The Genealogical Index of the Newberry

Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library
Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library. Call no. Local History Ref Z5305.U5 N48 1960
Entries in the Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library
Entries in the Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library

A previous post talked about ways to search the catalog to find published genealogies. Often we’re not lucky enough to have books published specifically about our ancestors. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t rate a mention in a book on another family, a county history or other publication.

So how does one find these mentions? One possibility is the Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library, a surname index to 3,000 local histories, genealogies, and genealogical periodicals published before 1917. While some of these volumes have since been digitized, most have not. The Genealogical Index might be the key to tearing down one of your brick walls. The citations provide leads that vary from full biographical sketches to mentions of the surname in tax lists, civic organizations, etc.

The project was a massive effort spanning many years. The Report of Trustees of the Newberry Library for the Year 1909 reported that 62,040 entries were prepared that year. The Report of Trustees of the Newberry Library for the Year 1915 indicated that “During 1915, 11,521 entries, typed in previous years, were mounted on cardboard, cut, sorted, and inserted in their proper places in the volumes of this Index. It now comprises 1,190 folio volumes, containing a grand total of 683,431 entries, each entry giving one or more direct references to material on the shelves of the Library.” The project ended in 1918 when high costs made continuation impossible.

A story detailing the development of the Genealogical Index was published in the Chicago Daily News on October 13, 1898 and reprinted in an issue of the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine. Additional details were published in Library Journal in 1899.

Although not widely available in print, several volumes of the Genealogical Index are on the HathiTrust website. Because the Genealogical Index is so old, many of the call numbers have been superseded. If you find an entry of interest, contact a librarian and ask for a full citation.

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