What are vertical files?

They are called “vertical files” because they are stored in filing cabinets upright.

Too small to be one of our boxed collections, each file may contain a variety of materials on paper such as newspaper and magazine articles, brochures and pamphlets, manuscripts and typed research papers, reminiscences, fliers and event programs, photo scans, correspondence, land deeds, wills, and many other items. 

A file may contain one document or many; larger files may have an inventory list.

Vertical files are organized by file name – which might be an individual or family, an organization, a business, a governmental unit, an event, a publication name, a general category such as “hats” or “horse racing” or other categories.

How can I search?

After opening the spreadsheet on a desktop or laptop, use CTRL + f (Find):

  1. Press CTRL (CMD on Mac).  While holding down the CTRL key, also press the “ f ” key
    Then, a small box will appear at the top or bottom of your internet browser.

  2. In the box, type the word or number you are looking for

  3. Press enter until you search through the whole document

On mobile devices:

Tap the three dots in the upper corner and select “find.” Use the arrows or magnifying glass to see all the words that match in the document.

Search tips:

  • Search both singular & plural forms:  ex:  woman & women; nursery & nurseries

  • Search both noun & adjective forms:  ex:  politics & political

  • Search both surname, forename  &  forename surname  formats.   We use “surname, forename” in our subjects but sometimes the “forename surname” format appears in the folder name or description.
    ex:  Search both Lincoln, Abraham  &  Abraham Lincoln

  • The search function ignores capitalization unless you specify “match case.”


Contact library staff.

If a file has an inventory (“Inv”), you may request an electronic copy here.

Frequently used abbreviations

TS = typescript (generated via typewriter or word processor such as Microsoft Word)

MS = manuscript (i.e., handwritten)

nd = no date

B-N = Bloomington-Normal

Blm = Bloomington 

MC = McLean County

MCGS = McLean County Genealogy Society

MCMH = McLean County Museum of History

Museum = McLean County Museum of History

matl = material(s)

bldg = building

news = newspaper

c = circa, when used preceding a year as in "c1950"

misc = miscellaneous

corr = correspondence

Inv = Indicates inventory of folder contents is available upon request

twp = township

bio = biography

Chgo = Chicago

obit = obituary, often from a newspaper

NYC = New York City

anon = unknown author

ISU = Illinois State University

ISNU = Illinois State Normal University

IWU = Illinois Wesleyan University

dau = daughter

bro = brother

City directories = Blm or Blm-Normal unless otherwise stated

M/M = Mr & Mrs

re = regarding

photocopy = includes mimeographed, electrostatic, etc copies