About Us -- History
The Browning Family Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was established in 2002 with the goal of preserving genealogy and local history data for our community for generations to come. Using easily accessible Internet databases, we make personal and historic information from Vanderburgh County, Indiana, and surrounding counties in Southwestern Indiana and Southeastern Illinois readily available to researchers worldwide.po
The Foundation’s database search websites are built on the work of Charles Browning (1923 – 2007) who owned and operated Browning Funeral Home in Evansville, Indiana. In 1954, realizing the value of individuals’ contributions to the life of the community, Browning began working with information included in local obituaries to record each person’s name, dates of birth and death, occupation, family members, and many other details. His project included obituary notices going back to 1906 and continuing into the present up to his death, with each record meticulously typed on a 3” x 5” index card, carefully filed in alphabetic (not chronological) order, and organized in hundreds of drawers in his offices at the Browning Funeral Home. By the time of his death, Browning’s Genealogy project included more than three hundred thousand obituary records.
Impressed by the scope of personal history represented in a mere obituary notice, Charles Browning began a second project, which eventually became Browning People Studies, to record the events in the lives of people in Evansville, Indiana, and the surrounding counties. Using articles clipped from local newspapers, magazines, and a variety of other sources, he created a second index card file that would organize information about people in an easily-accessible, alphabetic order. This People Project grew through the years to encompass hundreds of thousands of records.
Both of Charles Browning’s projects are continuing and growing through the efforts of his family and local people who recognize the value of ready access to genealogy and personal history information. The Browning Family Foundation is supported by the immediate Browning family, cousins, and friends, and promotes the establishment and on-going development of websites that house the Browning project databases. Much of the archived and on-going data is housed in database form on our website: www.BrowningGenealogy.org In addition, the Browning genealogy records originally begun by Charles Browning are located and maintained on the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library website, http://browning.evpl.org. The site is constantly updated with obituary information as published in the Evansville Courier & Press. The Browning Family Foundation will assure the maintenance of the genealogy and local history projects for future generations.
Current board members of the Browning Family Foundation are the wife and children of Charles Browning: Dolores DeWitt Browning, Charleen Browning Spear, Mark DeWitt Browning, Rebecca Browning Carter and Jeannie Browning Hester.
Browning family members realize that there appears to be an innate yearning for individuals in our society to know more about who they are and where they came from. The maintenance, continuation and improvement of the Foundation’s goals are being passed from the “Greatest Generation” to the present generation. Then, over the next three decades the transfer of this process will occur for the second time as the family works to assure that a third generation will foster the dedication for the project which the first two generations have demonstrated.
About Us -- People
In addition to the members of the Browning Family Foundation, a number of organizations and individuals contribute to the life of this historical treasure.
The Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library has made the Browning Genealogy Database accessible to the public via the Internet since February of 1999. The Genealogy Database is housed on the EVPL website. The Browning Family and staff continue to update and index information on a daily basis. This popular genealogy search site has accumulated more than 30 million hits in the past decade. The EVPL website also hosts the Browning Local History database. They have assisted with computer programming and managing information from 1999 through 2009.
Alexandrian Library of Posey County, Indiana collected and organized Posey County obituaries from the Mount Vernon Democrat from 1990 through 2009. The Library and the Democrat have allowed us to scan and index their information. Cindy Wongngamnit, a certified genealogist, and Christine Kotteman, a licensed teacher, have scanned and indexed these obituaries from 1990 to 2009.
The Shawneetown Library copied and organized obituaries from the Gallatin Democrat from 1954 through 2009. The Library and Gallatin Democrat have given us permission to scan and index the information. Shiloh Stone, University of Southern Indiana History Student, and his wife, Joy Stone, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, are scanning and indexing these obituaries from Gallatin County.
The Knox County Library has preserved the obituaries from Knox County, Indiana over the last five decades. These obituaries have been copied and organized by the Vigo Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Emily Bunyan, the Library Director and Brian Spangle, the Library Historian, and the Vincennes Sun allowed us to scan and index these records.
Dennis Au, Executive Director of Evansville Historic Preservation has been an enthusiastic supporter and inspiration for the Browning projects. He encouraged us to make the genealogy information more readily available to the public. In addition, Au made us aware of the historical value of the Articles of Association in the Vanderburgh County Recorder’s Office. These records formed the basis of our Business Database.
Our Part-Time Employees & Contributors of Information
Kathy Boyd, a Northern Michigan native, oversees the Genealogy Department. She is retired from AT&T after 34 years of service. Hiring, coordinating schedules, maintaining accuracy of data are all part of her job. She also fields calls and e-mails from people asking about our website or who need assistance in finding information to complete their family trees.
Joyce Winters collected and alphabetized the obituary information from White County, Illinois. She was inspired by her family’s questions about their heritage. She expanded the search from her own family to the entire county and has maintained excellent records from 1980 through 2009. The Grayville Times, Carmi Times and the Daily Republican Register are the three newspapers in White County that have given us permission to scan and index this information. Barbara Dyson will complete the scanning and indexing of this information by the end of 2010.
Gladys Goodson has been working at Browning Funeral Home for over 50 years. She worked closely with Charles Browning when he started to capture all of the obituaries from the early 1900s forward. Gladys enters the current obituaries from the Evansville Courier and Press into the Browning Genealogy Website daily. She is also responsible for updating our People Study site with information on engagements, marriages, anniversaries, church directories, local high school, college and faculty photos, promotions, and special awards. Gladys has seen a lot of changes in technology since she first started typing obituaries on 3 x 5 inch index cards and filing them in grey metal filing cabinets. These cabinets now number over 1100 with over 1300 cards in each cabinet drawer: a total of at least 1,300,000 index cards.
