by John

The smallest level of local government administration in Indiana is the Township Trustee. An elected office since the nineteenth century, the trustee originally exercised responsibility for erecting schoolhouses, employing teachers, building roads, digging ditches, holding elections, maintaining cemeteries, and distributing relief for the poor. They kept a variety of record books in which they recorded minutes of meetings and a variety of other acts that pertained to their official duties. Often these books are filled with names of local residents in a variety of contexts.

Genealogists today face a variety of challenges in locating township records. In some cases, these volumes may still be in the custody of a trustee, but that is in no way a certainty and the thread of custody may have gotten lost over time. Deemed unimportant, some records have doubtless been lost over the years or destroyed. Conversely, these volumes may be stored in attics, barns, or other locations where former trustees once resided. In the 1980s, the Genealogy Center received a number of records from Jackson Township, Allen County, which a researcher discovered stored in a chicken coop. Genealogists who take the time to examine these township trustee records may find their efforts rewarded with information not found anywhere else. Particularly valuable are lists of local residents who sent their children to school in a given year or the names of students, serving as a kind of census substitute for years when there are no federal census schedules.

The Genealogy Center recently digitized several record books originally held by the Aboite Township, Allen County, Trustee. They include:

School Enumeration Records, 1866-1895 
School Trustees Records, 1866-1893 

John's Blog Teachers employed

Going through the records one sees such familiar names as William Hamilton and Thomas Covington, for who West Hamilton and Covington roads are named, as well as lists of all of the parents or guardians who sent children to school.

What exists for some of Allen County’s other townships? The Jackson Township records, all recovered from the chicken coop, are the most extensive and have either been restored or microfilmed. They include ditch fund records, road supervision records, miscellaneous school reports (1879-1909), school enumerations, cash books, and poor fund claims. Among the more unusual is a so-called “Sheep Record,” in which the owners of sheep, fowl, hogs, and other livestock made claims for those killed or maimed by dogs between 1928 and 1979. Check the library catalog under “Jackson Township Allen County” for a list of the variety of books for this township.

Other townships have turned in fewer records, but we are unable to say other records are not now extant. A single volume from Lake Township, Allen County, 1842-1846, GC 977.201 AL5La, contains trustee meeting minutes that followed the creation of the township. The pages record the outcomes of local elections and the names of voters as well as constable reports, fee assessments, and records of oaths for such offices as fence viewer and road supervisor. Two original schoolhouse grade books, 1888-1889, GC 977.201 AL5sr, and 1901-1903, GC 977.201 AL5sra, contain records of pupils, the schools they attended, their teachers, and the grades they received.

The Trustees’ School Record of Monroe Township, Allen County, 1866-1880, 977.201 AL5mou, contains lists of names to whom the trustee disbursed school funds, mostly for the construction of schoolhouses or the purchase of school land. A record book from a single school, the Stephenson School District 1 at Hoffman and Morgan roads, 1923-1925, GC 977.201 AL5mot, records a list of the pupils and their attendance. There is also a Voting Record and Expense Accounts volume, 1858-1872, GC 977.201 AL5monv, for Monroe Township, including a complete list of voters at the poll on 2 April 1860 and the tally of votes for various offices.

Several volumes from Washington Township, Allen County, are extant, including School Attendance Records, 1904-1907, GC 977.201 AL5scht; the Register of the District 5 School, 1910-1912, GC 977.201 AL5schr; and another School Register, 1919-1925, GC 977.201 AL5schu. Each book is filled with the names of local pupils, their teachers, and grades. On microfilm there is an Enumeration of White and Colored Males over the Age of 21, dated 1901, which serves as a census substitute.

Finally, a single volume of records from Perry Township School District 1, 1867-1904, GC 977.201 AL5perr, contains minutes of meetings held for the maintenance of the so-called Dutch Ridge Schoolhouse at Chapman and Auburn roads. The volume includes expense account records for repair work to the school, but it has no lists of pupils.

John's Blog Dutch Ridge School

We in the Genealogy Center would like to digitize other township trustee records, if they can be located, for any county. We also encourage researchers to explore these little-used sources for information not found in other places. The variety of information they contain should tantalize any researcher.