Do you use the American Genealogical Biographical Index??

The Rider Index (named after its creator, Fremont Rider, a librarian and an avid genealogist) also known as the American Genealogical Biographical Index (AGBI) can be a valuable tool when researching your family history.  The index is a useful finding aid which can lead you to published sources which mention your ancestor(s).

Many of today’s researchers don’t bother to consult this index as they feel it is archaic and unnecessary due to the introduction (and growing collections) of Google Books, the Internet Archive, HathiTrust and others

I disagree!!!  Read on……

The AGBI is an ongoing project started in 1942; the owner and publisher is the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, CT.  In over 225 volumes there are more than 850 sources mentioned, equating to over 12 million records which include over 2 million records from the Boston Transcript  (a genealogy newspaper column dating from 1896 to 1941).

According to Wikipedia (quoting Gary Boyd Roberts of NEHGS):

“The Boston Evening Transcript was a newspaper of record. Its genealogical column, which usually ran twice or more a week for several decades in the early twentieth century, was often an exchange among the most devoted and scholarly genealogists of the day. Many materials not published elsewhere are published therein.

The AGBI includes items such as town and county histories, biographies, vital records, Revolutionary war records and the 1790 census to name a few…. Much of this material has never been indexed elsewhere.

So let’s try an EXPERIMENT with one of my Pinder (sometimes spelled Pindar) ancestors from Ipswich, Massachusetts. I searched and found:

Name: Joanna Pinder
Birth Date: 1830
Birthplace: Massachusetts
Volume: 137
Page Number: 221
Reference: Caldwell recds. John and Sarah (Dillingham) Caldwell of Ipswich, Ms, and des. by Augustine Caldwell. Boston, 1873. (80p.)ds:47

How to find the book:

1.  Search in Google Books, Family Search, HathiTrust and Internet Archive for:

  • “Joanna Pindar” OR “Pindar, Joanna” OR “Joanna Pinder” OR “Pinder, Joanna”  Ipswich

– reveals 0 records in the Internet Archive & HathiTrust and 5 records in Google Books, 11 at FamilySearch, none written by Caldwell.

Note that a search of Pinder OR Pindar AND Ipswich in Google Books reveals 2,880 results…1,320 “full view”…too many for me!

2. Search all databases for

  • “Caldwell Family Records”,  Augustine Caldwell

– Google Books doesn’t have the original book but offers a number of places where it can be found – libraries and historical societies.

– Internet archives has actual copies of two Caldwell family books by Augustine Caldwell searchable and available for FREE download:

There are a number of Pinder/Pindar’s mentioned, references I may never have found without the aid of the AGBI:

“John Caldwell and Sarah Dillingham Caldwell, his wife, Ipswich, Mass., 1654 : genealogical records of their descendants, eight generations, 1654-1900 (1904)”

  • Page n46 – . John Pinder. Samuel Wait. Mary (Hart)
  • Page n85 – . Benjamin Pinder was Captain. The brig crossed Ipswich
  • Page 159 – John Pinder was twice married. His first wife,
  • Page 160 – of John Pinder. They had two daughters,
  • Page n89 – married Benjamin Pindar. Deborah, married David Hart, Newburyport,
  • Page 103 – Mrs. Pindar lived years, and departed this

Caldwell records : John and Sarah (Dillingham) Caldwell, Ipswich, Mass., and their descendants, sketches of families connected with them by marriage, brief notices of other Caldwell families

  • Page 30 – Benj. Pindar. iv. Deborah, m. Daniel
  • Page 41 – . Benjamin Pindar, Feb. , . She
  • Page n92 – Sarah Caldwell Pindar Thomas and Elizabeth Sweet Francis
  • Page 19 – , John Pinder, Samuel Wait. Mary Caldwell, widow
  • Page 46 – and Benjamin Pinder, bap. Jan. , .
  • Page 47 – . John Pinder, who has a general oversight of the
  • Page 73 – and Lucy Pinder, m. ( ) Susanna

HathiTrust has a number of Caldwell publications, one being  full copy of “Antiquarian papers. v.1-4 1879-1885.”

