An educational and cultural service of the Westchester Public Library 
700 W. Porter Ave.
Chesterton, IN
(219) 983-9715
 
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Research Service

A Guide to Local History and Genealogy Resources
 at the
Westchester Township History Museum


The Leslie and Mary Pratt Local History Archives

The Leslie and Mary Pratt Local History Archives consists of resources pertaining to the history of Westchester Township, located in the Indiana Dunes country in northern Porter County, Indiana. The Township consists of the towns of Burns Harbor, Chesterton, Dune Acres, Porter, and the unincorporated communities of Furnessville and Tremont, as well as the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Archives is named for Leslie and Mary Pratt, local business owners and community leaders, whose memorial gift to Westchester Public Library helps to fund the Westchester Township History Museum. The Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, 1 – 5 p.m. Research appointments are recommended.

Les and Mary Pratt Archives

Appointments with Museum Researcher Eva Hopkins are recommended. Call her at 219-983-9715 or e-mail her at

How can the Archives help visitors? Museum staff are happy to assist with the following topics:

  Genealogies of local families

  House histories of local homes

  Historic photographs of the area

  Westchester Township history

  Prairie Club Archives and the William and Flora Richardson Archives

Services and Appointments: While the Archives is a non-circulating collection, research assistance is offered free of charge to Museum visitors on a first come first served basis.

Fees: While local residents and nonresident museum visitors are not charged, there is a $5/hr fee for research assistance to nonresident researchers who communicate by e-mail, phone or letter. Photocopying must be approved by the staff and will be charged at the rate of 10 cents a page. There is no charge for copying a photograph from the collection and the museum will digitally scan up to 3 photos free of charge; after that the fee is $5 per photo. The Museum requires that a credit line be given for all photographs copied from the collection.

Organization: Most of the holdings of the Archives are listed in the online public catalog of the Westchester Public Library, but many items are yet to be added to that site. Museum staff have prepared indexes and user’s guides for many of the Archives resources (see below). Some items are kept at Thomas Library, the main branch of WPL.

Artifacts – Local history artifacts are cataloged in a database with keyword access.

Artwork – The work of local artists is on display throughout the museum. Information about each artist is available, as well as a 20 minute PowerPoint presentation on the artists.

Audio and Photograph Resources

  Historic photograph archive, arranged by subject.

  Oral history collection, 151 transcribed and indexed oral history interviews.

  Postcard collection, local postcards are arranged by location and subject.

  Slide Shows of the Duneland Folk Festival Local History Programs.

Exhibits – A permanent exhibit tracing the history of the area from the glaciers to 1981 and a temporary gallery for local history exhibits that change every 3 – 4 months.

Forms, free genealogy pedigree and family chart forms are available at the Museum.

Genealogy Handbooks for adults and children may be found at 929.1 in the non-fiction sections at the Thomas and Hageman Branches of Westchester Public Library.

Maps, Plats, and Property Abstracts

  County Atlases, 1876 – 1921.

  Plat Books, from 1876.

  Sandborn Maps for Chesterton and Porter (1893 -1951).

  Area Maps, arranged by location.

Museum Store sells books, photographs, and DVD’s relating to area history and past Museum exhibits.

Print Resources

  Book Collection, relating to the history of the area, arranged by Dewey Decimal.

  Chesterton Tribune, (1884 – present) microfilm and bound copies (index at Thomas Library).

  City Directories, arranged chronologically from 1902.

  County and Regional Histories

  Duneland Historical Society, indexed newsletters and research papers.

  Family Histories, arranged alphabetically within the 929.2 span

  Phone books, arranged chronologically from 1911 (intermittent coverage).

  Vertical File, local history topics arranged alphabetically within categories (Businesses, Churches, Events, Organizations, People, Schools, and Statistical Data).

  Westchester Township, photo-history produced by the Museum, published by Arcadia Pub.

  Yearbooks and Graduation Programs, arranged chronologically from 1897.

Special Archives

  The Prairie Club Archives, publications, manuscripts, photos, glass slides, etc. of the Club’s early development and efforts to save the Indiana Dunes (user’s guide available).

  The William and Flora Richardson Archives, publications, manuscripts, photographs, and glass slides of two early 20th century Indiana Dunes conservationists (user’s guide available)

Other Regional and Online Resources to Consult

  Genealogy Dept., Valparaiso Public Library (www.pcpls.lib.in.us/genealogy.htm) at 103 Jefferson St. Valparaiso, IN, an excellent site to visit to use numerous online  genealogy databases and special Porter County resources; friendly and helpful staff.

  Calumet Archives at IUN (www.iun.edu/~cra/) at Indiana Univ. Northwest in Gary, IN, a wide variety of records of Porter and Lake County individuals and organizations.

  Allen Co. Public Library. (www.acpl.lib.in.us/genealogy/index.html) a renowned genealogy collection, extensive national and state resources, well worth the trip to Fort Wayne, IN.

  Indiana State Library (www.in.gov/library/) Indianapolis, IN, a strong collection of family history records and a wide variety of online databases. Be sure to check out Indiana Memory, Indiana’s digital library containing a wide variety of historical documents.

  Indiana Historical Society (www.indianahistory.org/pub_prog/genealogy)  Indianapolis, IN, excellent family history collections, programs and publications.

  Family History Library (www.familysearch.org) A wealth of publicly available genealogy resources provided by the Mormons in Salt Lake City, UT.

  Great Lakes Regional Archives, National Archives and Records Administration,  (chicago.archives@nara.gov) Chicago, IL, another great source of regional  historical records.

  Newberry Library (www.newberry.org) Chicago, IL, rich regional history and genealogy holdings; reference librarians will help by e-mail: genealogy@newberry.org (free!).

  Chicago History Museum (http://chicagohistory.org) Chicago, IL, an excellent research collection; check website for Research Resources, and Family Research.

PDB
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A Day in the Life of Westchester Township
On June 15, 2007 we sent teams into our community to visually document a day in the life. View the slideshow here.