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Evansville, Indiana
September 19, 1997     The Message
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September 19, 1997
 

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September 19, 1997 3 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana i His Charles Browning's collection includes 200,000 names dating back to WWl By MARY ANN HUGHES Message staff writer Back in 1955, Charles Brown- ing began collecting the names of people who had died in Evansville. He thought it might be a good way for him to get a handle on Evansville's names and families. He didn't realize then that his work would expand into a col- learned to get it right." As a way to check and dou- ble check family names and spellings, Browning and his mother began typing informa- tion on three-by-five inch index cards. "We typed the names of peo- ple who died, so we would know." He read the newspapers every day, and then faithfully recorded ou've seen genealogy trees ? I have the leaves of the trees. I don't have the trunk, but I have 200,000 leaves. lection of 200,000 names, and become a highly-valued tool for genealogists. After completing his military service in World War II, Brown- ing headed to mortuary school, thanks to financial help from the GI Bill. In 1954, he built his own funeral home on Evansville's northside. During his early years in the funeral home business, he says he learned a valuable lesson: survivors expect the correct information to appear in the obituary section of their news- papers. "I would go on death calls in the middle of the night, and I would have to be so careful. I needed names, what they did, and we had to be right. When people call and say, 'You have my daughter's name spelled wrong,' that upsets people. That was the early impetus to this. "I am the first one who is responsible. If I get it wrong, it comes back to haunt me, so I information from the obituary page including names, ages, dates of death and addresses. Soon, he became intrigued by the biographical information that he was collecting. He want- ed to know "who's who and what's what." By 1960, he decided that his information was "not com- plete." By this time, he had accumu- lated a collection of 7,000 to 8,000 index cards. He took them all out of their alphabetical order, and re-arranged them into chronological order. Then, he went back to the newspapers that he had saved, and he added more information to each card. He then put them all back into alphabetical order. His expanded coverage on each card included the name of the person who died, the date of death, church and burial infor- mation, employment, clubs, names and addresses of sur- vivors, and military sen, ice. Sometimes he was able to include the date of birth, the cause of death and addresses. Soon, he expanded his cover- age to Newburgh, Boonville, Mount Vernon, Haubstadt, Fort Branch, Princeton and Rock- port. By the 1970s, he began work- ing "backwards." He headed for the public library and began compiling information from the early 1950s. When he com- pleted the 1950s, he started on the 1940s. He continued his research back through the 1930s, and then headed into the 1920s. Today, he continues his work, now concentrating on the World War I era. He estimates that he has com- piled information about 200,000 people who lived and died in southern Indiana. "You've seen genealogy trees? I have the leaves of the trees. I don't have the trunk, but I have 200,000 leaves. Each one has five, six, seven or eight names on it of the survivors, which is over a nail- lion names." Browning estimates that he receives "hundreds of calls" a year about his collection, and averages six to eight calls a week from genealogists. "Generally, I can set them on course." Since 1990, he has been putting his. information on a computer. All of the information that he collected from the 1920s through 1990 has been micro- filmed and donated to area libraries. Librarians at Willard Library have told him that his work is "checked out all day, every day." Representation Since 1946 Robert J. Pigman * Sheila M. Corcoran Mark W. Rietman Charles L. Berger * Andrew S. Ward Call (812) 425.8101 or (800) 327.0812 lnternet: U, ww.bergerlaw.com 313 Main Street Evansville, hutiana 47708-1485 CHARLES BROWNING Recently, he began a second study which he calls his "peo- ple file." He has collected over 300,000 newspaper items listing the accomplishments of southern Indiana people. His collection includes wedding and engage- merit announcements, and infor- mation about scholarships, cita- tions and awards. "It's at my choice, and it's not as complete. It's piecemeal. It's a real overview of many people. It's little vignettes of people." Browning says he does his work early in the morning, "before breakfast." "This is what I have done in my spare time. In my line of work, I had to be near the tele- phone because we didn't have pagers in everybody's belt. When I had telephone duty; this iswhat I ," :, ................... He says he would +'hate to have gone through this world and not have done something: This is my legacy. It will be used long after I'm gone, It will be used by generations of people." Following is a feature in the Message, designed to help ,tmw together the Ptxple of Gt in southwtern Indiana. Readers are invited to submit information about people who may benefit by some extra prayers and attention. A statue of an angel and plaque have been dedicated in honor of Karen Georges, a teacher at Holy Cross School, Fort Branch, who died'of can- cer in February of 1996. The plaque reads, "In i lo-Ang memory of Karen M. Georges (1953-- 1996) for her unending inspira- tion and dedication to the students and staff of Holy Cross School (1976-1995). Father Donald Spaulding continues to recuperate from+ quadruple by-pass surgery, which was performed SepL 10 at St. Mary's Medical Center, Evansville. He is the pastor at St. Raphael Ch Dubois, Services were held Sept. 11 for Providence Sisler James Marie Troy, 94, who died Sept 8 at St. Mary-of-the-Woods. Sister Troy entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Prov- idence in 1929, and made her final vows in 1936. She taught in schools staffed by the Sisters of Providence, including St. Simon School Washington. Please send information for PEOPLE WE CARE ABOUT to Mary Ann Hughes, The Message, P.O. Box 4169, Evans- ville, IN 47724,