Family History and Genealogy Services

Listed as one of the "50 Top Sites for Genealogy Research" by Internet Genealogy, Aug/Sept 2012

Illinois Genealogy Resources

Chicago and Cook County

Libraries, Archives and
 Government Agencies

  • Chicagoland Genealogy Research Locations. An interactive map of research facilities commonly used by genealogists.
  • Chicago Public Library - Harold Washington Center - (400 S. State St., Chicago). The Washington Center has excellent resources for doing Chicago and Cook County genealogical research.
    • Biography. The Biography collection is strong in general biography and also contains many collected biographies, biographical dictionaries, and indexes such as the Who's Who series and the Biography and Genealogy Master Index. This collection offers a good starting place when the only known information is a person's name. Other subject divisions have biographies of noted persons in their subject fields. (6th floor)
    • Census. U.S. Personal Name Census, Chicago, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920; Soundex 1900 Population Schedule: Illinois; Miracode 1910 Population Schedule: Illinois; Soundex 1920 Population Schedule: Illinois.(3rd floor)
    • Chicago Area Directory of Organizations. Listing 1,600 clubs, groups, and other organizations throughout the metropolitan area.
    • The Chicago Collection. Consists primarily of monographs which are available for research and reference use. Circulating materials are available in the open stack area. (6th floor)
    • Chronology of Chicago Newspaper Microfilm holdings. List of Chicago newspapers on microfilm available in the GIS Newspaper Department.  (3rd floor)
    • City directories (1839, 1843-1917, 1923, 1928/29) (3rd floor)
    • City of Chicago Documents. City Council, Proceedings, 1861-present. Bureau of Statistics, City Manual, 1908-1916.
    • Education. Chicago Board of Education. Annual Reports, 1867-1868 to 1925-1926.
    • Family, employment and public service records. Registers of Public Employees. Pilgrimage for the Mothers and Widows of Soldiers ...
    • Genealogy. "How to" books to assist beginners in learning techniques for researching their family histories are emphasized. Directories for locating sources to obtain birth, marriage, and death records are available as well as a directory listing professional genealogists in the United States. Family histories are not collected, except for those of famous American families. (6th floor)
    • Lerner Newspapers. The Lerner Newspaper microfilm collection includes newspapers from Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs ranging from 1905-1993. (3rd floor)
    • Maps and gazetteers. U.S. Board of Geographic Names and gazetteers (Reference area); U.S. Geological Survey Topographical Maps.
    • Military records. Historical Register of the United States Army. War of Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
    • Passenger lists. (3rd floor)
    • Newspapers.  Has approximately 300 current papers from every state in the U.S. and papers from more than 40 foreign countries. Also received are U.S. and Chicago ethnic newspapers and Chicago area community papers. (3rd floor)
    • Special Collections. Neighborhood History Research Collection; Civil War Research Collection; Chicago Authors and Imprints Collection; Chicago Theater Arts and History Collection; Chicago Public Library Archives; Book Arts, History and Collecting.
    • State of Illinois documents. Archives Marriage Record Index (26 microfiche). Public Domain Sales Land Tract Record Listing (144 microfiche).
    • Telephone directories (1878-1971). (3rd floor)
  • The Newberry Library (60 West Walton St., Chicago, Illinois). The Newberry is a reference library for history and the humanities, and specializes in several areas including: local and family history (county, town, church, etc. for U.S. and Canada), the history < of cartography, the American Indian, printing, music, and the Renaissance. It holds the largest genealogy collection in the Chicago area. About 60% of its researchers are genealogy researchers.
  • Chicago History Museum. The Chicago History Museum strives to promote knowledge and understanding of Chicago and the nation's past by providing access to the authentic, primary materials of history.
    • Research Tools.
    • ARCHIE, is a searchable online catalog, which includes materials in all CHS collections except costume, decorative and industrial arts, painting, and sculpture.
    • Building Permits Listed in American Contractor, 1898-1912.
    • Chicago Daily News Photograph Collection. This collection comprises over 55,000 images of urban life captured on glass plate negatives between 1902 and 1933 by photographers employed by the Chicago Daily News, then one of Chicago's leading newspapers. The photographs illustrate the enormous variety of topics and events covered in the newspaper, although only about twenty percent of the images in the collection were published in the newspaper. Most of the photographs were taken in Chicago, Illinois, or in nearby towns, parks, or athletic fields. In addition to many Chicagoans, the images include politicians, actors, and other prominent people who stopped in Chicago during their travels and individual athletes and sports teams who came to Chicago. Also included are photographs illustrating the operations of the Chicago Daily News itself and pictures taken on occasional out-of-town trips by the Daily News's photographers to important events, such as the inauguration of presidents in Washington, D.C.
    • Chicago City directories (1839, 1843-1917, 1923, 1928/29)
    • Chicago Street Name Changes. .pdf file - very slow.
    • Chicago Tribune Historical Archive
    • The Encyclopedia of Chicago, launched in May of 2005, is a rich online resource provided free of charge to the public by CHS.
    • Fire insurance maps
    • 1909 Street Re-numbering Guide for Chicago. .pdf file - very slow.
    • 1911 Chicago Loop Street Numbering Changes. .pdf file - very slow
    • 1918-1929 Chicago Criss-Cross Directory. .pdf file - very slow.
    • Telephone directories
  • University of Illinois at Chicago Library - Special Collections. Richard J. Daley Library.
    • Chicago building permits
    • City directories (1839, 1843-1917, 1923, 1928/29)
    • Complete run of many Chicago newspapers.
    • Extensive map holdings.
    • Fire insurance maps
  • Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) - Northeastern University. (Ronald Williams Library, Lower Level, 5500 North St. Louis, Chicago, Illinois)
    • Chicago city cemetery records (in Chicago City Council Proceedings)
