Friday, August 19, 2011

Cook County Circuit Court Archives: Criminal Case Index, 1873-1944

Recently a researcher asked if I could check indexes at the Circuit Court Archives for a crime that happened c. 1922. I'm always happy to learn something new and so I said I'd give it a try. I'm no expert on using this resource, but maybe a few quick notes about my experience will be helpful to someone else.

The microfiche index with the title "Counter Index Alpha Criminal Div" is kept in a thick black notebook on top of the filing cabinets. It covers 1873-1944, but some years are missing.

The entries for the earliest years are docket book pages. Information includes the name(s) of the defendant(s), the indictment number, the reason for indictment, a dollar amount that's probably bail, and brief dated notations that probably document various steps as the case proceeds. One of the cases had a December 1879 entry that seemed to read "Cont [or Cout] by Agt" and an August 1880 entry that said "Stricken off &c."

The later years have index pages with columns that read "Defendant," "Original Indictment #," "Charge," and "Amt of Bail." The pages are numbered and a date (month/year) is often stamped on.

The entries aren't alphabetical, but they're grouped by first letter of surname in chronological order and they're fairly easy to search. In my search, I looked at names and then checked the Charge column to take a closer look at the cases that might have been a match.

So what kinds of cases are recorded in these indexes? Skimming a single page I found entries that included

Rape, etc.
Burg, etc.
Asslt intent to murder
Con games

What's the next step if you find a match in the index? The best answer can be found on the Archives list of holdings. If the records are still available, follow up. If not, perhaps the information gleaned from the index would lead to newspaper articles or other indirect sources of information.

For my search, I didn't find a match, but the files for the 1922 cases aren't available anyway. If I had been successful, though, the indictment records still exist.

So, now that I've had a first-look at the index fiche, I'd like to give it another try and I'm looking for a test case. If you are researching someone who might be mentioned in the Criminal Case Index, let me know. If you can narrow down the date--perhaps the crime is mentioned in the newspaper--email me. If I choose your project to work on, I'll check the index and follow up for free as long as you give me permission to blog about the search. (Disclaimer: If I came across a large file and you wanted me to copy more than what I needed for my post, I'd ask you to help with copy costs.)

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

I found your blog while surfing and thought it was very informative and well written. I wish you success on your journey to find your roots.

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