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# Monday, July 14, 2008
Free Chicago Vital Records Search Goes Online
Posted by Diane

In the March 2008 Family Tree Magazine Branching Out news column, we reported the clerk’s office in Cook County, Illinois—home to Chicago—was digitizing vital records for an online index.

The project is finally finished, and you can search the index at the county's Genealogy Online Web site. Records date back to the 1880s (the Great Chicago Fire destroyed Cook County vital records from before 1871).

First, you’ll need a free site registration. Then you can search birth and death certificates (older than 75 and 50 years, respectively), and marriage licenses (older than 50 years) by name and optional year range, or year and file number.

Online genealogy guru Steve Morse has created an online form that gives you a sounds-like option for names.

Matches show the person’s name, the record date and file number, with an option to download a copy of the record from the clerk's office for $15.

You also could use the index information to order the microfilmed records from the Family History Library (run a keyword search of the online catalog on cook county and birth, marriage or death). The rental fee runs about $5 per roll; visit your local Family History Center to put in your request.

(Update: Click Comments below for expert tips on finding microfilmed Cook County vital records. Also, as a Family Tree Magazine E-mail Update newsletter reader pointed out, records are still being added to the CookCountyGenealogy database.)


Genealogy Web Sites | Public Records
Monday, July 14, 2008 9:20:10 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
Monday, July 14, 2008 12:30:02 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Ordering the microfilmed records through a Family History Center is an inexpensive way to get early Chicago/Cook records, but there are a few things to know about choosing films if you're not experienced with Chicago research.

1) Choosing marriage license films is easy because the certificate numbers are unique. They don't start over each year.

2) Choosing death certificate films from 1916-1947 is easy because the certificate numbers are unique within each year. Be careful, though. Chicago certificates are filmed together (search the catalog for "Chicago" and "vital records") and all other Cook County certificates are found with the state-wide records (search "Illinois" and "vital records").

3) Choosing death certificate films from 1878-1915 is tricky because certificate numbers repeat two, three, or four times during each year AND the catalog doesn't make it clear which months are on which films. (There is a pattern, but for some years, it doesn't hold true.) Also, again, "Chicago" records are filmed in a different series than "Cook County" records and coroner's death certificates up to 1904 ("missing" on the regular certificate films) are yet another group of records.

4) Choosing birth certificate films is also tricky because the numbers repeat, and because the December certificates for the later years are sometimes found in the first group of records for the following year.

The Wilmette Family History Center (just north of Chicago) most all of the Chicago vital records films that are available through the FHL catalog and they have also developed a key to help select the correct death certificate films between 1878 and 1915. The consultants can't provide copies of death certificates or do research for patrons, but they can answer questions about using the films. il_wilmette at ldsmail.net

Cynthia
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 12:03:49 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thank you for these tips, Cynthia!
Diane
Comments are closed.