Birth and Death Records for Allen County, Indiana

Jump to: Death Information, Delayed Births, Early Births, Fort Wayne-Allen County Department Health, Guardianships, Indiana Department of Health, Information, Microtext, Mortality Rates, Substitute Births

Important Dates

  1. 1794, October 22 - Fort Wayne was dedicated.
  2. 1816, December 11 - President James Madison signed an act of Congress admitting Indiana to the Union as the 19th state of the United States. Indiana was the second state, after Ohio, to be created out of what was the Northwest Territory.
  3. 1824, April 1 - Allen County, Indiana was officially founded! Allen County is named for Colonel John Allen, a politician and army officer who was killed in the War of 1812.
  4. 1882 - The Vital Records page at states: The State of Indiana did not require births or deaths to be recorded until 1882, and they were not recorded by the state until 1907. For birth and death records between 1882 and 1906, researchers should contact the County Health Office where the birth occurred.
  5. April 1, 2014 post by the Indiana Genealogical Society on Facebook:

    TUESDAY TIDBIT: The first year after an 1882 Indiana law required births and deaths to be recorded, the Indiana State Board of Health had lots of trouble getting local doctors to comply. One Benton County doctor refused to send in his records unless they gave him postage stamps.

    Source: First annual report of the Secretary of the Indiana State Board of Health of Indiana for the fiscal year ending October 31, 1882 (Indianapolis: William B. Burford, 1883). [, Secretary of the Indiana State Board of Health For the Fiscal Year Ending October 31, 1882 von Unbekannt at Forgotten Books]

  6. June 14, 2013 post by the Indiana Genealogical Society on Facebook:

    FRIDAY FACT: Under an Indiana law passed in February 1907, marriages between first cousins were hereafter illegal; all marriages between first cousins that had been performed before February 1907 were legalized. Source: Acts of 1907, Chapter 68, as appears in "Laws of the State of Indiana, passed at the sixty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly" (Indianapolis: William B. Burford, 1907).

    Around twenty states still allow first cousin marriages sometimes with restrictions from Cousin marriage law in the United States by state on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Locating Vital Records in Indiana posted February 17, 2022 by Indiana Archives and Records Administration on YouTube.
This video will help researchers and genealogists discover vital records (birth, death, marriage, and divorce records) in Indiana and at the Indiana State Archives.
See their Vital Records page for more information.

Indiana Department of Health

March 6, 2023 post by the Indiana Department of Health on Facebook:

Do you need to order a birth or death certificate?

Contact the local health department where the event occurred for faster service:

Local Health Department Information


Response March 6, 2023 by the Allen County Department of Health on Facebook:

That's right - We offer services in person and by mail: 

Birth & Death page at the local Allen County Department of Health website.

The Fort Wayne - Allen County Department of Health

April 19, 2023 post by the Allen County Department of Health on Facebook:

Birth certificates are among our most-requested records.

Certified copies are $20 and can be purchased at our Citizens Square office, 200 E. Berry St., Suite 360, Fort Wayne.

Birth & Death at the Allen County Department of Health.

The Department of Health’s Vital Records Division issues certified birth and death records for events occurring in Fort Wayne and Allen County.

Applicants for Vital Records must have a direct and tangible interest in the record requested and be able to identify it with reasonable particularity. Identification is required for the purchase of a birth or death certificate. Options include a valid driver’s license, state ID or passport.

How to get a copy of your birth certificate published June 22, 2016 by AllenCountyHealth on YouTube

Certified Birth and Death Records  page at Fort Wayne - Allen County Board of Health explains the process.

An October 11, 2022 post on Facebook states: Questions about getting a birth certificate? Need to locate records about your septic system? Looking for mental health resources? Answers here: Know & Go: Public Health Resources at Your Fingertips A single resource with easy-to-access information about the Allen County Department of Health, our role, how we do what we do AND details about how residents can stay healthy and happy. On their Allen County Health website.

The Allen County Department of Health Genealogy Requests page states:

Please note: the Department of Health does not have marriage and/or divorce records. These records are recorded and kept in the office of the Allen County Clerk, Allen County Courthouse, Fort Wayne, IN 46802. 

