Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Sam Fink's Marriage-Death Index Available on Ancestry

A client let me know that Sam Fink's Index, more formally known as Cook County, Illinois Marriage and Death Indexes, 1833-1889 is now online at Ancestry.com. Great news! It indexes marriages 1833–1871 and deaths 1833-1889 that were mentioned in Chicago newspapers so it's a very useful pre-Fire resource.

In this post I'll tell you a little bit about the man who compiled the index, share tips on how to use the marriage and death index entries to find further information, and suggest ways to access the indexed newspapers from a distance.

Sam Fink

So, who was Sam Fink and why did he go to so much effort to make an index of Chicago marriages and deaths? According to his obituary--he died on a cruise ship at the age of 88 in February of 1999--he was "an attorney who made his living as an investigator and genealogist." (Chicago Sun-Times, 7 Feb 1999, accessed through GenealogyBank.com) He was a professional researcher who dealt "exclusively with problems of determining the true and lawful heirs in estate matters, trusts, dormant bank accounts, and insurance policies." (Flavin, Genevieve. "How to Hunt Your Heritage." Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file): B4. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune (1849-1987). Mar 22 1972. Web. 1 Nov. 2011 <http://search.proquest.com/docview/170291575?accountid=6327>.) I think he created this index as a tool to use in his work.

Marriage Index

The marriage index lists the names of the bride and groom, the date of the newspaper announcement, and a code for the newspaper that it appeared in. There are matching entries for both bride and groom so it doesn't matter which name you search. (If you can't find a newspaper article using information from one entry, search the corresponding entry to see if the information  the same. It would have been easy for the typist to make a mistake.)

Marriage Index Example
These entries are also included in the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index. They show "Fink" in the license number field but don't provide the newspaper code.

Illinois Statewide Death Index Example

So, what do you do once you've found a match in the index? First, use the code to determine the newspaper title(s). Then search out the matching article.

Chicago Tribune *
Chicago Times %
Chicago Evening Journal $
Chicago Democrat #
Chicago Democratic Press #
Chicago Evening Post ?
Chicago Record-Herald "
Chicago Daily News @
Chicago Examiner ¢
The Inter-Ocean :

If you're in the Chicago area, these newspapers can be found on microfilm at the Harold Washington Library. Just take the L and get off at Library--State and Van Buren.

The Chicago Public Library website has some very helpful online information about local newspapers including a link to a timeline from the Encyclopedia of Chicago--which papers were published when--and a list of holdings with information on how to request obituary searches through your library's interlibrary loan department.

Chicago newspapers are also available at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. More information can be found on their Newspaper Microfilm Collection page. If you don't have easy access to the papers, Molly Kennedy, a researcher on our Genlighten.com site, offers newspaper searches with quick turnaround.

And some of the papers are online. The Chicago Tribune can be found at Fold3.com and ProQuest's Chicago Tribune Historical Archives is available through many libraries. GenealogyBank.com offers the newspapers listed below. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be possible to browse the pages and sometimes I find it hard to pull up matching entries using the name search.

Chicago Daily Times (1/16/1855 - 5/2/1856)
Chicago Herald (1/1/1890 - 12/31/1891)
Chicago Times (11/2/1854 - 7/3/1888)
Conservator (11/18/1882 - 12/18/1886)
Daily Inter-Ocean (2/15/1874 - 12/31/1896
Inter Ocean (6/5/1879 - 3/6/1896)
Pomeroy's Democrat (1/6/1869 - 2/15/1879)
Sunday Times (10/10/1869 - 12/31/1876)
Vorbote (2/28/1874 - 12/23/1876).

Death Index

Sam Fink's death index is divided into four sections: 1833-1874, 1875-1879, 1880-1884, and 1885-1889.

Death Index Example

Like the marriage index, many of the death index entries include a newspaper date and a code to tell you which title to check. An example would be the entry for Albert Francis Bullook below. Mention of his Albert's death occurs in the 6 Jul 1879 of the Chicago Tribune.

When you use the index you'll notice that some of the later death entries list a name, a volume, and a page number. Some entries, like the one for Mary Wilhemina Bulicek, include a volume and page along with newspaper codes and some, like the one for Mary Bull just provide a volume and page number.

The notes at Ancestry say "When the death entries came from Cook County death records, they list only a name and a volume and page number." The question is, what "Cook County death records" do these numbers refer to? I have an idea and I will follow up to see if I can learn more the next time I'm downtown. In the meantime, though, I don't believe they refer to the early register books held by the Cook County Clerk's Office. Those volumes were distinguished by letters.

So, how do you find a death certificate or a newspaper death notice when there's no newspaper date given? Here's one approach:

Volume numbers and the death dates they cover

1) First, check the key above to determine an approximate year of death. Mary's record is in volume 1 so her death was recorded between January of 1878 and August of 1879.

2) Next, search the Illinois Statewide Death Index for a matching entry. The likely match for Mary is listed under Wilhelmina: BULICEK, WILHELMINA 1879-07-03 CHICAGO 05 YR U 00003846

3) Use the death date as an entry point to searching newspapers. In this case the death notice was on page 8 the day after Mary's death.

If no newspaper code is given, follow the steps above to estimate the year of death and search the Illinois Statewide Death Index. Then use the information from that index to locate the death record on Family History Library microfilm or in the database at FamilySearch. 


Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

I really appreciated your post. I recently found the Fink death index on Ancestry, but their site did not explain Fink's code...or at least not where I could find it! Your post led me to a long sought for death record. Thanks!

junec said...

Thanks for me too! I had the same problem, where were those darn codes on Ancestry! June

Anonymous said...

Thank you for making this known to all who are interested. Your kind service is very much appreciated.

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