Thursday, October 19, 2017

Celebrating Digital Access: Coroners' Inquest Records, 1872-1911

Yesterday I wrote about coroners' death certificates. Today I'll focus on a related source—the Cook County, Illinois coroners' inquest records, Dec. 1872-Nov. 1911.

Background

As I mentioned in the coroners' death certificate post, a coroner was called to investigate deaths that occurred under unusual circumstances. A jury was assembled, witnesses were interviewed, and, together, they tried to determine the cause of death. The findings were recorded as inquest records—short entries in bound volumes—and as the verdict on the coroners' death certificates.

To see a list of situations where today's medical examiner would be called in (Cook County changed from coroner to medical examiner in 1976), visit the Medical Examiner page on the Cook County Government website.

What Information Do the Inquest Records Include?

The format of the records changed over time. The first few volumes contain formulaic paragraph-style reports written in a blank ledger. Later volumes contained printed forms. However, the information included seems to be fairly consistent. Entries generally include the name of the deceased, the place of death, the verdict (cause of death), and the names of those who served on the jury. They may also include the names, addresses, and/or occupations of witnesses.

Most volumes are very readable, although the handwriting can be challenging. Some volumes are damaged and some images are of poor quality. For a quick overview of what's available, go to the catalog entry and navigate to > Coroners' inquest records, v. 1-2, case #s 753-3821, Dec. 1872-June 1878, film 2132248 > images 7-10. (Note: These guide sheets suggest the first two volumes are not indexed. It's true—there are no indexes in the books—but the names are included in the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Record Index, 1872-1911.)

The easiest way to get a feel for the inquest records is to read through example pages. I'll post an image below, but you can also view full-size examples by following these links: 1872 | 1890 | 1910

“Cook County, Illinois coroners' inquest records, Dec. 1872-Nov. 1911,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/833825 : accessed 19 October 2017) > Coroners' inquest records, v. 21-22, case #s 6536-7975, Nov. 1889-Oct. 1890 > film 2132256 > image 544.














How Can these Inquest Records Help in Your Research?

Here are two ideas and, of course, there are others:

First, note that the inquests date back to 1872. It's possible to get death information from 1871-1877 through the Cook County Clerk's Office (but that's a topic for another blog post), but, to the best of my knowledge, this information isn't available online or at an alternate repository. Easy access to an  inquest record can give you quick, inexpensive access to important information about a some early deaths.

And second, notice that some inquest records provide witness names, addresses, and occupations. These people may be family members, co-workers, friends and/or neighbors and the information may suggest productive follow-up research.

Obtaining Copies of Early Inquest Records

Digital copies of the early inquest records can be found on FamilySearch if you visit a Family History Center or an affiliate library and I will explain how to do that below. But, if you can't get to a Family History Center, you can get paper copies through the mail for $1.00 by calling the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU).

How to Find the Inquest Records on FamilySearch

These records are easy to find. Here's how:

1) Search the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Record Index, 1872-1911.

2) Find the match and note the name, the volume, and the page. Let's say we're looking for Nikola Vojvodic, volume 86, page 27.


3. Go to the catalog entry for the Cook County, Illinois coroners' inquest records, Dec. 1872-Nov. 1911.

4) Select the correct film based on the volume number and note the icon at the right.

If it's a camera icon, like the one next to 2132288, click through to view the images. (You will need to be at a Family History Center or an affiliate library to do this. From a FHC, you will see the camera icons above; from home, you will see camera icon with keys above them.) If it's a film icon, the films hasn't been made available online in digital format yet. No worries! If you bump into that glitch—or if it isn't convenient for you to go to a Family History Center—just call IRAD at NEIU. (See the information at the top of the post.)

5) Browse to find the correct page. Just be careful. Notice how film 2132288 includes two volumes? Make sure you're in the right book before you begin looking for the correct page.

Where to Find Later Records

If you are in need of inquest records after November 1911, contact the Cook County Office of the Medical Examiner.
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Note: I see both coroners' and coroner's used to refer to the inquest records and death certificates. I guess it just depends how one thinks about it. I've tried to be consistent in keeping whatever spellings I see in the various titles.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Celebrating Digital Access: Coroners' Death Certificates

Today's post focuses on Cook County coroner's death certificates, 1879-1904 which can be accessed for free on FamilySearch if you visit a Family History Center or an affiliate library.

