Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

July 20 show

Roots-tracing tips and advice

A page from an 1858 Evansville, Ind., city directory lists residents in alphabetical order. Image courtesy Evansville City Directories Digital Archive.Maybe it happens more than once in a generation, but ask yourself: How often do you get free tips and advice about tracking down your family history?

Knowing that genealogy can be intimidating and overwhelming, Hoosier History Live! will bring in some experts. They will include an acclaimed Hoosier who not only is considered one of the top genealogists in the state, but among the best in the country as well.

Curt Witcher is manager of the renowned genealogy center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne; it's generally regarded as the nation's best resource for roots-tracing, except perhaps for the Mormon-affiliated resources in Salt Lake City.

Curt also is former president of the National Genealogical Society and a board member of the Indiana Genealogical Society. Founded in 1989, the Indiana Genealogical Society has more than 500,000 records on its website from all of the state's 92 counties.

Curt Witcher.In addition to Curt, Nelson will be joined in studio by two Indiana Historical Society staff members who will be leading an upcoming workshop about beginning genealogy.

Kendra Clauser."Start with What You Know" is the title of the workshop with Kendra Clauser, IHS oral history project archivist, and genealogist Allison DePrey, IHS assistant coordinator for education and community engagement, who will be guests on our show. For more information about - or to register for - the July 27 workshop, which will be 10 a.m. to noon at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, contact the historical society.

Elsewhere in Indiana, a major opportunity will be available for listeners interested in roots-tracing. The Federation of Genealogical Societies will have a national conference Aug. 21-24 in Fort Wayne. Allison DePrey.Our guest Curt Witcher is a board member of the Federation of Genealogical Societies; its upcoming conference at the Grand Wayne Convention Center is open to anyone interested in family history.

During our show, Nelson and his guests will explore roots-tracing aspects galore. They will include tips on:

  • Using ancestry.com and launching your research.
  • Assessing the accuracy of diaries and letters, as well as of notations in family Bibles and other family documents.
  • Dealing with special challenges that involve ethnic immigration, as well as the ancestry of African-Americans and other minority populations.
  • Interviewing relatives.
  • Delving into the resources at the Allen County Public Library. A sample: It has the largest collection of city directories in the country. The library also has one of the largest collections of Canadian genealogy material.

Vintage photograph of a boy and a girl in formal clothing. Old family photographs can be a great source for genealogists. Remember to always write as much information as possible on the back of the photos.Our guest Curt Witcher has worked at the Allen County Public Library for more than 34 years. And our guest Allison DePrey, an Allen County native, began her roots-tracing research at the library as a teenager. In recent years, Allison has given presentations at several genealogy workshops across the state.

Her colleague at the historical society, our guest Kendra Clauser, specializes in interviewing and "collecting individual life stories" of people who have witnessed significant events in Indiana's recent past.

This is an ideal show for listeners to call in at (317) 788-3314 and ask for advice in exploring family trees.

Learn more:

Roadtrip: Wabash, Ind.

Guest Roadtripper and historian-at-large Glory- June Greiff recommends we head north from Indianapolis to visit the historic town of Wabash, which was founded in 1834 on a high bluff.

Wabash lies above the river of the same name in the county of the same name and also was a port on the Wabash and Erie Canal. It was the first town in the world (!) to be illuminated by electricity, back in 1880. The lights were installed on the dome of the beautiful new courthouse, completed only the year before.

A 1,500-seat theater is the centerpiece of the Honeywell Center in Wabash, Ind. Image courtesy Honeywell Center.The historic courthouse still stands, and immediately to the west is the old GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Hall, guarded by two cast-iron Civil War sentries. The building, which until recent years housed the Wabash County Historical Museum, now contains county offices. The museum moved to a new location downtown at 36 E. Market and is well worth seeing. The staff there will be pleased to direct you to the numerous historic sites in the area.

Wabash is filled with many wonderful historic houses, and Glory strongly suggests simply walking, especially north and west of downtown. A very nice house museum is the Dr. James Ford Historic Home. And the Honeywell House is a beautiful bed-and-breakfast that also hosts several arts and educational programs and events throughout the year.

The Honeywell Center, an interesting building with Art Deco influences, is a community center and auditorium that offers top-notch entertainment throughout the year. And if you're hungry, don't miss lunch or dinner at the Charley Creek Inn, a beautifully restored 1920s hotel downtown. You may very well want to stay the night!

