Research by Mail

The Historical & Genealogical Society was founded in 1938 as a private non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of Indiana County. One of our goals is to help families trace their family history. This is often a complicated and difficult task. The information below is intended to help guide you in making the search for your ancestors as rewarding as possible. As a point of information, our research is confined to the Indiana County area only.

Membership in the Society is open to anyone interested in the history of Indiana County. Members receive priority in having their requests answered and reduced research fees, so please mention your membership status when making a request.

Making a request

To start your research request, you may send a check with your inquiry or be billed upon completion of the search. We urge you to ask for one surname at a time and to include as much information as possible concerning that name. Additional surnames should be listed on a separate sheet of paper.

There is a $20.00 minimum fee for non-members and $15.00 minimum fee for members. These fees pay for up to one hour of research. Additional hours are billed at the same rates.

In addition, there is a $15.00 fee for research done at the courthouse, or on our microfilm collection. County Court records and others off site can be researched upon availability of volunteer researchers.

A short look-up, such as one obituary for which you have complete information, may be requested by sending your request along with $20 (or $5 for Members) and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Photocopying charges are $ .25 per copy and return postage is added.

If your request for information will require what appears to be an excessive amount of time, and you have not sent money in advance or specified a limit to your search, we will contact you by letter or mail to seek your authorization to proceed at the standard rate. Special requests will be considered on a individual basis. Please contact us if you have any questions about the fees which may be involved for your research.

The fee you pay is based on the time we spend on the search, not on the results. While many searches produce results, some do not. You should understand that you may pay for a search that will not produce the information you want. We will make every effort to help you.

What we need to know

Since our holdings are so extensive, we are capable of developing considerable information on many individuals. It is important that you let us know exactly what you want to know. You must be specific in the information you are seeking! For example, do you want birth, baptism, marriage, and death records? There really is a wide range of information that we can seek, so a specific request on what type of information you need would be most helpful. One good technique is to form a list of questions you want answered. Please do not say, "everything you can find on this name," or, in the instance of a common name, your bill could be quite large!

The more we know about the person or family you are seeking information on, the more clues we will have to search for him/them. Tell us everything you can about the individual or family: full name, time period of their life, place of residence, religious affiliation, occupation, and so forth. If you have already had some research done and have certain information, please state so. This will reduce the chance of getting information you already have.

What we cannot do

Note: WE DO NOT SEARCH OFFICIAL COUNTY RECORDS, OR STATE RECORDS. WE HAVE ONLY LIMITED U.S. CENSUS RECORDS. If you are seeking official property records or other county records, we will give you contact names and addresses at the Courthouse. If you seek birth and death records for the period of the 1890's or later, we will give you the information to contact the appropriate state agency. You can check census records at your local Mormon Church Family History Center or at a large public library.

Helpful hints

When applying to any institution for help in you research project, it is always a good idea to consider the following suggestions:

Explain your request in a simple, uncomplicated way. Cover all the necessary information but be as brief as possible. Try to avoid unrelated details.

Print or type your letter, if possible. We may request clarification if we cannot read the handwriting. At all costs, avoid script with fancy cursive lettering. Always put your full name and address on each piece of correspondence.

When making your first contact

Send a stamped self-addressed, business-sized (#10) envelope.

Send along a donation to cover the cost of the society's reply to your letter, if possible. Remember that we are nonprofit and operate on a severely limited budget. DO NOT EXPECT SOMETHING FOR NOTHING.

If you are in a hurry and expect a reply in a few days, give up. Most societies receive many times more letters than they can adequately answer. So be polite, patient and generous with your donations.

Visiting our library

We welcome visitors to our library. We are located in the Indiana County Historical Museum and Library on 621 Wayne Avenue, Indiana, PA. Our hours of operations are Tuesday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m. and most Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Please call ahead to check schedules around major holidays.

We will do our very best to help you in your search.