Illinois Genealogy Resources
Ethnic GroupsSee also: Chicago and Cook County: Ethnic Resources.
Pre-statehood settlers of English and Ulster Scots descent came from Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky by way of the Ohio River, where they joined a few hundred Frenchmen already in the area. The first blacks came to Illinois in 1719 with the French, but their numbers remained few until after the Civil War. Indian tribes relinquished their last remaining Illinois lands shortly after the Black Hawk War of 1832. The Illinois State Archives has extracted names of about thirty-four hundred Africans and a few Indians from records of enslaved and free servants, masters, witnesses, and others in the French, English, and American eras of Illinois through 1863.
When Illinois became a state in 1818, most of the population lived near the waterways of southern Illinois. During the 1830s and 1840s, most settlers came from New York and New England by way of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes or on the National Road. They settled the central and northern counties. Overseas immigration of the 1840s and 1850s was composed mainly of Germans and Irish. After the Civil War they were joined by Austrians, Hungarians, Russians, Scandinavians, Italians, and Poles.
As a result, Illinois' population was made up of differing nationalities. Cities were favored by the Irish, even though some were employed in the construction of railroads, and many Germans and Englishmen became successful farmers. In the 1850s the northern half of the state was home to many Europeans, while the southern half had few foreigners. At the beginning of the same decade, 38,000 foreign-born Germans lived in Illinois. At the same time there were 28,000 Irish, 18,600 English and 46,000 Scottish settlers mainly in the northwestern part of the state. Germans totaling 130,804 settled in the state of Illinois by 1860, while 87,573 Irish also settled in Illinois. Chicago, Belleville, Galena, Quincy, Alton, Peoria, and Peru were home to most of the 130,804 Germans in 1860. In the same year, the Swedish population in Illinois was about 6,470 people, but rose in 1861 to about 7,000 people, 1,300 of which were volunteers in the Civil War for the Union.
The northern half of Illinois had more immigrants than the southern half, because new settlers entered Chicago first, usually by railroad or via the Erie Canal. By 1860 the state's Scandinavian population was well over 10,000, and Norwegians mostly located around Chicago. Almost 6,000 Norwegians lived in Illinois around 1860, mostly in the northern half of the state. The rapidly growing city of Chicago showed much more prosperity and vigor in industry during the 1850s, possibly because of the larger number of immigrants in the northern half of the state as the industries were flourishing in northern Illinois. Even though Chicago was founded by the Yankees, Irish, British, and Scandinavians, immigrants came in droves between 1840 and 1890. Many Germans immigrated to Chicago because of the suppression of the democratic revolutions of the 1840s, although the Irish became the first large group of people to immigrate into Chicago after the failure of the potato crops and the problem of absentee landlords. Between 1847 and 1849 the Dutch settled in the southernmost part of Chicago. Also, many Scandinavians went to Chicago, along with fewer English, Welsh, and Scottish after the Irish and the Germans, raising their population in Chicago at the beginning of the Civil War to 112,172, with half of that number being foreign-born.
Central and southern Illinois was settled mostly by Germans, English, Swiss, and Portuguese. In Monroe, St. Clair, Madison, and Clinton counties there were many large colonies of Germans and English. Near the Madison County community of Highland a colony was established in 1831, and in 1844 more than one hundred colonists were added, making that settlement the most important Swiss center in the state. In St. Clair County in 1815, a Swiss colony from Neufchatel was established at Dutch Hill. Thirty-four years later, two hundred Protestant Portuguese exiles from Madeira, an island off the coast of Morocco, began two settlements, one on the north side of Springfield and one in Jacksonville.
Iowa was the destination of many who left Illinois in the 1850s. Illinois families also helped settle Kansas and Nebraska. Others joined the California gold rush or traveled the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest.
- Holli, Melvin G. and Peter d' A. Jones, eds., Ethnic
Chicago. Grand Rapids, Michigan : William B. Eerdmans,
- Holli, Melvin G. and Peter d' A. Jones, eds., The Ethnic
Frontier: Essays in the History of Group Survival in Chicago and
the Midwest. Grand Rapids, Michigan : Eerdmans, ca. 1977.
Ethnic and National Groups. Newberry Library.
- Pooley, W. V. The Settlement of Illinois from 1830 to
- Rubincam, Milton. “Migrations to Illinois, 1673–1860.” In
Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. (Springfield,
Ill.: The Society) vol.4, no.3 (Oct. 1972):127–34.
- White, Elizabeth Pearson. “Illinois Settlers and Their
Origins.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly
(Washington, D.C.: The Society) vol.74, no.1 (Mar. 1986): 7–17.