Arla Akin is an Evansville native and graduate of North High School. She spent nearly 20 years in the Los Angeles, California area. While there, she received a Management Certificate from California State Northridge before returning to the Evansville area. Arla works closely with Gladys entering obituaries daily from the Evansville Courier and Press into the Browning Genealogy website. She is also responsible for inputting marriage license applications in the Local History database. This database includes marriages in Vanderburgh County from 1959 to the present day.
Lucille Shoulders is a resident of Boonville, Indiana, and has retired from the State Department in Warrick County after 28 years of service. She indexed the immigration records at the Boonville Clerk’s Office with the approval of County Clerk Shannon Weisheit.
Josh Lamb is currently a student at Auburn University. When he was a senior at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, he indexed the immigration records from Vanderburgh County.
Business Entity Records
Kahri Jackson is an Evansville native and currently a student at the University of Southern Indiana. She indexed 13,500 individual records from the Articles of Association volumes at the Vanderburgh County recorder’s office.
Kenneth Hunley, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iwo Jima during World War II, compiled information on more than 3,000 veterans from the Pike County area who served during World War II. Some of his entries include photographs, ribbons, and cemetery tombstones of the veterans. Mr. Hunley’s records are included the Browning Veterans database.
Barbara Dyson, an Evansville native and graduate of Ivy Tech Community College with a degree in history, is responsible for scanning and indexing veterans’ and obituary information from Mr. Hunley’s Pike County records.
Barbara Dyson scans and indexes obituary information from White County, Illinois, in addition to her work on the Veterans database.
Joyce Winters, from Crossville, Illinois, came from a large family and was frequently asked for information about her deceased relatives. These questions inspired her interest in her own family history as well as others. Genealogy has been her hobby for the last 19 years, and she has collected information on all the deceased in White County, Illinois, during that time. She copied the obituaries and organized them alphabetically. She obtains most of her information from the Carmi Times, Grayville Navigator, the Daily Republican Register in Mt. Carmel and the Norris City newspaper. She has been generous in allowing us to scan and index all the information she collected and organized over the last three decades.
Sharon Ethridge is a native of Evansville and a graduate of Vincennes University. She became interested in genealogy after taking a class in the 8th grade at Oak Hill School. As an adoptee, she found it interesting to gather information about both her biological and adopted families. Sharon is responsible for entering the obituary information on individuals who chose Browning Funeral Home to handle their arrangements. She attaches a short biography, photo, family members and the original obituary that was submitted to the newspapers. The biographies were composed by Dolores Browning and Charleen Browning Spear from 1991 until the present time.
Carla Wilson, a graphic designer for Schwindel Graphics of Evansville, worked on the project part-time from 2005-2007. Carla worked on early biographies from Browning Funeral home from 1991 through 2006. She made corrections and reformatted them into pdf files so they can be viewed over the Internet.
Lynn Green is an employee of the Information Technology Department for the Evansville Vanderburgh County School Corporation. She worked for Browning Genealogy during her junior and senior years at North High School (2004/2005). She was placed on the job through her business co-op class and has worked on reformatting the Browning Biographies into pdf files.
Christine Kottemann is a St. Louis native and graduate of the University of Evansville with a degree in Education. Between substitute teaching jobs, she scans and indexes Posey County, Indiana, obituaries.
Cindy Wongngamnit is an Evansville native and graduate of the University of Southern Indiana. She spent seventeen years in Thailand and is a certified genealogist. She scans and indexes Posey and Knox County, Indiana, obituaries.
Martha Earles is a Princeton, Indiana native and graduate of Wabash Valley College with a degree in nursing. She is a retired EMT. Martha has published several books on genealogy including Gleaning of Deaths 1868-1882 of Gibson County, Early Wills and Probate and the “1880 Gibson County, Indiana Federal Census. She has been working on genealogy for over 20 years and is certified in this field of study. Martha scans and indexes obituaries from Gibson County, Indiana.
Shiloh Stone is history major at the University of Southern Indiana. He is orchestrating the scanning and indexing of Gallatin County, Illinois, obituaries over the last 55 years. Shiloh met with the library board in Shawneetown to get approval for using the records that they had collected and organized over the past six decades.
Joy Stone, Shiloh’s wife, is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is interested in genealogy and is scanning and indexing the obituaries of Gallatin County.
Dolores DeWitt Browning, Charles Browning’s wife, and Charleen Browning Spear, his daughter, have written about 3,000 brief biographies of individuals who were served by Browning Funeral Home over a twenty year period. These tributes are more than the mere obituaries and contain facts about the individual’s life and interests. Based on facts and memories of family members, the biographies are in essay form and describe the characteristics, personality and personal traits of an individual.
Inspired by the work of Charles Browning, we recognize that to know and understand the life of a person, we need to be informed about their habits, hobbies, achievements, faith and attitude toward life while they were part of our living world. The Biography presents a warm, loving and personal view of the lost loved one, and brings comfort and peace to the family.
We are also presented with a study of the era during which that person lived. From the biographies, we find reactions to the times of war and times of peace, popular hobbies and activities, lifestyles and reactions to prosperous times and times of depression. These studies are very important to sociologists and historians. The Library of Congress contains thousands of studies that are similar to our study. Through the biographies, we honor the person who has died, give comfort to the family, and add to the historical richness of our society.
Our Technical and Web Experts
Dave Flick created the database format for entry of the historical and genealogy records.
Kevin Mattingly created and maintains the BrowningGenealogy.org website.