After Mr. Browning opened his funeral home in 1954, countless community members approached him in seeking information about their deceased loved ones. Immediately, Mr. Browning recognised a deep community need for historical preservation and genealogical records, and he embarked on a project to document the stories of the people and families of Evansville, Indiana.
The daily obituaries, listed in the Evansville Newspapers, were typed on 3x5 cards in a specific format that delineated the fifteen most consistent pieces of information listed (name, date of death, age, cemetery, church, occupation, survivors, etc.) by Mr. Browning and his secretary Gladys Goodson. They filed the index cards alphabetically in a card catalogue. Eventually, these records expanded to include birth announcements, weddings, anniversaries, local awards, and veterans’ information, allowing researchers to build family trees. Previously, genealogists seeking information Evansville had to search through public records chronologically. The implementation of Mr. Browning’s system enabled researchers to search by name in alphabetical order, saving them countless hours.
Demand continued to grow, and in 1981, Mr. Browning and his daughter Jean Browning Hester microfilmed all his files and then distributed copies of this microfilm to ten local libraries, as well as the Allen County Genealogical Library and the Library of the Latter Saints. Local libraries commented that Mr. Browning’s files were among their most used resources, and in 1999, the Browning records - containing information form the 1906 to present day - were digitalised and loaned to the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library. All of this information was was incorporated in a programs created by Joseph Tawil and Troy VanAken. This allowed the public to easily search for information in the Browning Database free of charge. It has averaged over 3 million computer hits annually for the last 19 years.
Since 2005, Browning Genealogy (www.BrowningGenealogy.org) launched its second database, chronicling obituaries and local history from additional counties in Southern Indiana, Northwestern Kentucky, and Southeastern Illinois. The Browning Genealogy staff continues adding new entries to the database on a daily basis, including obituaries from 11 counties in Indiana, as well as two counties in Illinois and 15 counties in Kentucky. We aim to continue Mr. Browning’s legacy through preservation, education, community engagement, and outreach. This database is free of charge and provides the public the same services for surrounding counties that have been provided for Vanderburgh County since 1999.