- Whitney, Ellen M. Illinois History: An Annotated
Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Press, 1995.
- Wyman, Mark. Immigration History and Ethnicity in Illinois: A Guide. Springfield, Illinois : Illinois Historical Society, 1989.
African-AmericanMany slaves arrived in Illinois from the South with their white slave owners during the early years. In September 1807 the indenture law allowed slaves aged fifteen and older to be brought into the state by their white owners. The law stated that they must be registered with the clerk of common pleas. Beginning on 8 December 1812, "free blacks" and "mulattoes" were required to register six months after they arrived in Illinois. These records are extant. Many slaves were leased from slave owners in Kentucky and Tennessee to work the salt wells near Shawneetown.
Governor Edwards declared this law illegal in 1817. As a result, the constitutional compromise of 1817 put a one-year limit on new indenture contracts. Check the common pleas court files for freedom certificates issued after 17 January 1829. Records of African Americans in Illinois frequently gave places of origin in the slave state from which they came.
- Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society of
P.O. Box 377651
Chicago, IL 60637
- Carlson, Shirley J. "Black Migration to Pulaski County,
Illinois: 1860-1900." Illinois Historical Journal 80
(1987). Its focus is southern African Americans who settled in
rural areas of the North.
- Chicago Public Library
Carter G. Woodson Regional Library
Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
9525 S. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60628
Phone: (312) 747-6910
Fax: (312) 745-2083
- Drinkard, Dorothy L. Illinois freedom fighters : a Civil
War saga of the 29th Infantry, United States Colored Troops
/ Dorothy L. Drinkard. Needham Heights, MA : Simon & Schuster
Custom Pub., c1998. ix, 160 p. : ill., maps ; 26 cm.
- DuSable Museum of
740 E. 56th Pl.
Chicago, IL 60637
Phone: (773) 947-0600
Fax: (773) 947-0677
Founded in 1961, the first and oldest Black American museum in the United States, the DuSable Museum of African American History is dedicated to the collection, documentation, preservation, interpretation and dissemination of the history and culture of Americans of African descent and Africans throughout the Diaspora.
Genealogical Research Series Pamphlet 6: African–American
- Harris, Norman Dwight. The History of Negro Servitude in
Illinois and of Slavery Agitation in that State, 1719-1864.
1904. Reprint. New York : Haskell House, 1969.
- Hodges, Carl G. Illinois Negro Historymakers. Chicago
: Illinois Emancipation Centennial Commission, 1964.
Illinois African-American Genealogy - presented by
Illinois State Library - Has a few slave record books from
various counties. These include indentured French and freedmen
Immaculate Conception Church, Kaskaskia - Has records of
pre-1916 baptisms, marriages, and deaths of African Americans.
- J. Nick Perrin Collection at the Illinois State
Archives in Springfield. Has some of the very earliest records
in Illinois, including registers of slaves and free negroes.
- Johnson, W. Wesley. "Illinois Free Black Records,"
Illinois State Genealogical Quarterly 14 (summer
Underground Railroad and Freedom Center - Search for
Notable African-American Chicagoans
The 1917 East St. Louis Race Riot
Slave House in Equality
Oral Histories from the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project
Portrait of Black Chicago in 1973-74
- St. Anne's Church, St. Charles - Has records of pre-1916
baptisms, marriages, and deaths of African Americans.
- St. Joseph's Church, Prairie du Rocher - Has records of
pre-1916 baptisms, marriages, and deaths of African Americans.
Servitude and Emancipation Records (1722-1863)
Slaves in Illinois - Database of Servitude and Emancipation
- Tregillis, Helen Cox. River Roads to Freedom: Fugitive Slave Notices and Sheriff Notices Found in Illinois Sources. Bowie, Maryland : Heritage Books, Inc., 1988.
Chicago Public Library
2353 S. Wentworth
Chicago, Illinois 60616
Donn V. Hart Southeast Asia Collection
Founders Memorial Library
DeKalb, IL 60115
Phone: (815) 753-1809
Fax: (815) 753-2003
CornishThe lead mines brought the Cornish. ENGLISH There was a sizable immigration from England. Some of it was prompted by the London Roman Catholic Emigration Society and the Mormon missionaries sent from Nauvoo by Joseph Smith.
- Newberry Library
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, IL 60610-3394
Phone: (312) 943-9090
- Has an extensive collection of English materials.
Although there were scattered French-Canadians in Illinois country very early, there were few immigrants from France before 1830. Metamora in Woodford County was the first important French section, established in 1831, followed by several other French settlements. Bourbonnais, in Kankakee County, with a population of 1,719 in 1850, was a French-Canadian village that maintained Canadian customs for many years.
