Located in the western part of central Indiana, Clay officially became a county in 1825. It had previously been part of Vigo (1818), Owen (1818) and Sullivan (1817) counties. All four counties were carved out of Knox County, one of the four original counties of the Indiana territory. The county was named after statesman Henry Clay (1777-1852). Brazil is the county seat.
For additional history:
Geography & Demographics
Currently, Clay County is about 360 square miles and has a population of about 27,000 people. Approximately 97% of the population is white.
The county has eleven townships: Brazil, Cass, Dick Johnson, Harrison, Jackson, Lewis, Perry, Posey, Sugar Ridge, Van Buren, and Washington.
There are seven incorporated towns: Brazil, Carbon, Center Point, Clay City, Harmony, Knightsville, and Staunton.
There are twenty-one unincorporated areas: Art, Ashboro, Asherville, Bee Ridge, Benwood, Billtown, Billville, Bowling Green, Cardonia, Cloverland, Coalmont, Cory, Hoosierville, Howesville, Perth, Poland, Pontiac, Saline City, Stearleyville, Turner, and Twin Beach.
There are six extinct villages: Calcutta, Donaldsonville, Prairie City, Prattsville, Mechanicsburg, and Wickville.
Clay County is located in the Wabash Valley. The major river which flows through the county is the Eel River. It is a tributary of the White River. Clay County is also known for its coal beds, and there is a long history of coal mining in the area.
Clay County shares its borders with the following counties: Vigo, Sullivan, Greene, Owen, Putnam, and Parke.
Clay County Courthouse
609 E. National Ave.
Brazil, IN 47834
The current courthouse is the fifth structure to serve the county. It was built in 1913-1914. It is the only building in the county which holds records and county government offices. Research may be done in person, but any outside research requests are handled by the Clay County Genealogical Society.
The second courthouse, a two story brick structure, located in Bowling Green, was destroyed by a fire in 1851. County records prior to 1851 were destroyed. A history of the county’s courthouses can be found on the county’s website:
Clay County Genealogical Society
PO Box 56
309 W. Main Street
Center Point, IN 47840-0056
Research is completed by volunteers. Rates and the contact form are found on the website. The society’s library contains over 2,000 books, family histories, family name files, funeral home records, and so on. The society has recently obtained the County Sheriff’s Docket Books and volunteers are working on indexing the volumes.
Vigo County Public Library
One Library Square
Terre Haute, IN 47807
The Genealogy Department maintains the Wabash Valley obituary index, which includes obituaries from several local papers. Many people from Clay County are included in the index as the major papers for the region where printed in Terre Haute. Obituaries can be ordered from the library for a small fee. Available for free is the Vigo County Marriage database, 1818-1958. Images can be downloaded in pdf form.
Bloomfield-Eastern Greene County Public Library
125 S. Franklin St.
Bloomfield, IN 47424
The Genealogy Department handles requests for local research. An online search request form is available. Their website includes the WPA indexes for county vital records.
Sullivan County Public Library
100 S. Crowder Street
Sullivan, IN 47882
The Genealogy Department’s website contains several indexes including local obituaries, marriage and death records, funeral records and wills. Copy requests must be sent via mail.
Owen County Public Library
10 S. Montgomery St.
Putnam County Public Library
103 East Poplar St., P.O. Box 116
Greencastle, IN 46135
(765) 653-2755 (ext. 120)
Rockville Public Library (Parke County)
106 N. Market St.
Rockville, IN 47872
Indiana State Library
315 West Ohio St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Genealogy Collection (317) 232-3689
Indiana Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 10507
Fort Wayne, IN 46852-0507
Indiana Historical Society
450 West Ohio St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Indiana Memory Project
Allen County Public Library
900 Library Plaza
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Birth records, 1941-1965. Circuit court records. FHL 1,404,612
Birth and death records from probate entry docket, 1852-1889. Circuit court records FHL 1,404,656
Index to birth records, Clay County 1881-1920 (WPA). FHL 1,266,731
The state of Indiana holds birth records from October 1907 onwards. Any birth records previously recorded may be found at the county level.
Marriages through 1850. Online database. Indiana State Library.
Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941. Database. Ancestry.com. $$$
Indiana Marriages, 1811-1959. Database. Familysearch.org. Free. Clay county marriages are also available on microfilm through FHL, for years 1851-1957.
All Indiana marriage records are kept at the county level. Contact the Clay County Courthouse for more recent records.
Index to death record, Clay County, 1882-1920 (WPA). FHL 1,266,732
Death records are maintained by the state of Indiana, beginning in 1900. For deaths between the years, 1900-1917, the county or city of death must be known.
Probate Record, 1852-1921. Circuit court records. 19 microfilm reels available through the Family History Library
Will Record, 1848-1936. Circuit court records. 4 microfilm reels available through the Family History Library
Later wills & probate can be found at the Clay County courthouse. Look-ups are performed by Clay County Genealogical Society volunteers.
The Clay County Genealogical Society has a collection of local newspapers available on microfilm as well as Family Files (over 6,000) filed with newspaper clippings. A listing of newspapers available on microfilm: http://ccgsilib.org/holdings/microfilm/
Newspaper Archive has a collection of Bowling Green, Brazil, and Clay City newspapers, as well as some Terre Haute papers. $$$ or some libraries offer access to this collection.
Chronicling America/U.S. Newspaper Directory lists 44 Clay County papers. Copies of many of the newspapers (microfilm) are held at the Indiana State Library or the Indiana Historical Society. See individual papers for precise holdings and ranges.
Blanchard, Charles. Counties of Clay and Owen, Indiana: Historical and Biographical. Chicago: F. A. Battey & Co., Publishers, 1884.
Citizens Historical Association. Biographical Sketches, Clay County, Indiana. Salt Lake City, 1986. FHL 1,468,580
Clay City Centennial Committee. Clay City and Harrison Township, Clay County, Indiana: the centennial edition of their history, 1873-1973. Clay City Centennial Committee, 1973. Only available in book form.
The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Clay County, Indiana. Welman & Thirey, 1896.
Travis, William. Index of Clay County, Indiana: Closing of the First Century‘s History of the County, and Showing the Growth of its People, Institutions, Industry and Wealth. New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1909.
Travis, William. A History of Clay County, Indiana: Closing of the First Century‘s History of the County, and Showing the Growth of its People, Institutions, Industry and Wealth. New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1909. Available via Ancestry.com $$$
Bureau of Land Management patents can be found at:
Clay County Deed Records, 1825-1886, indexes, 1825-1888. Clay County Recorder. 33 microfilm reels available via Family Search Library.
Boyd, Gregory A. Family Maps of Clay County, Indiana: with homesteads, roads, waterways, towns, cemeteries, railroads and more. Norman, Oklahoma: Arphax Publishing Co., 2007.
Rockford Map Publishers. Tri-annual Atlas & Plat Book, Clay County, Indiana. Rockford, Illinois: Rockford Map Publishers, 1966.
Sanborn Maps for Brazil and Clay City, Indiana. Indiana University Bloomington.