It is an accepted maxim that none of the records that we use as genealogists were created for genealogy. We are the ultimate borrowers. In that vein, we need to look around for records that are not in our “usual” places, i.e. the State Library, the Allen County Public Library, etc.
When in Indianapolis, a prime location for supporting materials is the American Legion Library, located in the Legion National Headquarters Building on the northeast corner of the War Memorial Mall. The official address is 700 N. Pennsylvania Street, 46206.
The Library, which occupies the north end of the fourth floor, contains about 10,000 books and 400 periodicals covering the subjects of military and American history, veterans’ affairs and Legion business.
A major book collection is the 1,000+ military unit histories, primarily for the 20th century. Did you have a WW1 or WW2 veteran? Chances are good that you can track him or her throughout the war by using the history of the military unit.
Another major book area is the thousands of military biographies and military histories. Don’t know where Private Sam Jones was during the Revolution? Use a biography and follow his officer—Sam should be close behind! The military histories can fill in those gaps about what happened where and when.
I browsed the general reference shelves and found lots of useful tools. How about “The Encyclopedia of Historic Forts,” telling about many American sites now long gone?
Or the 3-volume set of “Soldiers of the Great War,” detailing WW1 Army war dead from all the states and including 340 photos. Wouldn’t you like to find a contemporary photo of your ancestor who died in the War To End All Wars? There is even a Navy volume.
In addition, there are 5-volumes with the same information on WW2.
There are books on medals awarded from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm. Wouldn’t it be rewarding to find an ancestor with a medal for bravery?
You can find almost any kind of military reference, including military newspapers, like “Yank” from WW2; lots of organizational manuals, even references on the British, French, Canadian, and Australian military. One book I enjoyed was “Indiana Women In World War One.” Did you know that about 600 female Hoosiers served in the military in that time period, many of them in France? Was your grandma there?
And, ladies, if you have a non-genealogist spouse, take him along and let him browse through the Emil Blackmore Museum, filled with military memorabilia and also on the 4th floor.
If you have military ancestors, and most of us do, be sure to check out the American Legion Library. Check them out at www.legion.org. If you plan to visit, call ahead and explain your interest. Legionaires and veterans are especially welcome, but the staff is usually cooperative to "civilians."