Allen County’s birth records begin in 1882 for persons born inside the Fort Wayne city limits, and in 1887 for persons born outside the city limits. Death records begin in 1871 for persons who died inside the city limits, and in 1907 for persons who died outside the city limits. For your convenience, many of these records can be found at the Allen County Public Library. (The library has microfiche of actual birth records from 1882 to 1920 and death records from 1871 to 1932 and this includes events that occurred both inside the city limits of Fort Wayne and within Allen County).

January 4, 2023 post by Allen County Department of Health on Facebook:

For National Trivia Day, here's a fun fact:

We typically record more than 7,000 births each year!

More public health facts here: Annual Reports back to 2004.

[ Trivia in 2021 there were 7,386 births versus 5,611 deaths, 462 were COVID deaths. ]

Death records record where a person died, not necessarily where they lived, or where they are buried. Elderly people may have been living near or with a child, or may have been traveling for medical reasons.

The History page of Fort Wayne - Allen County Department of Health gives a brief history through the decades starting in the 1830s-1840s. In 1830 Fort Wayne was a town of 300 people growing to a city of 2,050 in 1840.

March 28, 2023 post by the Allen County Recorder's Office on Facebook:

We got a new website!! Makes sure to check out our brand new website by clicking the link below! It is more user friendly and has much more information to help the residents of Allen County!

September 15, 2023 post by the Allen County Department of Health on Facebook:

We track and monitor information about a variety of topics affecting public health in Allen County, including deaths. #FridayFacts

To find more data ---> 2022 Annual Report

[ the 2022 reports lists 5,176 deaths and 7,322 births veruss 5,611 deaths and 7,387 births in 2021 ]

Indiana Birth Certificates 1907-1940

In 2016, the state’s collection of birth certificates from October 1907 through December 1940 were put online at, under the title Indiana, Birth Certificates, 1907-1940. This database can currently only be accessed by subscription because of a 3-year exclusivity agreement. The state has a privacy law that only allows birth records to be made public if they are at least 75 years old. October 1907 is when the state began requiring county health departments to send a copy of any birth certificate they were recording to the state health department. You can read examples of what information can be found in birth certificates in the the Indiana News- January 2018 email alert published by the Indiana Genenealogical Society. Other editions of Indiana News alerts are online back to 2010.

Delayed Birth Records

On February 19, 1941, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Bill 47 (enacted as Acts of 1941, Chapter 24), titled "An act authorizing the circuit courts of the state to hear and determine the time and place of birth of a person on petition." Under the law - which went into effect immediately - anyone who had been a resident of their county for at least a year could petition their local court to certify their birth. At least 2 residents were needed to vouch for their residency, and evidence of the petitioner's birth also had to be presented to the court. If the court granted the petition, they would issue a decree that had the legal authority of a birth record. Even though these delayed birth records did not begin until 1941, the births they referred to were actually from many years earlier - in some cases as early as the 1850's and 1860's. Copied from the June 3, 2013 Indiana News monthly newsletter by the Indiana Genealogical Society.

  1. Delayed Births 1942-1985 microfilm numbers at the The Genealogy Center 
  2. Index to Allen County Births and Deaths 1870-1920 microfilm numbers at the The Genealogy Center
  3. Today's Catholic on Facebook April 19, 2022 posted "Sometimes, parishes and priests did not keep accurate or complete records. If a baptismal record is lost or never filed, there is a process to 're-create' the record. Someone with a missing or unrecorded baptismal record can show photos, and witnesses of the baptism would attest that the baptism truly took place." And shared this article: Important sacramental records often unnoticedImportant sacramental records often unnoticed by Joshua Schipper published April 14, 2022 on Today's Catholic.

Mortality Rates of Children

April 11, 2023 post by Our World in Data on Facebook:

What was the mortality rate of children in the past?

And what we can learn from it for our future?

These are the two questions @MaxCRoser asks in his updated article: Mortality in the past: every second child died The chances that a newborn survives childhood have increased from 50% to 96% globally. This article asks how we know about the mortality of children in the past and what we can learn from it for our future. by Max Roser April 11, 2023


See our Adoptions page.


