WVGS City Directory Workshop

Using City Directories in Research

The Wabash Valley Genealogy Society will be presenting a program on using city directories at the Vigo County History Center Auditorium at 929 Wabash Avenue, Terre Haute, IN, on Saturday, May 20th, at 10:30 a.m.

The often forgotten city directories with wonderful advertisements have been destroyed by homeowners when phone books became popular.  Fortunately, the Vigo County History Museum has a collection from 1850s to 2009, including some county directories.

City directories offer much information of a particular city in a specific year, listing resident’s occupations and addresses.  Print financing was supported by local advertisers, and the advertising is, in itself, a good source for research in family history, social research, and historical research.  Locations of churches, schools, city offices, and other important sites were listed as well as other information.

The program will be presented by Casey Pfeiffer of the Indianapolis, Indiana, State Public Library.  Her program will highlight directory history, where to access them, and their specific value in research when other records are unattainable.

Admission is free to VCHC and OLLI members.  Adults $7 and Seniors $6.




City Directories & Early Platt Books

Sleuthing at the CCGS Library

Today our Clay County Historian, Jeff Koehler, came to the library searching for the birthplace of Madge Oberholtzer (1896-1925), whose death was caused by D.C. Stephenson,  head of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana at that time.

Mr. Koehler knew her parents were George and Matilda Harr Oberholtzer, former residents of Clay City.  George was the postmaster in Clay City when his seven-year-old son was killed in a hot air balloon accident that killed two other boys.  We figured that Madge was born in Clay City; however, we wanted to learn more, so we put on our sleuthing caps and began searching through books unique to the CCGS Library.

After looking in the 1904 Brazil City Directory, we found that George Oberholtzer had 20 acres in Perry Township.  Even though the book’s title leads one to think it is a directory to only Brazil City, the names of residents of the various townships are listed along with the number of acres they owned. 

The next book used was the 1903 Clay County Plat Book, which cannot be found anywhere but in the CCGS Library.  It and two shelves of late 1800 and early 1900s are located in the library. By reading down the right side of the plat book page, the name, George Oberholtzer, was located.  The book stated that he owned 20 acres in Pt  NE NE of Section 8 in Township 11 of Perry Township. 

Using the 1890 Clay County Plat Book, we saw  that property was owned by Emanuel Miller Harr, the father of Matilda Jane Harr Oberholtzer.  Later, I spoke with Mark Barnhart, the great-grandson of Emanuel: Mark explained that Matilda had inherited acreage in Perry Township from the Harr Estate.  Mark’s grandfather, Jacob Harr farmed their ground, which, at one time, included another 120 acres.

Madge, her brother, Marshall, and their parents were living in Indianapolis by 1910; they lived a few blocks from where D.C. Stephenson’s home was located at that time.  The story of her association with him, her resulting death, and his trial can be found on Find-A-Grave.

Tonia Tucker looked up information on Ancestry.com, which is available at the library for patron use.  She found the address of the Oberholtzer’s home in 1910.  By using our phones and maps, we were able to locate the residences of both the Oberholtzers and D.C. Stephenson. 

The Clay County Plat Book and city directory were invaluable in our search for the property where Madge and her family lived prior to moving to Indianapolis.  

Remember that the CCGS Library has information that cannot be found on the Internet, and the volunteers are as excited as you to locate information you are seeking.  Come to the library and let us help you dig for your roots.

Patricia Crafton Wilkinson


Clay County Indiana