What is a coroner's death certificate?

If a Cook County death occurs under unusual circumstances--homicide, suicide, or accident, for example--or if the cause of death is unknown, the coroner is called in to investigate. Between 1879 and August 1904, two records were created when that happened: a coroner's inquest record and a coroner's death certificate. The records are related, but they're not the same. (If a person died from natural causes, there was no inquest and a "regular" death certificate was created. And, after 1904, the results of the inquest were noted on the "regular" certificates.)

Here's an example of a coroner's death certificate.

Example of a Coroner's Death Certificate (1)

Notice it lists the "verdict of the jurors" rather than a "cause of death." The other information is similar to what would be found on a regular death certificate, but it's not as extensive. The undertaker and cemetery names are written in the margin and the death certificate number is written at the bottom. This is typical of these records.

When to Look for a Coroner's Death Certificate

There are two times you would search for a coroner's death certificate:

1) When you have a newspaper article mentioning an accident, homicide, etc.

2) When you look for a "regular" certificate on a FamilySearch film (or the digitized equivalent) and find a gap in certificate numbers or a "Missing" note where the record should be.

How to Look for a Coroner's Death Certificate

If you have a name and a death date, you can go straight to the coroner's death certificate images but I highly recommend taking the time to quickly search the name in the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Index, 1872-1911. If the name is there (for deaths that happened up through August 1904), you can be certain the record you're after is a coroner's certificate, not a regular certificate, and that certainty is important. Why? Because some of the coroner's death certificates are badly out of order on the films (or digitized equivalents) and it's good to know you're searching for something that should exist.

Once you've confirmed you should be looking for a coroner's death certificate, here's what to do:

1) Note the name, death month, and year from an index or newspaper article. If you're using an index, note the certificate number as well.

2) Go to the Family History Library catalog entry for the  Cook County coroner's death certificates, 1879-1904 and select the correct film based on the death date. Click on the camera icon to view the digital images. (You will need to be at a Family History Center or an affiliate library to gain access.)

3) Use the high/low number game to locate the section of records that matches the month, year, and first letter of the surname you're looking for. The images may be in reverse chronological order.

4) Once you've found the right section, use the certificate number from the Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre-1915 to zero in on the right record or browse the images moving forward and/or back to locate the match.

How to Handle Tough Searches

The four steps mentioned above describe the ideal situation but, unfortunately, it's not always that easy. If you browsed through the records on some films, start to finish, you'd notice that clumps of records are out of order--almost like someone dropped a filing drawer and didn't quite put things back in correctly. And you would notice that some individual records are so far out of a logical sequence, they would be nearly impossible to find.

If you bump into a difficult film, you may need to go through the images systematically, perhaps jumping forward 5-10 records at a time, to find records for the correct month, year, and first letter of surname.

What if You Just Can't Find the Matching Record?

With effort, it's likely you'll find the record you're after, but if you can't, try searching the Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994 index at FamilySearch. This index includes entries for individuals who had coroner's death certificates and it includes extracted information. Something--even if it's a derivative record--is better than nothing.

Here's the matching entry for Frank whose certificate is shown above.



Note there is no film number--just a digital folder number and an image number which do not match the digital folder number and image number where the example certificate was found (see below).



I suspect the information in the index was extracted from recently-created images of the original records, not from images scanned from film and I was not able to use the digital folder number from the index to locate the actual records in the FamilySearch catalog. (If you are able to find that folder number in the catalog, please let me know.)

Getting at the Certificates from the FamilySearch Index

So, let's say you searched the Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994 index, found Frank's name, and wanted to get his death certificate. The digital folder number provided doesn't lead to a catalog entry. There's no film number provided. And, there's no indication that it's a coroner's death certificate. How would you proceed?

1) The death is before August 1904, so quickly check for his name in the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Index, 1872-1911 index.

