Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Obtaining Chicago & Cook County Vital Records On A Budget

Vital records for Cook County, and specifically Chicago, are available on microfilm for a significantly reduced cost, compared to requesting the documents through the Cook County Clerk or Vital Records. Below you can find details of what is available and how you can order copies of these records. Copies of these certificates and licenses are only $6.50, compared to the $15-17 per document through Cook County.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed a majority of documents and registers, so no vital records exist prior to then. Both birth registers (certificates exist post-1878) and marriage licenses began again in 1871, whereas the death certificates didn't begin again until 1878.

Image source: Hearst's Chicago American, January 2, 1902, Page 8
(Click to enlarge)
Cook County also didn't require the official registration of births until January 1, 1902, once a bill in the Illinois State Senate passed and became law. Along with the new law to urge Chicago residents to register their children's birth, was allowed "25 cents for every baby born and registered." By the second day the County Clerk had received more than 80 applications. However, the County Clerk neither had the actual certificates to issue nor the money to provide to applicants for the registrations. The County Clerk at that time, Mr. Knopf, explained he would issue certificates but they had not been supplied to him by the secretary of the State Board of Heath. Mr. Knopf furthermore stated that the County Board would need to supply the money.

How To Order Copies:

Birth certificates and registers are available on microfilm from 1871-1922 and can be ordered through the link here.

Death certificates are available on microfilm from 1878-1945 and can be ordered through the link here.

Marriage licenses are available on microfilm through 1871-1920 and can be ordered through the link here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Center for Research Libraries in Chicago

An example of three death notices from the Chicago
Polish newspaper, Dziennik Związkowy, 1940.
The Center for Research Libraries, CRL for short, holds many ethnic newspapers on microfilm for viewing and copies. The CRL is located on the south side of the UC campus, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

One particular item of interest is the Chicago Polish newspaper, Dziennik Związkowy, which began in January of 1908 and is available up to 1992 (catalog title: http://catalog.crl.edu/record=b1336327~S1). Many death notices were published in this daily newspaper and should be a must-reviewed resource for Chicago Polish research. The CRL has already digitized the first ten years of the newspaper and those can be searched for free at their website at the following URL: https://dds.crl.edu/crldelivery/15857

A fantastic death notice index for Dziennik Związkowy has also been created, covering 1930-1949, by James J. Czuchra. It can be found at the following URL: http://polfamily.info/dziennik-zwiazkowy-search

The CRL is open to researchers, Monday to Friday & 9am to 2pm, but one must request an appointment. You are allowed up to 12 microfilm a day and they must be ordered when you make your appointment. One day of research will cost $25 and copies (printed or digital) are $.10 each; you pay when you've finished research. I personally reviewed 12 microfilm and made 16 digital scans, with the trip totaling $26.60

There is more to the CRL's collection than Polish publications. They have ethnic newspapers from across the country: Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, German, Greek, Hispanic, Hungarian, Jewish, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Swedish. Give the catalog a search!

Anyone requiring research assistance with the resources within this library can request help through my Genlighten offering here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Genealogy Resources at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago

The Harold Washington Library, in Chicago, Illinois, has a collection of material that could aid in genealogy research. They can be found in the Microfilm Room, on the third floor, where you will find rows of microfilm cabinets containing newspapers, city directories and telephone directories. Over the past six months, I have created inventories of what is currently available on microfilm for these collections and you can find them below.


The newspaper collection is by far the largest, taking up most of the space. The inventory I created was focused on newspapers from the Chicago area, although the library has many other newspapers on microfilm from around the world. The earliest available newspaper is the Chicago Democrat, beginning on November 26th, 1833.

You can view the inventory here: Chicago’s Historic Newspapers On Microfilm At The Harold Washington Library

City Directories

The library's collection of Chicago city directories ranges from 1839 through 1917, in 1923 and finally in 1928-1929. City directories contain the name of an individual, their occupation and address of residence. You may also come across a second address, an address of business, if the individual was a business owner. This collection is helpful in placing your ancestor at an exact addresses in Chicago between the censuses, as well as determining if they owned a business.

You can view the inventory here: Chicago City Directories On Microfilm At The Harold Washington Library

Telephone Directories

Where city directories end, the telephone directories pick up. The earliest telephone directory for Chicago was published in 1878. They are available for both the city of Chicago and Suburban Chicago up to 1971. The directories had separately published the Alphabetical (residential) and Classified (business), from 1914-1971. The library has directories from other localities throughout the entire state of Illinois: Algonquin, Alton, Altonwood River, Beardstown, Beecher, Big Rock, Cairo, Canton, Centralia, Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, Clinton County, Collinsville, Crown Point (Indiana), Danville, Decatur, Delavan, Dwight, Edgington, Edwardville, Elburn, Forest, Galina, Gibson City, Gilman, Greenville, Hampshire, Harristown, Harvey, Huntley, Ipava, Joliet, Kankakee, Kendall County, Kinmundy, Lake County, Lasalle, Lewistown, Lilly Lake, Lockport, Loves Park, Lowell, Manteno, McHenry, Momence, Morris, Mt. Vernon, Nashville, Oglesby, Olive Branch, Onarga, Oswego, Ottawa, Peoria, Peru, Petersburg, Plato Center, Quad Cities, Quincy, Rock Island, Rockford, Seneca, Springfield, West Suburban Exchange and Zion.

You can view the inventory here: Chicagoland Telephone Directories On Microfilm At The Harold Washington Library