Sunday, October 23, 2016

What You Can Find in Lafayette

There are some places with average collections—or sometimes, next to nothing—to offer the itinerant genealogical researcher, while other cities provide collections which manage to delightfully exceed expectations. In this latter category, locations like Salt Lake City and Fort Wayne come to mind. But not necessarily Lafayette, Indiana—unless you already knew about the Alameda McCollough Research Library housed at the Frank Arganbright Genealogy Center.

For a city of only seventy thousand, Lafayette is a place where you might not expect much, as far as research collections go. But for those pursuing documentation for Tippecanoe County, Indiana, we are fortunate to be recipients of the largess of an unassuming newspaperman who, upon his passing in 2008, left a gift sufficient to house the county's archival collection of books, vertical files, court records, and other genealogical treasures.

After serving his country during World War II, Frank Arganbright became a journalism alumnus of Indiana University at Bloomington. He first worked as a newspaper reporter at the Lafayette Journal and Courier, then attained the role of assistant city editor and, eventually, city editor. He remained at the Journal and Courier until 1972, when he assumed the role of senior editor for the Office of Public Information at Purdue University.

Somewhere along the way, this unassuming man—compared to "The Millionaire Next Door"—amassed enough of a fortune to bestow one million dollars toward a scholarship in his name at his alma mater, Indiana University at Bloomington, in addition to his legacy which established the genealogy center in his adopted home town, Lafayette.

For those of us blissfully unaware of who Frank Arganbright was—but who are keen to research our Lafayette roots—there is a lot to appreciate in this largess. While the center houses the Tippecanoe County Historical Association, a solid partnership with Tippecanoe County Area Genealogical Society members provides the volunteer staff hours to guide visitors through the collections of court documents archived at the Arganbright center.

Perhaps now that you know the research resources I knew I'd find at Lafayette, you can understand why I was so keen on making a stop here, the next time I got the chance to fly to the Chicago area. On a good day without (much) traffic, within a matter of less than a two hour drive, a researcher could be happily entrenched in the indices and card catalogs which are the key to Tippecanoe County family history answers. Better yet, managing to score a visit during the longest day in that very limited schedule in which the collection is open to the public—yes, I made it for the long Thursday schedule—is a bonus.

It wasn't lost on me how much the volunteers contributed to the collection's existence. While I searched for answers, behind me were volunteers, preserving and preparing additional local historic documents to be added to the collection. It is an arduous process, but one which the Society has been steadily working on for years. Some of those volunteers have devoted themselves to this process, shepherding Society members through such projects, while also using their knowledge and expertise to assist visiting researchers capably and effectively.

Thankfully, I once again was able to benefit from this assistance during last Thursday's visit, in my quest to determine whether Ann Kelly Doyle was indeed part of my husband's Kelly roots—and whether that DNA match was pointing me to the Kellys or someone else.


  1. How wonderful, it must be a really good feeling to be a part of that volunteer effort! :)

    1. Yes, I'm sure it is, Far Side. While I was there talking with the volunteers, it occurred to me that our Society has much to learn from this group. They are quite an inspiration for what can be accomplished. We are certainly hoping to do the same for our own county. Seeing the Tippecanoe County group do this is like watching trailblazers in action.

  2. I've a friend who had an ancestor at the Battle of Tippecanoe. I'm sure she'd love to see some of this - and she lives outside of Chicago to boot!

    1. I haven't researched that aspect of the local history, but I understand there is quite a bit to glean, concerning that battle. If she can make an outing on one of the days the Historical Association's collection is open to the public, she might find some interesting tidbits, as well as displays and cemetery markers to take in as well.


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