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Chicago Naturalization Searches: What the "730" Means

If you search the Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950 at FamilySearch, you'll probably come up with a card like this one: If the court is listed as Circuit, County, Criminal, or Superior then the record is held by the Cook County Circuit Court Archives . If the court is listed as District, then NARA Great Lakes has the record. But, what if no court is listed? Recently I had a client send me the two cards below and I wasn't sure how to follow up because no courts were given. (I removed the names for posting.) A quick email to NARA solved the mystery. The "730" prefix is the code for the United States District Court in Chicago. If you visit NARA's page on naturalizations  you'll find a link that will let you order copies of naturalization records online for $7.50 (includes postage). If you need naturalization records from the Circuit Court Archives, you can submit a request by mail or I can retrieve them for you fo

Family History Expo Day 2: New Research Ideas

Okay. I'll be honest. The Springfield Family History Expo memory that will stay with me the longest--maybe forever--was my encounter with the warm pecan buns that were available as the final stop on the breakfast buffet that I splurged on the morning of the second day. They were delicious beyond words and I ended up eating four of them. (They were small. Really.) After breakfast, I headed to the patio on the 14th floor, played a few fiddle tunes to relax and start the day off right, and then I headed to class. First up, "Tracing American Ancestors Who Lived in Cities," a double-session workshop taught by Arlene H. Eakle, Ph.D. She shared many wise insights but here are three of my favorites: People move within cities. First they live on the top floor, then they moved to the basement. From there, they move to the first floor and then (I'm pretty sure I have this right) they move on to better neighborhoods. How many of us have followed families through address aft

Family History Expo Day 1: Chicago-related Insights

Chicago from the train Long day. I caught a 6:35 a.m. Metra train into Chicago’s Union Station, took  Amtrak’s 8:15 a.m. Saluki to Champaign, and rode the rest of the way to Springfield by bus. I arrived at the Illinois Family History Expo in time for the 2:00 p.m. opening keynote and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening attending conference sessions. The last class finished about 8:40 p.m. which left me some time to take my fiddle up to the 14th floor garden patio to practice and now I’m back in my room, ready to share a few of the many things that I learned that might be of use to Chicago researchers. The opening keynote was a talk by Bernard E. Gracy, Jr. titled “Ancestral Echos” and a quick summary might go something like this: the times and places and events associated with the lives of our ancestors echo down through the generations. Our family history becomes richer and more understandable when we learn to identify those echoes. As I’ve mentioned before, my

Boost your Genealogical Superpowers at the Springfield Family History Expo

Did you ever think about whether or not you have a genealogical superpower? It's a question that we toss out when we interview researchers for a spotlight over on our Genlighten.com site and it's one that I've been thinking about recently. I'd like to think that I do. I'm pretty good at finding Chicago-related things at the Wilmette Illinois Family History Center --I can usually pull badly misspelled index entries out of the Illinois Statewide Death Index and there have been a few occasions when I've found Chicago death certificates that just didn't seem to be there--and people are always saying, "Ask Cyndy. She'll know." Truth is, though, I don't have all the answers and I don't have any superpowers at all. When I am able to help people with tough research questions, it's just a matter of having learned what records are available and what information they generally include. A person looking for an early birth date for Chicag

I'll be Blogging from the Springfield Family History Expo

Last week I received an email inviting me to be a "Blogger of Honor" at the upcoming Family History Expo in Springfield, Illinois. In return for a number of perks including free conference registration, I would need to share information about the event beforehand, report on presentations and exhibits on the Friday and Saturday of the gathering, and wrap up with a post-conference summary of my experience. I gave it a lot of thought, and decided to give it a try. I've been to a number of conferences over the last couple of years, but I've always gone as an exhibitor for our website, Genlighten.com , and I've never  attended classes. This will be a first! My plan is to approach the conference with three questions in mind: 1) What can I learn that might be of use to Chicago researchers? 2) What can I learn that might be of use to me in my own genealogy-related activities? 3) What can I learn that might help me better meet my clients' needs? Browsing

Why Would the Recorder of Deeds have Death Records?