Allen County, Indiana Guardianships, 1829-1905 Index of Guardianships, Allen County, 1829-1905. The index was compiled by Eloise A. Hughes from original courthouse records in 1972. At The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IndianaGeneral

  1. Our Vital Records page lists some online resources at .
  2. Allen County, Indiana Birth Records, including indexes and finding aids to them, and their locations in the Genealogy Center and the The Genealogy Center Microtext Catalog pages are found on The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indianawebsite.
  3. Birth Certificates at the American Bar Association. Under the heading A Decentralized System they state: The documentation of births and other vital statistics (e.g., birth, death, marriage, divorce) has been a long-standing tradition among populations for centuries, typically through individual families or their churches. The idea that a government should also record this vital information is a relatively modern development.
  4. The History of Birth Certificates is Shorter Than You Might Think People didn’t always need birth certificates. by Erin Blakemore published August 22, 2018 on


As the video states most microtext and microfilm has not been digitzed for online access.
Posted October 21, 2022 by the Genealogy Center on Facebook.

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana has several more videos on microtext shown on our Vital Records page.


The Genealogy Center Microtext Catalog at the Allen County Public Library Indiana
Vital Records number of items and media type

Births (City) 1882-1907 2 35mm Film
Births (City) 1907-1920 210 Fiche
Births (County) 1887-1907 190 Fiche
Births (County) 1907-1920 87 Fiche
Deaths (City) 1870-1898 2 35mm Film
Deaths (City) 1899-1920 191 Fiche
Deaths (City) 1921-1932 44 Fiche
Deaths (County) 1907-1923 5 Fiche
Deaths (County) 1923-1930 38 Fiche
Delayed Births 1942-1985 3 35mm Film
Index to Births and Deaths 1870-1920 2 35mm Film

Early Births

Prior to the arrival of Europeans to North America, Indians, or Native Americans, lived around the three rivers now known as Allen County, Indiana. French explorers and fur traders were trading with the Miami Indians by the 1700s. French records were recorded in Montreal, Canada and will be found in their archives. The Fort Wayne outpost was built in the Northwest Territory by General Anthony Wayne in 1794. Indiana (land of the Indians) become a state December 11, 1816. Allen County was established from Delaware and Randolph counties April 1, 1824. Records that survive prior to 1824 will be found in those counties. There are not many records available for this early time period. Birth records were not required by law until 1882 and were not consistently recorded until the early 1900s. Many early records when they exist were kept by whoever recorded them such as an early doctor or minister of the gospel who usually took them to the last county or state they lived in. As a result, even when physical records still exist, they appear to be lost when stored in different county archives, or not-so-obvious places.

Earliest Known Recorded Births

Obviously, the Indians or Native Americans were already here and having children born for generations prior to European settlement. We are not aware of any records for Indian births however. Some early Europeans records survive to this day.

The Johnston Farm & Indian Agency on Facebook posted that the first 4 of the 15 Johnston children were the first white children born at Fort Wayne to Rachel Robinson and John Johnston appointed in 1802 as the US Factor to the Indians at Fort Wayne.

If you know of other early birth records for Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana, please Contact Allen INGenWeb.