2) If there's a match (and in this case there will be), go to the Cook County coroner's death certificates, 1879-1904 entry in the FamilySearch catalog and follow the four steps listed under "How to Look for a Coroner's Death Certificate" above.

3) If there isn't a match, you will need to look for a "regular" certificate. Here's how:

a. Find the match in the Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre-1916. If it says the death happened in Chicago, read on. If it says the death happened in Cook County, email me and I'll give you further guidance.

b. Go to the Wilmette Family History Center's key to pre-1916 Chicago death certificate films and use the death date and certificate number to choose the correct film.

c. Locate the correct film in the FamilySearch catalog (search for the number, click through to the record series, and locate the film number in the film list) and click through to the images. (Again, you will need to be at a Family History Center or an affiliate library.)

d. If you have an image number, use it to go to the right record. If not, browse using the certificate number.

Final Thoughts

Finding Chicago death records isn't hard, but it is complex. If you have questions, feel free to email me through my chicagogenealogy.com website. I'm always happy to help.

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(1) Cook County, Illinois, Coroner's Death Certificates, Frank Cunningham, certificate no. 3257, 17 June 1895; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004262153?cat=89876 : accessed 17 October 2017), image 1065 of 1908.



Sunday, October 01, 2017

Celebrating Digital Access: 1937 Lurie Index (Chicago Voters)

Example card from the Lurie Index of People in Chicago in 1937 as well as All of the Voters' Registration for Chicago

Today's post focuses on the Lurie index of people in Chicago in 1937 as well as all of the voters' registration for Chicago.

As the title states, this alphabetical card file appears to list registered voters living in Chicago in 1937 and it's important for a number of reasons:

1) It serves as a substitute city directory, filling in the gap between census years. (The last of the early Chicago city directories was published in 1928/1929.)

2) It lists people of the same surname living in the same house and can suggest family groupings.

3) It provides addresses.

These records can be accessed online from a family history center or FamilySearch affiliate library by folowing this path: FamilySearch > Search > Search by Title ("lurie") > Select correct title

Once the catalog entry loads, use the guide names to select the correct film and then click the camera icon on the right to open the digital folder and load the card file images.






At this point, there's something important you need to know.

On the original microfilms, the alphabetized cards run down one side of the film and then continue back up the other side upside down. When the films were digitized, cards from both sides were intermixed in a systematic way.

If the beginning or end of a film had a single row of cards, the digital folder images at the beginning or end of the group will likely be in easy-to-use alphabetical order. But, if you browse through the bulk of the images, you will see a progression that looks something like this:

Smith, Helen
Sullivan, George
Smith, Hope
Sullivan, Inez

I've found that it's helpful to quickly create a film key before I dive in to search for a specific card.

Let's say I'm looking for Eloise Smith.

I select the "Simmons, Dave - Stanford, Hamilton" film and see that there are 21295 images.

I type in an image number from the middle of the group, say 10000, view the image, and jot down the number and the surname.

10000 Spencer

Then, I click the arrow to move one image to the right and record that surname, too.

10000/01 Spencer Skul

Next, moving forward or back, I split the difference in half again, and do the same. Then I repeat.

See how a pattern is developing? Notice how the last two names don't fit it?

10000/01 Spencer Skul
15000/01 Sorock Sluzas
17000/01 Somers Smith, A
19000/01 Smola Sojka

Switch the entries so they do.

10000/01 Spencer Skul
15000/01 Sorock Sluzas
17000/01 Somers Smith, A
19000/01 Sojka Smola

The cards seem to begin with Skul and move down through Smola and then back up through Sojka and Spencer. Eloise Smith should appear between A. Smith and Smola, images 17000-19000. I would look at images 18000/01 and, depending on the name there, I would move on to 17500/01 or 18500/01. And, of course, when I got close, I would begin to go through the images one by one.

Unfortunately, the alphabetical organization is only useful in finding the first names on the cards. If Eloise doesn't appear in that position, and if I don't have a good idea of whose household she might have been living in, I will have to look at every Smith card to know if she appears in the index.