Back in November, I wrote about Sam Fink's Marriage and Death Indexes  and I mentioned that some of the death index entries have volume and page numbers that refer to -- well, no one really seems to know. And I also mentioned that there was a key to the years included in the index. Vital records are held by the Cook County Clerk's Office but Sam Fink made it clear that the volumes he was indexing were held by the Recorder of Deeds and, knowing a little bit about Sam Fink, I don't think he made a mistake. But why would the Recorder of Deeds have death records? Here's one possible answer: In a few weeks I'm going to make a trip to Van Buren County, Michigan with the hope of discovering the history of a particular property there. I was looking at  the frequently-asked questions on their website today and this paragraph caught my eye: Q: My spouse passed away and our property is in both our names, what do I do? A: Bring in a certified copy of the dea

Taking a Creative Approach to Research: Holy Family Tuition Records

Recently I corresponded with a researcher who had come up with a creative approach to answering a family history question. She just needed someone in Chicago to carry out her plan. I said, "Sure. I'll give it a try if it's okay with you if I blog about it." She said it was. What she knew: Her husband's ancestor's family was in Chicago in 1868. One of the family's children was baptized at Holy Family in 1873. The mother was listed in the 1880 New York census as a widow. Her questions: When did the father die? When did the family return to New York? The researcher had learned that Holy Family Parish School Tuition Records, 1865-1879 were available at the Loyola University Archives and Special Collections and she thought that at least one of the family's children would have been enrolled. Her hope was that the tuition records could help her zero in on when the family left Chicago. I called the Archives and made an appointment to visit. (

You Should Read Jim Craig's Blog: Under Every Stone

Lazarus I love visiting cemeteries, wandering the rows, reading the stones. Sometimes a particular monument will catch my eye and I'll stop for a minute and wonder about the person who's buried beneath it. For me, that's as far as it goes. But not for Jim Craig. Last year, Jim started a blog called Under Every Stone and he uses it primarily to tell the stories behind gravestones that catch his eye on frequent Find-A-Grave trips to local cemeteries. Most, but not all, of the posts relate to Chicago families. The first entry, " Finkelstein: Four Souls in One Tomb ," tells the tragic story of a family that succumbed to a gas leak from an open jet in their kitchen in 1903.  Another early post tells the story of Lazarus Finkelstein from Russia Poland who died in Chicago in 1918 at the age of 107. And then there's the recent entry for Sammy Meisenberg (now spelled "Mizenberg" by the family ) titled " Born a Jew, Lived an American, Died a Pa

Things You Should Know About: A How-to Blog Post, a Book Translation, and a Free Webinar Schedule

I keep an eye out for information that's useful to Chicago researchers and I have a couple of things to share today. First, Ginger Frere of Information Diggers recently shared a link on a mailing list that I subscribe to for a Newberry Library blog post titled " Using ChicagoAncestors.org to Locate Church Records ." Even if you've used the site to search for churches, take a look at the post. Good chance you'll learn something new. And then, a genealogy friend recently made me aware of a new Czech and Slovak American Genealogy Society of lllinois (GSAGSI) publication that will be of interest to researchers with Czech ancestors. It's Karleen Chott Sheppard's translation of a 1939 book titled A History of the Czechs in Chicago . Here's a link to a  flyer with more details and ordering information. And finally, the Illinois State Genealogical Society has scheduled free monthly webinars for 2012. The next one will be April 10, "Going Digital:

What If You Could Read 50,000 Foreign Language Articles from Chicago Newspapers in English? You Can!

