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(March 16) – The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library was the focus of the inaugural “Past and Present: Genealogy and Local History” column in the March 11, 2020 issue of the Kokomo Perspective.

The pursuit of the past typically starts in the present, most often at KHCPL. In addition to sharing recent facts and figures, the column featured a description of several of the library’s well-organized and portable Experience Kits, which are available for borrowing by the public. 

The Genealogy and Local History department’s Experience Kit is the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner. This robust handheld device is ideal for documents, photographs, and even fragile items that can be difficult to scan with other systems. So even in the traditional realm of genealogy, with dusty documents and deteriorating records, there now are digital tools to help preserve our past.

Read the column here.

(March 9) -- The Genealogy and Local History department was full of patrons March 5, who came to the downtown Kokomo location interested in learning more about one of the library’s premier database offerings.

Genealogy research has never been more popular, and worldwide some 3 million subscribers pay for database access to the roughly 10 billion historical records offered by Ancestry.Com. Currently the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world, the company, based in Utah and launched in 1996, operates a network of genealogical, historical records, and related genetic genealogy websites.

The Genealogy Short Class on Ancestry Library Edition was well-attended and the group benefited from the research tips offered by Amy Russell, the Genealogy and Local History department head. Russell demonstrated ways to use Ancestry’s search tools and offered guidance on analyzing historical records (watch out for those transcription errors!).

Particularly well-received by the class attendees was learning how to cross-reference search results across both the Ancestry website and the Family Search platform.

The library offers free access to Ancestry Library Edition for anyone in Howard County (with a KHCPL library card). The library’s subscription service has a few limitations: library versions are slightly less robust than the paid site. Plus, Ancestry is currently the only database (of more than 90) that patrons cannot access free of charge outside the library buildings.


"Abram" Lincoln was a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, at the time of the 1850 census.

(March 2) -- So why are U.S. Census records only available up to 1940? The “72-Year” rule is the reason.

According to federal law, personal information about an individual is not publicly accessible for 72 years from the time it is collected during the decennial census. Information within that time frame can only be released to the named individual or a legal heir.

Thus, the most recent census data we can examine is from 1940. But we won’t have to wait long to start exploring the next collection: records from the 1950 U.S. census will be released publicly April 1, 2022. Although they won’t be generally searchable for several months, you can look by location.

To learn how to request recent data for yourself or your family, visit While you’re at the site, check out the “Famous and Infamous Census Records” page. This fascinating collection includes hundreds of downloadable reprints of the actual census pages for a range of notable, and some notorious, Americans. You’ll find everyone from the poet Maya Angelou to Native Americans like Sitting Bull to U.S. presidents and sports stars and even Elvis (and don’t miss Lizzie Borden and John Wilkes Booth!).

There’s even a Kokomo native: the diminutive child circus performer Nellie Keeler. She is listed with her parents in the 1900 census at Versailles, Indiana. Keeler died there of tuberculosis three years later at age 28. 


Hundreds of existing local families have ancestors among the 2,000 or so individuals from Howard County who served in the U.S. Civil War (1861-65).  Now we can add a grandson of the City of Kokomo's namesake to the total.

A family history of the village or band leader named Kokomo, created by the Myaamina Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, provides valuable clues about a person with a similar-sounding name in the area in the mid-19th century.  Specifically, the Center reports that while Kokomo's name and much of his life remain a mystery to us today, the family lived on for a time, and there are records of a direct descendant - Pimweeyotamwa (Eli Goodboy) - who served in the Civil War.  (Sadly, no direct descendants are still living.)

In "kokomo neehi eeweemaacihi," a paper published in 2017, authors John Bickers and George Ironstrack write that the young Pimweeyotamwa served in the 101st Infantry Regiment and likely participated in key Civil War events like the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman's March to the Sea.  Pimweeyotamwa was "unique among his fellow soldiers," as the Center's research shows him to be "the grandson of the man often called Kokomo."

If your ancestor was a Civil War veteran, be sure to check out the new online "Howard County Civil War" database, a joint project between the Genealogy & Local History Dept of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library and the Howard County Historical Society.


Tom Hanks has received positive reviews and several award nominations for his portrayal of the beloved television personality Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers) in Sony Pictures' 2019 " A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." The acclaim for the film and Hanks' role was augmented in November 2019 by a fascinating genealogical connection, when revealed in a post on its blog site that the two men are distant relatives.

Hanks and Rogers, who died of stomach cancer 2003, are sixth cousins from a five-times great-grandfather, an 18th-century German immigrant name Johannes Meffert, according to Ancestry. The research into the Hanks-Rogers shared history and the surprising results is just one example of how ancestry can "power amazing and impactful experience(s) for all people," according to the blog post.

Howard County residents have free limited access to's extensive online history databases as part of the research tools available through the Genealogy & Local History Department at the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.  Do a little digging into your family's past and see if you are related to a movie star!

It was with great sadness that I post this blog.  Our most recent contributor, Marcia Ford, passed away March 12.  We will miss her humor, knowledge and insight.  Stay tuned for more blog entries on genealogical and library topics in the coming days and weeks.


October is half over, but you still have time to bid on our Silent Auction of duplicate or superseded genealogy and history books. We will take bids until Oct. 31. Come to the lower level of the main Library to view the books.  If you can't come....take a look at the list and submit a bid form.



Happy Shopping 


How often have you told yourself - "I need to look into my family history, but I just don't have the time"?

The friendly, knowledgeable folks in the Genealogy & Local History Dept. are giving you a chance to do just that.  We are offering you the time, space and (most important), the help you need to get started (or continue) your family research. 

Genealogy for Night Owls will be Friday, Oct. 28.  We officially begin at 5:30 and close down at midnight.  Some of our patrons come earlier in the afternoon to get a good head start.  As far as I know, KHCPL-GLHD is the only library in the state with a Night Owls staying open until midnight.

So, what do we do?  We have a catered dinner, door prizes, snacks all evening and lots of fun.  You DO NOT have to be an experienced researcher to do this.  We will have 4 GLHD staff and will walk you through every step.  We have the books, files, databases, and forms to get you addicted.  All you need to bring is the desire and your own family knowledge and stories.  And yes, I did say *addicted*.

Make a reservation in the department by Wednesday, Oct 26 so I can give the caterer a head count.  The cost is $18, payable when you register.  Bring a friend or family member.  Stay as long as you like.  We will be here until midnight and some of the truly addicted walk out with us. 

C'mon.  Join us.  Your ancestors are calling you.

Amy Russell,