History Mystery

In addition to being the site of the renowned Allen County Public Library and its genealogy center, Fort Wayne also hosts one of the largest annual festivals in northeastern Indiana. The festival is held every September to celebrate the life of an American folk hero.

Image of a festival in Fort Wayne's Archer Park.Many historians believe the folk hero died in the Fort Wayne area, probably in 1845. A memorial to the folk hero on his likely gravesite is in Archer Park and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

He has been celebrated in literature as well as pop culture, including Walt Disney cartoons.

Question: Who is the folk hero celebrated at the Fort Wayne festival?

To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show and be willing to be placed on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.

The prize is four entries to the Indiana Experience at the Indiana Historical Society, two tours of the President Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, and a pair of tickets to the Track Tour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. These prizes are courtesy of Visit Indy.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director

Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


Core Redevelopment logo.Lucas Oil

Indiana Landmarks logo.Story Inn

Indiana Historical Society logo.

Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Core Redevelopment | Indiana Historical Society | Indiana Landmarks | Lucas Oil | Story Inn.

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Visit Indy, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo & Research Services, Derrick Lowhorn and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through Indiana Humanities. We do not receive any government funding. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.

July 27 show

Historic movie theaters, Act II

An audience gathers for opening day at the Emboyd Theatre (later the Embassy Theatre) in Fort Wayne, Ind., on May 14, 1928. The theater came with a Page theater pipe organ, and the seven-story Indiana Hotel was wrapped around the west and north sides of the theater. Image courtesy Historic Embassy Theatre.

Consider this a sequel to a popular show last February that focused on historic Indiana movie theaters that now are in a range of conditions, from lavishly restored to long-deteriorating. We also touched on a challenge that could imperil single-screen theaters built decades ago: a looming deadline to convert to digital projection, which involves considerable expense.

To explore additional movie theaters with rich histories, as well as delve further into the digital-era challenges and various issues involved in programming classic or other Golden Age movies instead of contemporary films, Nelson will be joined in studio by two guests. The Lerner Theatre in Elkhart, Ind., opened in 1924 with 2,000 seats. Shows included vaudeville, big band and theatrical revues, plus newfangled talking pictures. Image courtesy Lerner Theatre.They are Indianapolis-based architect Jim Kienle, director of historic preservation at Moody Nolan, and film historian Eric Grayson, who owns a vast collection of rare movies and has preserved and restored many of them.

Eric is known across the state for his vintage film presentations, including the Vintage Movie Nights series at the Garfield Park Arts Center in Indianapolis.

During our show, Nelson and his guests will explore the Circle Theatre on Monument Circle in Indianapolis; it was built in 1916 as one of the largest silent movie palaces west of New York. Despite its highly visible location in the heart of the Hoosier capital, the Circle had deteriorated alarmingly through the 1970s. Our guest Jim Kienle was a key figure in the 1980s renovation of what's now known as the Hilbert Circle Theatre, the concert hall of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Jim Kienle also will share insights about the Lerner Theatre in Elkhart, which opened in 1924 as a movie house and also as a venue for vaudeville shows and big-band concerts. Rivoli Theatre in Indianapolis is pictured, circa 1920s.With an auditorium often likened to a European opera house of the 19th century, the Lerner has been the focus of national attention since an $18 million renovation that was completed in 2011.

But what about the long-deteriorated Rivoli Theatre on the eastside of Indy? We will provide an update on the once-lavish theater on East 10th Street that seated 1,500 when it opened in 1927. Its disturbing saga, which included a stint as an X-rated theater, followed by decades of sitting vacant, was spotlighted during our February show.

Also expect Nelson and his guests to explore:

  • The Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, which was built in 1922 and shows vintage movies year-round.
  • The Paramount Theatre in Anderson (now the Paramount Theatre Center and Ballroom) that opened in 1929 and has a restored theater organ and an interior Spanish courtyard.
  • The Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, which opened as a movie palace in 1928 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the Embassy on Aug. 9, our guest Eric Grayson will be involved in a gala to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of famous Hoosier novelist and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter. The event will include the showing of Laddie (1926), a rare silent movie based on her novel.

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Hoosier History Live!
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1400 E. Hanna Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46227
(317) 927-9101