  1. 1777 - Hyacinth Laselle, son of British Indian agent Jacques Laselle, becomes the first white child born at what is now Fort Wayne. Copied from 1000 TO 1900 Millennium milestones in Fort Wayne from the archives of The News-Sentinel newspaper.
  2. 1798 - page 493 says General John E Hunt who was born in Fort Wayne in 1798 in The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812; or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the last war for American independence by Lossing, Benson John, 1813-1891, Publication date 1896, on
  3. 1803, April 2 - Stephen Johnston was born at Fort Wayne, from a February 18, 2017 post on Johnston Farm & Indian Agency on Facebook. According to some sources in the book ‘At the headwaters of the Maumee : a history of the forts of Fort Wayne’, Stephen was the first white child born in Fort Wayne. While the Johnston Farm & Indian Agency post stated: during the time his father, John, served as United States Factor to the Indians. At the time, the Johnstons lived in the Factor's House near the fort, which was a two story building. The family occupied the upper level. Cooks, interpreters and Indians occupied the lower floor. It is likely Stephen was born in one of the fort's blockhouses as his sister, Elizabeth, was years later, though we have no proof of this. Fort Wayne at the time was a typical frontier post replete with natives, soldiers, traders and trappers and it may have been deemed safer for a woman to give birth within the fort itself. Fort Wayne Gateway of the West 1802 – 1813: Garrison Orderly Books Indian Agency Account Books, 1927, is filled with references to court-martialed officers, brawls, and duels being fought in the streets. It must have been an exciting if dangerous world for a young boy to grow up in.
  4. 1805, September 3 - Rebecca Johnston was born as the second child of John and Rachel Johnston, at Fort Wayne in the Indian Territory, she died 26 April 1808 from her Find A Grave page 6 months before her sister Elizabeth. A March 24, 2022 post by Johnston Farm & Indian Agency on Facebook states: it can be assumed that Rebecca was born in the safety of one of the fort's blockhouses, though this is not known for certain. Of all the Johnston's children we know the least about Rebecca. According to the family Bible, she died April 26th, 1807 at the tender age of 2 years, 7 months and 23 days. Fort Wayne, like any far-flung frontier outpost, was filled with sickness, or what were known as 'billious' fevers. In a letter dated 1804, John Johnston states that ‘for twelve months I had it with scarcely any interruption, every summer it is looked for as regular as the season comes. Nothing but my poverty and the circumstances of the Secretary of War having placed me here would have induced me to continue at this place on account of its unhealthiness.’ Another letter of the same time relates that his wife, Rachel, has also been ill. Most likely, the baby, Rebecca, died of one of these fevers. The post continues discussing the family and diseases of the that time.
  5. 1807, September 22 - Elizabeth Johnston was born in blockhouse #1, Fort Wayne, IN. At the time Fort Wayne was still, literally, a fort. She would have come into the world when her father John was US Factor to the Indians. Her earliest years would have been spent in the company of her brother Stephen, for her sister, Rebecca, died approximately 6 months before she was born. This made Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the family. As such, as a young girl and teen, she seems to have been the little 'mommy' to her younger siblings. ... Elizabeth was married on her sixteenth birthday to John Davies Jones, ten years her senior, in the Upper Piqua farmhouse September 22, 1823. Copied from ELIZABETH JOHNSTON JONES March 21, 2022 post by Johnston Farm & Indian Agency on Facebook.
  6. 1809, July 2 - Rosanna Johnston was born in Fort Wayne. Her 1844 obituary states ‘the deceased had been as child of affliction from infancy’. There is no record of what ‘affliction’ Rosanna suffered, but she was not so severely disabled as to be prevented from traveling and entering into other activities with her sisters. Toward the end of her life she suffered epileptic fits. Rosanna died suddenly at home on August 11, 1844. She was 35. Copied from 4. ROSANNA JOHNSTON on a February 22, 2017 post by Johnston Farm & Indian Agency on Facebook.
  7. 1813 - Find A Grave transcribed an article from the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, April 24, 1923 that stated Jane Driver Reynolds was given the distinction of being the first white child to take up residence in what is now the corporate limits of Fort Wayne. She was born in a cave near Upper Sandusky, where her father (John Driver b.1783-PA - d. 1865-Allen County, IN) had secreted her mother (Elizabeth Travis b.1790-KY - d.1850-Allen County, IN) from the hostilities of the Indians until the spring of 1813 when she was about 5 months old. At this time her father moved the family to the French and Indian trading post, now the site of Fort Wayne.
  8. 1825, October 11 - John S. Rogers born to John and Triphen J. Rogers was the first white born child in Adams Township from page 141 under Early Events of Adams Township in the History of Allen County, Indiana published in 1880 by the Kingman Brothers.
  9. 1833 the first white child was born in the spring to Jesse Vermilyea and died in the fall from page 145 under Early Events of Aboit Township in the History of Allen County, Indiana published in 1880 by the Kingman Brothers.
  10. 1839 - Lafayette Squier was the first white child born in Scipio Township to Platt and Aurilla Squier who arrived in 1836. From the Introduction page to This Wilderness of War: The Civil War Letters of George W. Squier, Hoosier ... by George Walter Squier on Google eBook