  • …Moses Pindar, and Solomon Coleman, these were all living in 1825. Others in the battle with them, were Benjamin Ross, Aaron Perkins, John Fow- ler, Philip Lord, jr., Joseph Wise, Abraham Kaowlton, Nehemiah Choate, Isaac Giddings, and Nathaniel Baker who was wounded in the an- kle and lamed for life.…
  • John Pindar, borne the 16 of August, 1658. Tho: son of Ezekiell Cheever, borne the 23 ot August, 1658. Ruth, daughter of Thomas Burnham, borne the 23 of August, 1658. Mordicha, son of Mordicah Larekum, borne 16 of ‘September, 1658. William, son of William Gutterson, borne the 20 of September, 1658…
  • …Henry Pindar dyed the 6 of February 1661 Elisabeth, daughter of Mr. Thomas Cobbitt dyed 13 Agust 1661 Jonathan son Isaack Foster dyed in May 15, 1661 Elizabeth, daught of Symon Tompson dyed about 12 June 1661 Sarah, daughter of Edward Allen died 10 Febru: Hanah, daughter of John Kindrick, dyed 20 of…
  • … John Pindar, borne 26 Aug. Daniell, sonn of Daniell Hovey, borne the 24 of June. Mary, daughter of Cornelius Waldo borne the 9 of September. Richard, son of Jerimiah Belcher the 10th of September. Sarah, daughter of Newman borne 23 of Aug. Joseph, sonn of John Whipple tersh borne the 17 of Sept. Jo…

There are many others…. But I just wanted to share a sampling.

More about the Index

A large number of the sources indexed are related to New England (since that is where the index was created) but there are other listings: early history of families from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland; entries for the first twelve colonies;  records from parts of the Pennsylvania Archives; and sources related to Vermont, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Alabama.

Only published sources are included in the index, so most of them are likely to be found at a number of libraries (but since most are out of copyright, check Google Books, Family Search, HathiTrust and the Internet Archive). If not online, the two libraries that are likely to have all the sources indexed are: The Godfrey Memorial Library and the Family History Library.

The entries are alphabetical and most index entries includes full name, birthplace, volume, page, biographical information and reference information (when known).

You can search for names listed in the index at, or download/search the actual printed volumes which have been digitized by FamilySearch here (since Ancestry’s indexing isn’t the greatest, I prefer the digitized version).

The website explains how the included names were selected:

Names that Were Indexed—The index is of all persons according to set standards, rather than every name. The following persons have been included in the index: (1) person mentioned as wife, husband, father, mother, son, daughter, or other relative, of some person mentioned; (2) person mentioned as being born or married, or those mentioned dying; (3) person mentioned as having performed military or public service, or mentioned in connection with other facts of biographical importance; (4) person mentioned in a deed or legal document; (5) person mentioned as one of the founders of a settlement, a passenger on an immigrant ship (before 1850), a member of a church (before 1850), etc.

Name the Were Omitted—Omissions include: (1) persons (such as ship captains, ministers, army officers, etc.) mentioned only casually and not related to the family line being followed; (2) all casually mentioned names of well-known persons (e.g., George Washington or Benjamin Franklin); (3) witnesses, and similar incidental names, that appear in legal documents; (4) authors of works cited, or persons cited as authorities for statements.

Also the following information may be useful when structuring your search:

Entry Construction—Each entry consists of the following: (1) Person’s surname, spelled as it appears in the indexed text (Note that names are, in general, written and filed as one word, e.g., “Van Derbilt” and “Van Der Bilt” would be written as “Vanderbilt”; also, surnames with apostrophes have been indexed and alphabetized without the apostrophe, though it does appear in the actual name, e.g., “O’Connor” would be filed as “Oconnor.”); (2) The person’s first name (or initial) and middle names (or initials), if any (Note that if there is no given name, we have substituted a long dash in that area, and where an abbreviated name is given in the text, we have substituted the full name indicated if it is clear (e.g., for “Dan” we write “Daniel”); (3) The person’s birth year, as it appears in the indexed text; (4) The person’s state (or states) of residence (including the states of birth and death, if they are known); (5) Biographical data, abbreviated; (6) The page citation of the text being indexed; consisting of the abbreviated title and page number.

Or you can submit search and photocopy requests to the Godfrey Memorial Library (copies are fairly inexpensive) by using this form:

So give it a try and share your successes with us!!

One response to this post.

  1. Some of us have been doing genealogy for so long we used AGBI in print and personally I remember that the project was halted for years (decades?) on volume 194 (Wheeler), so those of us you wanted to research any surname beyond that in alphabetical order was thwarted. (Eventually the rest of the volumes came out). It is a great index, although not more limited in usefulness. For instance, the fact that it indexed the entire 1790 census is superfluous. It is the only index for the Boston Evening Transcript, in which I have found useful materials, but I wonder how many people wrote in that column for non-New England genealogy? Or non-WASP (English) genealogy? I’m sure there’s not a whole lot of Irish, Italian, Jewish, etc. genealogy in the Boston Evening Transcript.

    But still using AGBI for your Pinder example shows the power, since most indexes of this sort, index the immigrant ancestor. I can give you ten sources for Henry Pinder, including his English origins, but none that may include Joanna born in 1830.



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