Where Do Hoosiers Come From?

In case you couldn’t tell from the title, I hail from Indiana. I lived there my whole life, well, until I was eight and my parents forced this cute country kid into the jungles of suburban Maryland. For 5 years I went home every summer and split time between my two grandmothers (shown here in May 1988). These summers were what it means to be a kid. There were afternoons of climbing trees, swimming in ponds, catching lightning bugs in jars, the quintessential Midwestern summer.

I have no siblings, so there was no competing for attention; I had their full focus, which could be good and bad. Many hot and sticky afternoons were spent with my grandmothers looking through old photographs from their closets and coffee tables. There were dozens of black and white stills of people I didn’t know, in places I had never seen, and sometimes in circumstances I couldn’t imagine. My grandmothers would tell me about our family with these pictures.

They shared the family’s stories freely with me. I heard stories of suspected Kentucky horse thievery, clandestine love affairs, ancestors in Jamestown (and the marriage of a Powhattan princess!), our links to the Mayflower, German and Irish immigrants, life on the railroad, and life at home while one of my grandfathers was in a Japanese POW camp. I was astonished…you mean we weren’t all from Indiana? Who knew we weren’t all born in Indiana?

When I began my journey through my family history I had a need to find these people, know them, and understand how I fit into that bigger puzzle. There are mysteries to be solved, you see, and each step I take in my research brings a little more of the picture into focus. I know those old stories have truths in them, I just need to use the clues I have been given to guide me. Now to turn off my “oh shiny” switch and get down to business by finding the truths, and half-truths, within those old stories.


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, VA. You can read previous posts at Family Tree University.


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18 thoughts on “Where Do Hoosiers Come From?

  1. I too was lucky enough to have been raised up with my grandma who lived in an upstairs apartment above our house. She would tale me about her family ,places and people and she is the one that whet my appitite for genealogy. using her information and ancestry.com I have found out a lot. But it’s never enough, once bitten by the genalogy bug you never recover!

  2. Yes, I was very fortunate to spend time visiting with them. As an adult I wish my parents had continued to send me back as a teenager. At the time…maybe I wouldn’t have liked it so much.

    I am from Daviess County. About an hour north of Evansville, about 3 hours south west of Indianapolis, and about 1.5 hours from Bloomington.

  3. Cute post, I’ve been addicted for nearly forty years, so KNOW you are going to have a good time. Thanks

  4. My husband is from Ft. Wayne and his Shively ancestors settled Henry and Wells County. I’ve never been to Indiana but after spending so much “virtual” time there researching his family I feel like I have!

  5. Shannon, when I first started reading this blog, I exclaimed to my husband “I could have written this.” I was born in Indianapolis, parents moved me to California when I was five years old and I spent three summers (age 7-10) with my grandparents. They had a cottage on Freeman Lake (north of Lafayette) and I’d fly back in early June and return to CA just before school started. I too was an only child during those years.

    Ah, the memories I have of those halcyon days! I’m now a grandmother myself and am fortunate enough to have a lake cottage in northern Wisconsin. My grandchildren enjoy their times there and are creating their own lasting memories of times with Gramma Ces and Poppa John.

    I now have all my grandparents’ old photos and other ‘stuff’ of genealogical interest so every once in a while I can reflect on those times past.

  6. Wow, Ces what a coincidence! I am jealous that you got to fly. My parents drove the 14 hours (usually in one go) to take me back home. Your grandkids are lucky to be able to do that with you, and I am sure they will look back on it with fond memories. My kids are getting to the age where we are not talking about sending them to their grandparents for a little time during the summers. It won’t be like Indiana, as our parents all live in Texas, but I am sure it would be an adventure!

  7. Nancy, you should go visit. Northern Indiana is very different from southern as far as the landscape (flat vs hilly) but I bet you would have a great time!

  8. To Shannon and all who responded to this blog: Write those memories down. Please, write them down. They don’t have to be elaborate or even in good form, just write them. Kids and grandkids all politely listen and appear interested but have so much going on in their minds that the stories disappear over time. Much later they lament(I am living proof of that) they don’t have Granny and Gramps around to repeat the stories. Please, write down your memories.

  9. Shannon, you touched my button, I too was born in Indiana, but I left, in my 20’s, when my grandmother became a widow,she lived in Michigan. I too spend summers with my grandparents, at their cottage. I had a sister so time was divided. I haven’t lived there since, but I read my hometown newspaper every day, on the internet, to keep in touch. Greencastle was my hometown.
    Yes it is a beautiful state, with the hills of the south and the flat wide open country of the north.