Substitutes for birth records:

  1. Cemetery records found in the office of larger cemeteries can include birth and death information, newspaper obituaries and death certificates.
  2. Sexton burial records can often be found at the office of the sexton when a phone number is posted on a sign in the cemetery. Sexton records are sometimes kept by the nearest public business to the cemetery for rural cemeteries. Contacting a local funeral home is another way to find sexton records.
  3. Census records have general information listing ages after 1850, with the 1900 census listing the birth month and year
  4. Church records for baptisms, marriages, and burials are sometimes available depending on denomination. Records are often sent to the church denomination archive for disbanded churches. Anabaptist churches such as Amish, Brethren and Mennonites generally do not record member information.
  5. Funeral homes sometimes have records for older out-of-business funeral homes merged into that funeral home. Similar to doctor and minister records, funeral home records may have been lost when the owner died, retired or otherwise shut down the business.
  6. Land and tax records will not give birth information, but can indicate if the parents were living in Allen County.
  7. Marriage records in the court house should have birth information for both people.
  8. Newspapers often printed birth notices, but they are not indexed or otherwise easily available for Allen County
  9. Newspaper obituaries are sometimes the only source of birth or death information with the details ranging from a basic death notice in early newspapers to a short detailed family history more often found in rural newspapers.

Naming Conventions

Genealogy: Naming Conventions posted Jun 2, 2020 by Allen County Public Library on YouTube
What's in a name? This presentation by our Genealogy Center examines the conventions for naming children in various cultures, mostly in the American and European traditions. It offers insights into how children were named and provides genealogists ethnic contexts for these traditions in their own ancestral background. Learn more at The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Death Information

April 23, 2023 post by Corryn Brock published April 23, 2023 by The Journal Gazette on Facebook:

I loved working on this story over the past month! It was an idea I came into my position with hopes of writing and I’m so excited to see it come to fruition.

Allen County’s three most recent unidentified decedents, known to the coroner’s office as Mary Jane Doe, John River Doe and Baby John Doe, have gone without their true identity for decades. With recent advances in technology and funding to support DNA testing in one of the cases, Deputy Coroner Chris Meihls hopes to bring closure to these cases and hopefully to families who don’t know their loved one’s whereabouts.

There were two similar new articles published with this plus an update to a 2019 newspaper article:

Search for John – and Jane – Does' identities continues decades later , Corryn Brock | The Journal Gazette, April 22, 2023 Found in the 1990s and early 2000s, they are the most recent of more than 60 unidentified decedents in Allen County dating back to the 1800s, according to Allen County Deputy Coroner Chris Meihls. With advancements in technology helping make connections between the unidentified dead and the living, Meihls said he hopes to return their identities to them.

DNA plays crucial role in closing unidentified decedent cases Corryn Brock April 22, 2023 in The Journal Gazette newspaper. Cece Moore is chief genetic genealogist for Parabon Nanolabs. She might be best-known locally for helping police identify the killer of 8-year-old April Tinsley, of Fort Wayne, who was killed April 1, 1988. We have information on April Tinsley who was killed in 1988.

Forensic sculptor in Mary Jane Doe case explains reconstruction process Corryn Brock April 22, 2023 in The Journal Gazette newspaper. Twenty-five years after Mary Jane Doe’s remains were found nearly completely decomposed, a forensic artist created a facial reconstruction to show what the woman might have looked like in life.

New attempt to ID woman found in '92 Body discovered in basement; she was 6 months pregnant Ashley Sloboda, August 6, 2019, Updated Apr 20, 2023 in The Journal Gazette newspaper. Renewed efforts to identify a woman found 27 years ago in a southeast Fort Wayne basement have led to new information about her, including she was six months pregnant, according to the Allen County coroner Monday. The coroner's office also released photographs of a clay facial reconstruction of the woman, who was buried in Lindenwood Cemetery as Mary Jane Doe. A contractor renovating a water-filled basement in the 3500 block of Reynolds Street found the woman in May 1992, but the coroner said she likely died in late 1991 or early 1992 based on the condition of her remains.

