Unlock the past with TCPL
Tippecanoe County Public Library has several resources available for individuals wanting to research their family or local history. Most of these are located at the Downtown Library in the Family Memory Center and the Swezey Room of Indiana History.
The Indiana State Library also has an extensive genealogy page, including a statewide marriage index and many local newspapers.
Family Memory Center
The Family Memory Center is home to technology that can help you research local and family history. It was made possible by a generous donation from the Friends of the Library as part of their 50th anniversary. The former computer lab was renovated and new equipment purchased with their gift.
The Family Memory Center contains TCPL’s microfilm collection. This includes the local newspapers back to the 1850s. We also have the Indiana Census. You can also bring in microfilm or microfiche of your own to use. There are three microfilm machines with attached printers, plus a ScanPro digital scanner which save files to a flash drive or send them by email.
The Family Memory Center has a scanning station with a large flat-bed scanner. It has a 11.8 x 17″ scanning bed, making it perfect for large documents, and has a 600 dpi resolution. The scanning surface also goes right up to the front edge, which is angled. This allows books to be set with the inner spine on the edge, so that an entire page can be scanned without pressing the book flat and potentially damaging it.
If you have old slides or film, there is a “F2D Mighty” converter. This device can take 35mm, 127 (1.5×1.5″), 126KPK, and 110 slides or negatives and convert them to digital format. It will save the files directly to an SD card. It can also take Super 8 film, and once an entire film strip has been scanned it can be turned into a silent video. If you would like to use the F2D converter, please ask in the Portal and staff will help set it up.
If you have old VHS tapes sitting around, you can convert them to DVD or digital files for free. The VHS machine can either transfer the video directly to a blank DVD, or it can save the video to the computer for later editing or upload. DVDs can also be duplicated once you have made them. You will need to bring a blank DVD-R with you, or for files a USB drive. Sign up to use the machine at the reference desk. Please note that the conversion process will take the entire length of the tape. For example, if a home movie is an hour long, it will take an hour to convert. You may want to borrow a book or magazine, or bring other genealogy tasks to work on. It is possible to convert just part of a tape.
The Swezey Room of Indiana History
The Swezey Room of Indiana History contains books, magazines, documents and other materials relating to all aspects of Indiana and local history. It may be used by patrons doing research requiring the use of Indiana materials. Books in the Swezey Room are marked with either IND or IND CIRC. The IND CIRC books may be checked out for the normal two-week period. Magazines, documents and vertical file information relating to Indiana and local history may be photocopied.
The artistic showpiece of the Indiana Room is the large stained glass window installed in the west wall. It was designed and fabricated by Mary L. Sixbey, a prize-winning stained glass artist who has worked and exhibited in this art form for over a decade. The window “The River of Knowledge” which measures 14 x 6 1/2 feet, was a gift to the library from Mrs. Sixbey and her husband, Ted. The artist chose a river for it’s natural analogy to the spread of knowledge, the underlying purpose of a library. Much of the glass used is “mouth-blown” glass, custom made for the window by the freemont Glass Company of Seattle, Washington. Mouth-blown glass is a medium desirable for its interesting striations and its special qualities of light and color. The design’s rock formations were crafted from “crackle glass” imported from Germany. Multiple layers of glass in the work create the illusion of depth and enrich its textural quality.
The painstaking skill which is required to create such an impressive and vibrant work is evident in every detail. Mrs. Sixby worked on this piece for over two years, from its conception in the summer of 1987 to its completion and installation in December of 1989.
The elegance of the Swezey Room of Indiana History was made possible by a gift to the Tippecanoe County Public Library from Burr Swezey Jr., former chairman of the Lafayette National Bank, his wife Anne Louise and their three children, Dave, Karen and Elisabeth.
Mr. Swezey was born in 1918 at his family home at Kossuth Street and Lingle Avenue. Lafayette libraries, old and new, have featured in his life. He attended kindergarten in a building formerly at the corner of Columbia and Sixth (just one block from the current main Library) which had served as the city library from 1890 to 1901. When the Wells Memorial Library at North and Sixth opened in 1926, he became an eager and card-carrying young patron. In later years, Mr. Swezey became aware that the Wells building was much too small and that the community was in dire need of a large and modern facility. His enthusiastic support of the new library building project prompted him, in 1988 to offer a gift of $250,000 toward the building of the current Tippecanoe County Public Library at South and Seventh Street.
Believing that a public building should be more than simply utilitarian and that beauty could be gracefully integrated with function, Mr. Swezey designated $100,000 of the gift money to be spent on architectural enhancements to the Indiana History room. Of the remaining gift, $50,000 was spent on upgrading the library’s lighting and ventilation system and $100,000 was placed in a trust to be used for the purchase of books and related materials. The room is named in honor of the Swezey family.
The Swezey Room was designed by two local architects, Harry L. Mohler and Kent Schuette. The room features beautiful walnut bookshelves, cornices, ceiling beams, and mantelpiece, all made of wood custom-milled by the Waynedale Lumber Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The various architectural details were carefully chosen to echo similar uses of wood crafting in other historic Lafayette buildings, such as the county courthouse and the historical museum. Craftsmen from the Sims Painting Company of Indianapolis did the wood finishing work and carpenters of the H.G. Christman Company of South Bend did the final assembly and installation. The Swezey Room furniture, made of solid oak and stained to match the walnut bookshelves, was manufactured by the Worden Company. The room’s overall effect is an atmosphere of quiet warmth and dignified beauty that enhances the pleasures of reading and research.
The Swezey Room of Indiana History contains approximately 2500 books and other materials concerning all aspects of Indiana history including religious, governmental, educational, natural, architectural, literary, and biographical. It houses books by and about James Whitcomb Riley, Indiana high school and college basketball, Indiana in the Civil War and Indiana quilts. There are histories of Lafayette and state travel guides. It also includes Purdue and Tippecanoe County high school yearbooks. The genealogy collection is also housed in the room.
In addition to the databases and microfilm, there are additional print resources located in the Swezey Room of Indiana History. These inlcude:
- Lafayette / West Lafayette City Directories and Phone Books from 1858 – Present
- Birth, Death, and Marriage Indexes for Tippecanoe County
- Cemetery Indexes
- High School Yearbooks
- Civil War Muster Rolls
For more in depth resources, visit our Genealogy page.
TCPL’s Reference Department is able to do lookups for obituaries, newspaper articles, and other resources on a limited basis for individuals outside the local area. Residents of Tippecanoe County must come to the library in person for assistance. There is a $10 lookup fee per name or article.
Information that you need to include with your request:
- Full name of the person or persons you are looking for.
- Date of event. Please be as exact as possible. We can only search over a span of a few days.
- Publication, if known. Most local announcements are in the Journal & Courier.
If you do not know some of this information, please consider checking our online indexes or databases. Unfortunately we are not able to do general lookups without a name and timeframe. To request a lookup, you must send a written letter, self-addressed return envelope, and payment to the following address:
Tippecanoe County Public Library
627 South Street
Lafayette, IN 47901
Include your name and contact information as well in case there are questions. If you would like a scan, please indicate this and include a valid email address. Checks should be made out to the Tippecanoe County Public Library.
If you have questions about lookup procedures, please call (765) 429-0113, or submit an email via the Ask a Librarian page.