French in Illinois
- Lareau, Paul J. and Elmer Courteau. French-Canadian Families of the North Central States: A Genealogical Dictionary. 8 volumes. St. Paul, Minnesota: Northwest Territory French and Canadian Heritage Institute, 1980.
GermanMany German immigrants came to Illinois as affluent farmers, professionals, and artisans, and were able to continue as such in America. There were also those who came with little or no money to spare. Immigrants came via the Great Lakes to Chicago. Working in the industries of the city, they could make good wages to buy their "American" farm. Unfortunately, living costs were high, savings grew slowly, and land values rose rapidly. The "farmer" often became a city dweller. Many immigrants already in America lived in poverty, and a job on the railroad was a way to get to the west to start a new life. From New York fifteen hundred German immigrants came to work on the railroad. Men with families were the most popular recruits. The Illinois Central Railroad hoped that family life would expand in Illinois and the new cities would benefit economically. This occurred most dramatically in the once-small city of Chicago. The construction of the railroad attracted many industries to Chicago, increasing its population quickly in the late 1800s. Many of the German immigrants worked until they made enough money so they could buy land and have their own property. As the Germans bought land, new settlements grew along the railroads, as well as German churches in cities such as Galena, Champaign, Anna, Centralia, Dixon, and other railroad cities. In 1860 and 1861 three German communities were formed in Will and Effingham Counties. This brought in Germans who came to Illinois for the railroad, but to live with their fellow Germans. They came and moved into the German settlements. Sixty-nine Germans from Niagara Falls settled in Effingham County, and the settlement quickly grew to eighty families. The Germans were excellent farmers and the rich farmland helped them become very prosperous. One third of the foreign-born population in Illinois in 1850 was German. Religious, political, and economic factors caused the massive migration. Some of the earliest German settlements were in Dutch Hollow and Darmstadt, St. Clair County. The detailed church records of German-American churches must be utilized in Cook County.
- "Ferdinand Ernst and the Germany Colony at Vandalia,"
Illinois Historical Journal 80 (Summer, 1987) - Depicts the
1820 settlement in Fayette County.
- Freund, Hanns Egon. Emigration Records From the German
Eifel Region, 1834–1911: with Major Emphasis on Those Emigrants
Whose Final Destinations Were Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Crystal Lake, Ill.: McHenry County Illinois Genealogical
Emigration Records from the German Eifel Region 1834-1911, pages
Historical Background: The Eifel District
Northern Illinois Chapter AHSGR
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia
208 Cold Spring Ct.
Palatine, IL 60067-7376
Phone & Fax: (847) 397-7604
- Otto, Ronald L. ed. Illinois German-Americana
Genealogical Sources. 2vols. Quincy, Ill.: Illinois Chapter,
Palatines to America, 1990–92.
- Palatines to
America - Illinois Chapter
P.O. Box 3884
Quincy, Illinois 62305
IrishMany Irish stayed in the cities, employed as day laborers or factory workers. They moved from place to place within the state, but by 1860 the nucleus of the Irish immigrant community was in Chicago. Many Irish worked on the construction of the Illinois and Michigan canal system. When this project was temporarily abandoned in the early 1840s, large numbers of Irish became farmers.
Lincoln Park Campus Library
2323 N. Seminary
Chicago, Illinois 60614
- Has an Irish studies collection
- Irish American Heritage
4626 N. Knox Ave.
Chicago, IL 60630
- Newberry Library
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, IL 60610-3394
Phone: (312) 943-9090
- Has an extensive collection of Irish materials.
JewishThere was a cluster of Bavarian Jews in Chicago.
- Cutler, Irving: "The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to
Suburb". In Ethnic Chicago (eds. Melvin Holli & Peter d'A
Jones). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1981 & 1984. "The
Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb". A volume in the series
The Ethnic History of Chicago. (ed. Melvin Holli). Urbana
and Chicago, Illinois. University of Illinois Press, 1996.
- Eastwood, Carolyn. Chicago's Jewish Street Peddlers:
Toehold on the Bottom Rung. Chicago : Jewish Historical
- Fleishaker, Oscar. The Illinois-Iowa Jewish Community on
the Banks of the Mississippi River. 1957.
- Illiana Jewish
P.O. Box 384
Flossmoor, IL 60422-0384
Genealogical Society of Illinois
P.O. Box 515
Northbrook, IL 60065-0515
- Jewish Genealogical Society
1328 W. Randolph St.
- Mazur, E.: "Jewish Chicago: from Diversity to Community". In Ethnic Chicago (eds. Melvin Holli and Peter d'A. Jones), Grand Rapids, Michigan : Eerdmans, 1984.
