Last Updated on November 11, 2021 by Jody Halsted
I was quite young when my grandmother shared a treasure with me. A thick, rather battered book titled ‘The Higleys and Their Ancestry'.
Published in 1963 it was the 3rd edition of the original by Mary Coffin Johnson, published in 1896. It began, “The story in this book is not new; it is but a repetition of the story told “o'er and o'er” since man's existence – “born, married, died.”“
The story stretches back into “the time of Elizabeth” (that would be Queen Elizabeth I circa 1560) in Kent, connecting my first American relative to the ancient Brewster family (and the Mayflower) via his Mother.
My ancestor, born in Surrey 20 years after the Mayflower voyage, arrived in America as a stowaway on a ship, was sold into servitude, and went on to become the patriarch of a powerful Colonial Family.
Though I didn't understand the connection at the time, I was fascinated by the story. And that fascination, though rarely fed, has lasted through the years.
The Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana
I first learned of The Genealogy Center during a visit to Fort Wayne in 2016, when my writing focused on Midwest family travel. But I couldn't resist taking an afternoon for myself to find more of my family's story within the vast library.
Recently I returned to Fort Wayne with a single goal – to learn more about genealogy and to, finally, begin my own genealogy research.
A series of podcasts and related articles for Family History Month (October) shares all the knowledge I learned from Curt Witcher, Director of Special Collections at the Allen County Library, and Allison Singleton, Senior Librarian at The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library.
- Learn more about The Genealogy Center + tips to get started
- Tips for tracing your Midwest ancestry
- Heritage Travel – how to plan an ancestry tour
But that knowledge doesn't come close to covering the sense of awe and possibility you feel standing in those stacks. For that you must visit in person.
Plan a Genealogy Trip to Fort Wayne
Located in northeastern Indiana, Fort Wayne is 8 hours from my home in central Iowa, 5 1/2 hours from St. Louis, and approximately 3 hours from Chicago, Detroit, and Columbus.
If you prefer to fly the Fort Wayne Airport is served by Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, and United. Search flights on Kayak to find the best price.
Thanks to Visit Fort Wayne for arranging my itinerary and hosting portions of my Fort Wayne travel.
When choosing the hotel location for your Fort Wayne genealogy trip I recommend staying downtown. The area is very walkable and easy to get around on foot or using public bikes or scooters- so much fun! (Be sure to download the Veo Ride app).
Fort Wayne isn't a large city so staying outside the downtown area doesn't put you far from the library, but you will have to find parking.
Where to Stay in Downtown Fort Wayne
Downtown Fort Wayne has plenty of hotels within walking distance of the Allen County Public Library (ACPL), where The Genealogy Center is located.
Tip: search Trip Advisor and filter by distance from the ACPL
Recommended Hotels in Downtown Fort Wayne
Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Wayne Downtown
This hotel is, quite literally, one block away from the Allen County Public Library – making it a terrific base for your genealogy trip.
A very friendly staff, complimentary hot breakfast (available in September 2021), and rooms perfect for work and relaxation made this an exceptional hotel experience.
Entering the king suite I found a wet bar with microwave and refrigerator. Multiple windows looked over the rear of Parkview Field. A large desk unit with storage separated the room, bed on one side, couch on the other.
A suitcase stand with cubbies stood in place of a dresser, and the spacious closet was in the sink portion of the divided bathroom which had an extra-large tiled shower.
In addition to the morning breakfast, the hotel has 2 adjacent restaurants. Conner's Rooftop on the 7th floor offers a small-bites menu and drinks on Fort Wayne's only open-air rooftop (it's a terrific spot to be if the Tin Caps are playing!). Just right of the hotel entry door is the entrance to The Burger Bar. If you are craving a delicious burger and a hand spun milkshake this is the place to go.
A public parking garage is around the corner and connects to the hotel via a garden-lined rear walkway. Valet service is not available.
Where to Eat in Downtown Fort Wayne
You will want to bring your appetite on this trip because Fort Wayne has so many delicious places to eat!
The Landing may be where Fort Wayne began but it has a new life as a live/work/play area with some delicious restaurants! Mercado has an inventive Cali-Mex menu that is worth trying! I recommend indulging in the guacamole with your chips and trying a few street tacos. Do not miss the Chori-Queso taco with fried cheese and definitely check out the Falafel taco.
111 W Columbia St. Ste 103
Located in The Bradley, Fort Wayne's new boutique hotel, Arbor defines their menu as ‘gourmet comfort food'. Open for breakfast and lunch this is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy a meal. The Skirt Steak Frites are terrific.
204 W. Main St.
I always search for an Irish pub when I travel and JK O'Donnell's was near perfection. A cup of stew, a Scotch egg with boxty, and a pint were the perfect accompaniment for my chat with the lovely Irish publican.
121 W. Wayne St.
If you want an upscale dining experience visit Proximo. The dinner menu is extensive and filled with international inspiration. You can't go wrong with the seafood paella.
898 S. Harrison St.
If the weather is fine enjoy lunch or dinner at The Deck, a wonderful outdoor dining experience. Deck drinks are perfect on a sunny afternoon and the salads are delicious.
If you are visiting in a colder season, or the weather just isn't cooperating, pop into Don Hall's Gas House just next door for many of the same items along with a few other offerings.
305 E. Superior St.
Fort Wayne's Famous Coney Island has been serving Coney Dogs and chili (no beans) since 1914. Dine in and enjoy the vintage vibes with your lunch.
131 W. Main St.
Don't leave without a stop at DeBrand Fine Chocolates. The boutique chocolate café is your spot for sweet treats during your stay (and maybe some to take home). DeBrand uses the highest quality ingredients and makes all the centers from scratch. It's a worthy indulgence.
878 Harrison St. (and 3 other locations around the city)
Other Activities in Downtown Fort Wayne
While you may be in Fort Wayne to dig into your family history you would be missing quite a lot if you only spent time in the library. Luckily you will find quite a lot to enjoy downtown.
You don't have to wander far to discover a mural or sculpture along the Fort Wayne Public Art Trail. Be sure to sign up for the digital pass to earn fun prizes as you check off Love Seats, storm drain street art, and the many bright paintings around the city.
Fort Wayne sits at the convergence of three rivers – and situated on the riverfront at the edge of downtown is Promenade Park. Here you'll find wonderful walking and cycling paths, a canopy trail, an amphitheater, and plenty of places to play. Enjoy a stroll, catch a live concert, or hire a kayak or SUP and enjoy time on the river.
Of course Fort Wayne has so much more and, if you can, do bring your family. Museums, baseball games, and the incredible Fort Wayne Children's Zoo are just a few more ways to find fun in Fort Wayne.