Yesterday, Chicago-area genealogist Jennifer Holik-Urban posted on the ChicagoGenealogy Facebook group to make researchers aware of the Foreign Language Press Survey . It's a new-to-me resource for Chicago research and a valuable one if you have foreign-born ancestors. The site provides access to translations of almost 50,000 articles from newspapers serving 22 ethnic and linguistic groups in Chicago. These translations were done as part of a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s. Visit the survey site (use the link above) and click on " Read about this historic project ." As researchers, sometimes we have to guess how or why a particular resource was created. That isn't the case here. In fact, the background information is  detailed. If you click on the " Press Survey Codes " link, you can read through the subject guide that was used to pick articles for the project. Click on "Return to search" to get started. I didn't ha

Determining 1940 Census EDs for Czech and Slovak Neighborhoods

Kevin Hurbanis sent me a link to his " Searching Chicago's 1940 Czech & Slovak Neighborhoods " page this morning and I asked permission to share it. It's meant as a tool for people who will be looking for ancestors in Pilsen and Lawndale, but it's nicely done and I think it has information that's relevant to us all. Take a look when you get a chance. And if you know of any other 1940 census tools for Chicago, please post a comment and let us know. Kevin--thank you! Update: I posted on the ChicagoGenealogy Facebook page this morning and a group member reminded me that Stephen Morse has some great tools for census research on his One-Step Webpages . Check those out, too!

Embracing our Musical Heritage: What I Learned at Fiddle Club this Weekend

Saturday evening I went to a Fiddle Club of the World gathering to hear Finnish fiddler Arto Järvelä play with the American duo Kaivama . How was it, you ask? Click through to Arto's website and listen to the tune he has playing on the main page. Yes. Do it! Before reading any more, click the link. It'll open in a new window and the music player will start automatically. Now multiply that sound by two exquisite fiddlers playing in harmony and add in a brisk rhythm from mandolin or guitar or a slow drone accompaniment on harmonium and you will understand why  the only word I have to describe the experience is, well, "incredible." And what does this have to do with Chicago genealogy? Plenty, actually. Kaivama musicians Sara Pajunen and Jonathan Rundman are Finnish-Americans hailing from Finnish immigrant communities in Michigan and Minnesota. During a break between tunes, Sara noted, with great feeling, the connection that the music provides to their cultural he

100 Years Ago: Chicago's 75th Birthday

Chicago celebrates its 175th birthday today and news of the festivities reminds me of--well, actually, it reminds me of Valentine Smith, my husband's 1st cousin 3 times removed. In January of 1912, she urged the city fathers to create a public holiday and fund a 75th birthday party for the city but they chose, instead, to read the incorporation documents in a city council meeting. Twenty-five years later, though, they threw a party and invited the world to stop by. Chicago celebrated its centennial with the Century of Progress Exposition . Unfortunately, by that time Valentine was living at the Kankakee State Hospital. Even if she caught word of the world's fair, I think it's unlikely that she was able to attend. If she had gone, though, she would have liked it. A lot. The Chicago Tribune, January 22, 1912, p. 11 (obtained from Fold3.com) Chicago Tribune, March 4, 1912, p. 1 (obtained from Fold3.com)

CGS Publication: Chicago Cemetery Records 1847-1863

A number of years ago, I had an opportunity to look at undertakers reports from 1863 held by the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at Northeastern Illinois University. I was thrilled to find these pre-fire death records and asked about the possibility of offering my help to index them to make them more accessible. I was told that there was a project already underway. There was! In 2008 the Chicago Genealogical Society published a book titled Chicago Cemetery Records 1847-1863: Sexton's Reports and Certificates, Treasurer Receipts, Deeds, and Undertakers' Reports . It's a useful resource for early Chicago research and I'll introduce you to it in this post. Below you'll find the main sections listed along with an example entry and a quick summary (in parenthesis) of what the information means. The book includes a name index which makes it easy to use. Chicago Cemetery Records 1847-1863 can be found in many libraries (see WorldCat Entry ) or it can be