Museum of Lithuanian Culture
6500 S. Pulaski
Chicago, Illinois 60629
- Death Notices From Lithuanian Newspapers, 1900–1979. Chicago, Ill.: Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture; Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1979. This is a microfilm of a card file of obituaries from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and several states. Other countries are also included.
- Witry, Richard J. Luxembourg Brotherhood of America, 1887 - 1987. Chicago: 1987.
- Beckwith, Hiram W. The Illinois and Indiana Indians.
Chicago: Fergus' Historical Series No. 27, 1884.
Cahokia Mounds - State Historic Site
"Chief" Black Hawk and the Sauk Nation
- Clifton, James A. Indians of North America, The
Potawatomi. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
- Detailed Tribal
- Edmunds, R. David. The Potawatomis, Keepers of the Fire.
Oklahoma City, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.
History of Illinois and Prairie Indian Nations
- Hodge, Frederick Webb (ed.). Handbook of American Indians
north of Mexico. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1971.
Illini Confederation: Lords of the Mississippi Valley
(Kaskaskia, Peoria, Cahokia, Tamaroa and Michigamea),
Legend of the
- The Indian Circle Web
Ring run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Search here for
more Native American Sites
- Kappler, Charles J. (ed.). Indian Affairs: Laws and
Treaties, Washington, D.C.: GPO, v. 2, 1903.
- Kapustiak, Margaret M. "Early Illinois: Settler, Native
Americans, and the US Government." Illinois State
Genealogical Quarterly. 37:3 (Fall 2005) pp. 17-22.
Kaskaskia Indians - presented by CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
- Native American -
Illinois History - Histories of all Illinois tribes.
Native American Schools
Native Americans in Illinois - History of the Illini
- The Piasa
Bird - Near Alton, Madison County, IL
- Vogel, Virgil J. Indian Place Names in Illinois. Springfield, IL: Illinois State Historical Society, Pamphlet Series, No. 4, 1963.
NorwegiansThe first Norwegian settlement in the Midwest was founded by a group from New York in 1834, along the Fox River near Ottawa.
- Haller’s Army Index
- Name Index. During World War I, soldiers for the Polish Army
in France, commonly called Haller’s Army, were recruited among
Poles living in the U.S. Two forms that contain genealogical
information were filled out by the recruits. Form A contains the
volunteer’s name, address, and marital status; the number of
children he had; how his family would be supported if he was
accepted into service; whether or not he was a U.S. citizen; his
age, physical description, and signature; the recruiting
station; and the date. Form C contains additional information,
such as the volunteer’s date and place of birth; the address of
his closest relative in America and in Poland; his previous
military service; and remarks. All volumes of the collection are
PGS of America
ATTN: Haller’s Army Request
984 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
- Martin Joseph F. "Early Polish Immigrants Settled in
Southern Illinois." Illinois State Genealogical Society
Quarterly 41:3, 139-143.
- Polish Genealogical Society of
984 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Portage-Cragin Branch Library
5108 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60641
Colonies of religiously exiled Portuguese immigrants were located at Springfield and Jacksonville in 1849.
- Langum, David J. Sr. Antonio de Mattos and the Protestant Portuguese Community in Antebellum Illinois. Jacksonville, Illinois: Morgan County Historical Society, 2006.
In 1834 the Scottish began migrating to Illinois, their numbers in 1850 totaling 4,660. SLOVAK / CZECH
- Czech & Slovak American
Genealogy Society of Illinois
Benedictine University Library
5700 College Road
Lisle, Illinois 60532
- Has a collection of Czech family Bibles and 10,000 Czech history volumes.
- University of Illinois
Slavic Reference Service
225 Library Building
Urbana, IL 61801
- Holds a Czech-American collection of over 31,000 volumes of history, periodicals, original documents, and Czech-American newspapers.
SwedesFive hundred Swedes established themselves at Bishop Hill in Henry County.
Swedish-American Historical Society
3228 N. Foster Ave. / Box 48
Chicago, IL 60625
Phone: (773) 583-5722
- Publishes The Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly. Their collections include letters, family histories, organization records, newspapers, diaries, books, oral histories, reference files, and photographs.
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center
Augustana College, 639 38th St.
Rock Island, IL 61201-2296
- Has immigrant letters and immigrant indexes, church papers, a large collection of Swedish-American newspapers, and a significant amount of microfilmed church records from Swedish-American congregations in the Midwest.
Although few Swiss immigrated to Illinois, there were settlements in St. Clair County, in Galena, and in Madison County, the most important center of Swiss population in Illinois. UKRAINIANS
- Ukrainian National
Museum of Chicago
721 N. Oakley
Chicago, Illinois 60612
Kane County had a considerable Welsh population.