamon county Illinois (Springfield, Ill. E.A. Wilson & co., 1876). It should be mentioned that because the Genealogical Index is so old, many of the call numbers have been superseded and must be confirmed in an Index to the Genealogical Index of the Newberry. If you are interested in using the Genealogical Index ask for a brief introduction to the source from a Reference Librarian.
It is worth noting that the Genealogical Index of the Newberry is not a catalog of the Newberry’s holdings in family history. The citations refer to pages in books or periodicals on which a name is mentioned, not to entire works on a surname. The citations provide leads that vary from full biographical sketches to mentions of the surname in tax lists, civic organizations, etc.