Explore the Chicago Examiner, 1908-1918, for Free

Recently Bonnie Brown, a fellow Chicago researcher, sent a message to the IL-COOK-CHICAGO-L list at Rootsweb to make sure that we were aware of a free online resource for Chicago newspaper research -- Harold Washington Library's digital images for the Chicago Examiner , 1908-1918. It wasn't long before people began posting news of their success in finding family-related information. If you haven't explored images, you should! If you want to browse the newspaper by topic, you can access it through a link from the library's Digital Collections page . Highlights include "Cubs World Series," "White Socks World Series," "Eastland Disaster," and "Plan of Chicago." Other topics include "Jane Addams and Hull House," and the "1912 Olympics." If you want to search the newspaper, go to the library's main page , click on " A-Z Research Databases ," click on the letter "C," and select "

What to Do when the Church Name isn't on the Marriage License

Cook County marriage license images, 1871-1920 are online for free at FamilySearch up through 1920. If you find that your ancestors were married by a justice of the peace, it's likely that there's no other marriage record available. The Cook County Circuit Court Archives website says "Justice of the Peace Court records were destroyed as allowed by Illinois statute in the early 1970s." But, if they were married in a church, there's a good chance that you can find a church marriage record and in some cases--if it was a Catholic marriage in a Polish parish, for example--the ecclesiastical record might have additional information such as witness names or parent names. If the church name is listed on the marriage license, the next step is to find where the records are held. The Newberry Library's " Guide to Chicago Church and Synagogue Records " is a good place to start. But, if the church name isn't listed, you'll have to do some detective

Canoscan LIDE 200: Using Plexiglass to Flatten Documents

Like many researchers, I use a Canoscan LIDE 200 to scan archival records where it's allowed. It's small (easily fits into my messenger bag next to my computer), lightweight (3.5 lbs), inexpensive (currently $75 on Amazon),  convenient (connects to my computer with a USB cable), and it works great. The challenge has been scanning tri-folded documents from a hundred years ago. It's impossible to flatten them so it's hard to keep them straight while closing the scanner cover. I've finally found a solution. A few weeks ago I had the clerk at my local hardware store cut a piece of thin plexiglass slightly smaller than the glass on the scanning bed. There's a small lip around the scanning glass and when I set the plexiglass against it the plexiglass becomes a see-through cover. I put the paper on the glass, straighten it, bring the plexiglass down on the page, and make sure the paper underneath is straight. Then I close the actual cover and scan. The plexiglass d

Chicago Birth Registers: W. P. A. Entries

If you look at the Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915 on FamilySearch, you'll notice that some entries read "W. P. A." Members of the Chicago Genealogy Facebook group were pondering those entries last night and I realized that my thoughts on the subject were too lengthy for a Facebook post so I'll share them here. First things first. What are the birth registers and how were they created? The short answer is that I don't know for sure. But, I have a guess that pertains to the books that were organized into alphabetical sections by month and year. (The earliest books are arranged differently.) Many early births went unrecorded, but when a record was created, I believe a doctor or midwife, or another person who attended the birth, filled out a birth certificate form and returned it to the county clerk's office. At that point, I think the county copied the information from the birth certificate into a birth register and assigned a certificate n

Chicago Lying-In Hospital Birth Records

When I look at birth certificates, I focus on names and dates and places--information I can add to a family tree. When I look at hospital records, I come face to face with the realities of giving birth. I think the records from the Chicago Lying-In Hospital and its satellite clinics provide fascinating and important family history details and I believe they merit a closer look. The hospital records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) as Chicago, Illinois birth records, 1896-1933 . The added author is Northwestern Memorial Hospital and I think the originals are most likely held by the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Archives . These hospital books document services provided by four clinics connected to Dr. Joseph Bolivar DeLee, the physician who founded the Chicago Lying-In Dispensary at Maxwell Street and Newberry Avenue in 1895. D r. DeLee was interested in improving birthing conditions and his clinics offered care to needy women while providing train