  10. I was born a Hoosier in Gary, Indiana (only because that was where the hospital was. My hometown until I was 29 was Portage, IN which wasn’t officially a city until I was in high school. My grandparents (my mother’s parents) lived next door to us and my other grandparents lived in Gary. My husband & I moved to Colorado in 1970 and have lived here ever since. We just went back to IN for a family reunion. I created a “genealogy in pictures” for it so that everyone could see how we are all related. It was a hit.

  11. I too am a hoosier was lucky to grow up there ~ Indpls, then on Girl School road (between Clermont and Speedway. then finished High School at Cloverdale. Most of my relatives landed in Clay Co., Indiana from Knox Co.,Kentucky. Now I live in Arkansas. Been chasing ancestors since ’95. LOL Even have one buried in Greencastle!

  12. I hope you took notes about what your grandmothers were telling you. When I was growing up my father used to tell us stories about many of our relatives, but I never wrote down anything he was telling us. He passed away when I was 17. I didn’t really get interested in our family genealogy until I was past 40. As a result, I have had to do a lot of searching to learn about my ancestors without the benefit of the stories that I should have recorded in my youth. This should be a lesson to everyone, to listen to your relatives and record their stories.

  13. First, it is great to hear from so many Hoosiers! It really made me have warm fuzzies to hear from you all. No matter where I live my “home” is always Daviess County Indiana. Yes, I learned early that home is where you hang your hat, but I think I left one there.

    As a child I just absorbed the stories that my grandmothers told me. I did ask to hear them over and over again, and when I was older we talked about the family during visits. I have to say the stories got wilder and had many more details the older I became. Oh, and never think your kids and grandkids aren’t listening to you talk. Some of the more interesting stories I heard was because they were talking to their siblings or friends and didn’t realize that I was paying attention. Plus juicy “opinion” stories between two women in their 70’s can be very enlightening.

    My maternal grandmother lived with us her last few years before she died of cancer when I was in high school. I think I missed out the most by losing her then before I could formulate in my mind the questions I wanted to ask. My paternal grandmother died when I was in college, and her house is where I sought refuge during breaks and on the weekends with my husband. Having those adult conversations about all the family gossip really opened my eyes to the fact that these were people and not just names on the page.

    The last few months I have been hounding my dad to write his memories down. They don’t have to be fancy put-together essays I have been telling him, but I want that information and his oldest grandchild the budding historian does too. I know he hasn’t done it yet…but I have a video camera and I am not afraid to use it.

    As for me, I will admit that I have been bad and not written any of these down. Probably for the same reason my dad hasn’t. Where do I begin? How do I begin? What do I say? Soon I will just have to stop procrastinating and just type, or (gasp) pick up a notebook and write it all out.

  14. Writing is the problem! Recording conversations are probably easier and can be typed later. My maternal grandfather was an electrician and worked on Bagnell Dam in Missouri. After he had lost his 1st wife I think to TB and the baby also, went to BRAZIL in 1920s helped them get electricity. He had a daughter he let his sister and husband raise. My grandfather married again and had 4 daughters. He also work at Oakridge, TN. Mail was censored, etc. I think he also worked electric for Corning Glass Works. We had a family reunion a few years ago. My siblings from my mom’s 1st marriage didn’t know too much about the maternal side of the family. I created CDs using Picaso. Sadly to say I got practice compiling photos earlier that year with the death of 1 brother in March (leukemia. Then I lost my oldest brother 3 weeks after the reunion (pancreatic cancer)in July.

  15. Wow Vicky that is quite the story. It was great of you to do all that work on CD’s, but I was sorry to hear of the loss of your brothers. That had to be tough.

    I saw mention of Corning Glass works, and I have to say if you get the chance to go to their museum in Corning NY you should. Maybe you can get information from the factory as well about your grandfather. Always worth a shot, you may get lucky.

    On an aside, I was in Corning October of 2010 for their annual glass seminar. Absolutly lovely town. Stained glass is another passion of mine and it is one of the best research libraries around in the field; it is the Family History Center for glass research.

  16. Merry Christmas to all! I will have to check that out. My Aunt & Uncle also worked there. And they live very close and could ask them some more questions.

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