Mortuary and church records can add to or substitute for lack of other public death records.

Allen County Death Records page at Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana states:
This index includes records which were not part of the WPA death index for Allen County:

  1. Allen Co., Oct. 1899-1900
  2. Fort Wayne, Jan.-Jun. 1901, 1921-1932
  3. Monroeville, May 1909-Sep. 1937
  4. Rural townships, 1901, Sep. 1923-Dec. 1930

The images are from death record books held at the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health. The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center has these records available on microfiche.

Estate Index, Allen County, Indiana The Allen County Estate Index was transcribed from the General Index Estates Books 1-3 and was published in print form by ACGSI in the 1990s.

At The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana:

Allen County, Indiana Death Index, 1870s-1920s

The index covers deaths recorded in Allen County, Indiana between roughly 1870 and 1920. The Indiana Works Progress Administration originally compiled the print index. The staff of the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library compiled the searchable data file. The Allen County Public Library has microfilmed copies of most, but not all, of the deaths indexed in this file. 

  1. Allen County, Indiana Coroner Records Database, 1836-1949 with information at the The Genealogy Center 
  2. Deaths (City) 1870-1898 microfilm numbers at the The Genealogy Center 
  3. Deaths (City) 1899-1920 microfilm numbers at the The Genealogy Center 
  4. Deaths (City) 1921-1932 microfilm numbers at the The Genealogy Center 
  5. Deaths (County) 1907-1923 microfilm numbers at the The Genealogy Center 
  6. Deaths (County) 1923-1930 microfilm numbers at the The Genealogy Center 

Searching the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) in One Step1936 to February 28, 2014 by Stephen P. Morse, San Francisco

Other Information

  1. Selected Holdings at the Indiana State Library for Allen County at the Indiana State Library
  2. May 9, 2022 post by Indiana State Library on Facebook.

    We've digitized many of the family Bible records in our Genealogy Collection to make them more accessible to researchers everywhere. Check out the images here: with 136 records and slightly different Bible Records with 137 records at the Indiana State Library Digital Collection.

  3. Burial & Cremation Laws in Indiana Everything you need to know about burial, cremation, and other post-death matters in Indiana. at Updated By Valerie Keene, Attorney Each state has laws affecting what happens to a body after death. For example, most states have unique rules about embalming, burial or cremation, scattering ashes, and how to get a death certificate. Here are some answers to common questions about post-death matters in Indiana.
  4. The History of Birth Certificates is Shorter Than You Might Think by Erin Blakemore published August 8, 2017 on
  5. Learn the Common Death Causes of the 1800s at Bluegrass Roots Blog at Kentucky Genealogical Society
  6. Mother’s Friend: Birth Control in Nineteenth-Century America by Dr. Lauren MacIvor Thompson published February 5th, 2017 on National Museum Civil War Medicine website
  7. Why should the cause of death be a big secret? State needs to reconcile two contradictory laws. The News-Sentinel newspaperApril 24, 2013 EDITORIAL.
  8. Cause of death often mistaken, study says , by Thomas Hargrove and Lee Bowman of Scripps Howard News Service August 13, 2009, indicate that as many as a third of today's death certificates list the most likely cause of death rather than the actual medical cause of death making their value questionable.
  9. Indiana Births and Christenings 1773 to 1933 at - Name index to birth, baptism and christening records from the state of Indiana. Microfilm copies of these records are available at the Family History Library and Family History Centers. Due to privacy laws, recent records may not be displayed. The year range represents most of the records. A few records may be earlier or later.
  10. Indiana Death Index 1882 to 1920 at - Index of deaths from the Indiana State Board of Health, Division of Vital Records in Indianapolis. Index provided by
  11. Where to Write for Vital Records - order Indiana Certificates online from the CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  12. Death certificates: classifying the dead to save the living a brief history by Jonathan Purtle published April 9, 2014 at
  13. Executions in the U.S. 1608-2002: The Espy File from the Death Penalty Information Center. The "Espy File" is a database of executions in the United States and the earlier colonies from 1608 to 2002. This list of 15,269 executions was compiled by M. Watt Espy and John Ortiz Smykla, and was made available through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. It lists Indiana executions, but no county or location information.
  14. Old age isn’t a modern phenomenon – many people lived long enough to grow old in the olden days, too If you made it past early childhood, your chances got better to see your golden years by Sharon DeWitte on Salon. There's physical evidence that plenty of people in the past lived long lives – just as long as some people do today. ... What some people don’t realize is that low life expectancy at birth for any population usually reflects very high rates of infant mortality.
  15. Why You Should Research Coroner Records and Where to Find Them October 29, 2022 on TheAncestorHunt blog.
  16. Proving Pregnancy: Gender, Law, and Medical Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century America by John D. Beatty, CG in Genealogy Gems: News from the Allen County Public Library at Fort Wayne, No. 224, October 31, 2022.

