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Illinois Genealogy Resources

Obituaries
 and Death Records

Obituaries have been published in Illinois since the mid-nineteenth century. Obituaries may provide information such as the age of the deceased, birth date and place, names of living relatives and their residences, maiden name, occupation, death date, cause of death, and place of burial. Deceased family members are frequently mentioned. Obituaries may also mention previous places of residence, immigration information, religion, and any social organizations or activities in which the deceased was involved. Obituary files may be kept in local public libraries and by newspaper publishers. Funeral home records vary greatly in the information they contain. Some give details about the deceased, such as the date and place of death, burial, and birth; names of parents, spouse, and other family members; maiden name; religion; and name(s) of the person(s) paying the funeral expenses. A funeral home record commonly includes a biography or obituary and the names and residences of surviving relatives. Morticians frequently file the death certificate and have a copy of the obituary published in newspaper(s) as requested by the family.

Some funeral home records start as early as the 1880s, although many of the earliest records have been lost or destroyed. A funeral home currently in business in the area may have old records, because mortuaries that changed hands or relocated often saved the old records. Some records have been given to local libraries or societies. The following two nationwide sources are helpful in finding local funeral homes. Both sources are arranged by state and town:

  • The American Blue Book of Funeral Directors. New York: Kates-Boyston Publications, 1988.
     
  • National Yellow Book of Funeral Directors. Youngstown, Ohio: Nomis Publications, 1996. This book also lists mortuary colleges, Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals and cemeteries, general hospitals, and daily newspapers.