    • Chicago City Council Proceedings, 1833-1871. This database provides access to the working papers of the Chicago City Council for the period before the Great Fire. Until their rediscovery in 1983, these files were presumed to have been destroyed in that catastrophe. The database contains entries for 35,650 different files. Each entry shows the title of the file and a control number containing the filing calendar or fiscal year, file number, filing month and day. Includes only a few personal names and is of limited value to genealogists.
    • Chicago Police Department Homicide Record Index, 1870-1930. The Chicago Homicide Record Index was compiled by Michelle Adams, an intern for the Illinois Regional Archives Depository at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. The 12,705 records in the database were extracted from the Chicago Police Department Homicide Records. Precisely when and how the Chicago Police Department's Homicide Records were compiled is uncertain. What is known is that Police Department personnel made a concerted effort to list all of the homicides within the city of Chicago between 1870 and 1930.
    • Cook County Coroner's Inquest Record Index, 1872-1911. The Cook County Coroner's Inquest Record Index was compiled by Michelle Adams and Milan Jovcic, interns for the Illinois Regional Archives Depository at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. The 74,160 records in the database were extracted from the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Records. The inquests included in this index cover the period from December 1872 to November 1911. The volumes for the period from October 1879 to July 1880 (668 inquests) and from May 1888 to October 1888 (720 inquests) are missing. The Cook County Office of the Medical Examiner does not have any inquest records prior to December 1872. Records after November 1911 are in the custody of the Office of the Medical Examiner.
    • Cook County Hospital patient registers.
    • Cook County vital records and indexes.(some)
    • IRAD Local Governmental Records Holdings Database. This database provides a listing of the local governmental records held by the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) system. Local governmental records include those from county, city, town, village, and township levels throughout Illinois. Numerous offices are represented from these levels. The record holdings of the IRAD system include over 5,400 different record series.For each record series the following information is included: depository, accession number, title, county, beginning date and ending date. By selecting "Cook" in the "County" field of this database, researchers can generate a list of Cook County records held by IRAD in Chicago.
    • Naturalization index and records.
    • Probate records (1872-1895; 1921-1923). Partial volumes, no index.
    • Records of Bonds and Letters of administration & Wills (1877-1922). No index.
    • Records of foreign wills (1880-1908); 1904-1913; 1915-1922) No index.
  •  NARA's Great Lakes Region (Chicago). Appointment needed to use resources.
    • Naturalization records for the region.
    • Selected passenger lists and records.
    • U.S. census records.
    • World War I and World War II draft cards for the region.
  • Cook County Assessor's Office Property Search
  • Cook County Circuit Court Archives. The Archives Department of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County was established in 1992, to collect, preserve, and make available to researchers the non-current records created by the Cook County Court systems. Some records are stored offsite and transferred to Archives for viewing (allow 2-10 working days).  Indexes are located in the Archives unless otherwise stated.  Archives patrons should be aware that the Clerk's office began computerized indexing and docketing of court cases in the early 1980s, which may affect their research. See Archives Holdings.
  • Cook County Clerk's Office. Birth, marriage, and death records. The Cook County Clerk's office provides non-certified copies of vital records for the purpose of genealogical research. Under Illinois law, genealogical records are defined as: Birth certificates older than 75 years; Marriage certificates older than 50 years; and Death certificates older than 20 years. The office is noted for poor service. It is best to deal with them through the mail.
  • Cook County Recorder of Deeds. All documents recorded prior to 1985 were recorded in tract books, which list areas by subdivision. Those records are only available at the downtown facility ("Torrens Vault") and require you to visit the downtown office to perform your research. Ownership can be determined on any property purchased after October 1985 at any of the office locations on the Document Index Management System (DIMS) terminals. Remember that you will be looking for the most recent title document (i.e. deed, trust deed, warranty deed etc.). The names listed, as grantee on the most recent title document should be the current property owner(s).
  • Family History Center - Wilmette Illinois
    2727 Lake Avenue
    Wilmette, Cook, Illinois, United States
    Phone: 847-251-9818
    Hours: T-Th 10am-3pm, 6:30-9:30pm; Sat 9am-1pm 

    See listing of all Family History Centers in Illinois.

    • Cook County vital records and indexes.
    • Cook County cemetery records.
    • Polish Roman Catholic parish records.
    • Hamburg emigration lists index.
  • Arlington Heights Memorial Libary. The library maintains a large genealogy and local history collection in the Kathrine Shackley Room, located on the second level. Over 8,000 reference books, over 300 circulating books, over 125 genealogy periodicals and newsletters, a large map collection especially of Cook County. 
  • Elmhurst Public Library.
  • Evanston Public Library.
  • Oak Park Public Library. The Main Library has a microfilm/microfiche collection of historic local newspapers, telephone directories, and other resources.
  • Schaumburg Township District Library. Owns a wide selection of materials for individuals interested in Genealogy including books, cassettes, videos, handbooks and government documents for the beginning genealogist as well as for the advanced researcher. The collection includes general information on such topics as how to start a search to more specialized materials such as obtaining vital records, county records and land and property research. STDL employs a Genealogy Coordinator who is available to help genealogy researchers with finding materials or providing direction in doing in-depth research.
  • Skokie Public Library. The Skokie Obituary Index is a specialized database created by librarians at Skokie Public Library and is especially useful for local genealogical research.