    Establishing for legal purposes whether a woman was pregnant or had once been carrying a child challenged court officials in the nineteenth century, a time when there were no simple pregnancy tests. If a woman were charged with infanticide – and only unmarried women were charged by a narrow definition of the law – the court relied initially on the testimonies of midwives, folk healers, and neighbors to prove that she had been pregnant with a bastard child. In the colonial era, even if the child had been delivered stillborn, concealment of the birth constituted infanticide as defined by a 1624 British statute. Enslaved women and poor whites became the frequent targets of this law, the former especially because slaves were tangible assets of monetary value in the eyes of society. The death of an infant represented a loss of property to the enslaver.

    Felicity M. Turner’s book, “Proving Pregnancy: Gender, Law, and Medical Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century America” (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2022) (GC 973.8 T85p) explores the legal ramifications of illegitimate pregnancy in America’s past, its association with infant death, and how the process changed through the nineteenth century. That proof, at least according to the 1624 statute, depended only on whether a woman had been pregnant. Significantly, it did not require discovery of the infant’s body for the charge to be leveled against her. Married men and women could also be charged with murder of a child, but in those instances, the court required the body as evidence.

    Turner’s book traces how the knowledge of women’s bodies and the views of women as property in the legal arena changed between the Revolutionary War and the end of Reconstruction. During that time, both enslaved and free women, black and white, lost control of reproduction to a group of white male medical and legal professionals, who were increasingly out of touch with the reasons for infanticide than the midwives and healers, who had testified on their behalf in the early nineteenth century. The change led ultimately to the reinforcement of prevailing stereotypical views that relegated women and blacks as both mentally and physically inferior to their white male counterparts. Newspapers promoted stories of infanticide to feed the lurid interest of readers, while many whites conflated these stories with “Blackness.”

    As genealogists, we need to develop a working understanding of local law as it applies to our ancestors in the places they lived. When we write family history, we should attempt to comprehend their world, the reasons why they may have been in court, and the social and cultural motivations prompting the charges being leveled against them. If an infant died, especially if it were born out of wedlock, the death should lead researchers to contextualize the death against the backdrop of other issues bringing women into court accused for other reasons. Books like “Proving Pregnancy” add to the growing collection of historical legal works on early America that make up a portion of our holdings. We may never fully know the stigma that a woman faced for bearing a child out-of-wedlock in the nineteenth century, but books like this one offer us a glimpse into her world.

  17. August 8, 2023 post by the Indiana Historical Bureau on Facebook:

    Between the 19th and mid-20th century in the Midwest, access and barriers to the termination of pregnancies varied. Pregnancy often resulted in maternal death, poverty, emotional distress and suicidality, as well as the loss of employment. This caused many women to confide in close friends and family members to be “fixed up” or to “bring their courses around” through folk remedies. They also relied on midwestern practitioners like Dr. Josephine Gabler and Dr. Edgar Bass Keemer to covertly perform abortions. During the women’s liberation movement, women advocated for reproductive rights via the IU Women’s Caucus while graduate student Ruth Mahaney founded the Midwest Abortion Counseling Service to provide aid to women in need.

    Learn about the network forged by midwestern physicians and women: Subversion and Solidarity: A Pre-Roe History of Abortion in the Midwest

United States Census Bureau

  1. An Update to Birth Information from the Census Bureau December 11, 2012 on the by William Dollarhide.

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