Note the numbers that appear after the address on the card at the top. Every card has a hyphenated pair and I'm thinking they might refer to voter registration district or similar but I haven't explored it. If you have other ideas or know for certain what they are and what use they might be, please share in the comments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Celebrating Digital Access: Chicago Delayed Birth Index


Today I'll focus on the Chicago Delayed Birth Index that's newly available in digital format through the FamilySearch Catalog. You can view the index images if you visit a family history center or FamilySearch affiliate library; you won't be able to view the images from home. And, you may be able to find the matching records online, too.

First, a little bit of background.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with delayed birth registration, it was a way of creating a civil birth record, sometimes long after the birth, when an original wasn't filed at the time of the event. It's particularly relevant to Chicago research because many early births went unreported.

Many of the entries in this index are for records that were recorded in the 1940s. Why? One reason might have been that people who were going to work for the war effort needed to be able to prove their citizenship. [1]

So, when should you use this index?

Checking this index is a good next step when you've searched the "regular" birth indexes and come up empty-handed. Why? Because an unsuccessful search for a birth certificate can mean two things--the birth wasn't reported or the name, for whatever reason, just isn't popping out of the index. If you find a match in this delayed birth index, then it's likely the birth wasn't reported at the time of the event and you can feel comfortable giving up the search for a record that likely doesn't exist.

And what should you know about searching it?

Just one thing. Surnames aren't listed in strict alphabetical order and it isn't sorted by given name. If you are search "Smith," you will have to look through many pages. The good news is years appear to cluster and you can use that to quickly skim through irrelevant entries. Take a good look at this example page to see what I mean.

In the past, I've suggested people contact the Cook County clerk's office to obtain copies of these record. However, it appears that at least some of the matches are included in the newly-digitized Cook County records that are available on at FamilySearch and their online index may duplicate this delayed birth index meaning--you may not have to use this index at all! For more information and a tutorial on how to find the records on FamilySearch, please watch the video at the top of the post. 

__________

 [1] Alfred A. Worzala, "Your Social Security: How to Prove Citizenship," Chicago Tribune, 15 November 1970, sec. 5, p. 11, col. 1; digital image, Chicago Tribune Archives (http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1970/11/15/page/145/article/your-social-security : accessed 13 September 2017).

Celebrating Digital Access: Chicago Death Index, 1871-1933

Sample Image from the Chicago Death Index, 1871-1933 [1]
Over the next few weeks, I'll be highlighting Chicago sources that are newly-available in digital format through FamilySearch's Catalog.

First up is a multi-volume set titled [deep breath] Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death. I just call it "the Chicago death index, 1871-1933" or "the CDI" for short. One thing you should know about it right up front is that the title is a bit misleading. It mostly lists Chicago deaths, but it also includes some out-of-town deaths--entries for people who died outside the city but were probably brought to Chicago for burial.

1) When you're looking for deaths 1871-1877. As far as I know, this is the only public index that covers the early deaths. If you find a match, contact the Cook County clerk's office. My husband's ancestor appears and I was able to get the matching death record in that way. Looking at what I received, I'm pretty sure someone copied information from a death register onto a blank form. (As far as I know those death records aren't available anywhere else, but if you know differently, please let me know.)

2) When you can't find a name in any of the online indexes. Two reasons. First, the name might be spelled differently in this index, making it easier to pick out. Second, this index includes entries for people who died outside Chicago but were buried in the city. That Chicago ancestor may have died on vacation in Michigan--seriously--and this index is a good way to work around the unexpected. Out-of-town deaths are indicated by the "OT" in the column just before the date of death. If you find one of those entries, it's best to contact the vital records office where the death took place to see if you can get an original record. However, if the death occurred 1909-1915, the matching Chicago records (likely derivative) are available at FamilySearch. See Out of town deaths, 1909-1915.

3) When you're trying to find a record for someone with a common name. This index includes address of death so, if you know where your John Smith lived and if he died at home, which was often the case, it will be very easy to pick him out.

4) When you're looking for mention of a stillbirth. Stillbirths are indicated by the "SB" in the column just before the date of death. I haven't explored how to find the matching records, but I can tell you two things: 1) some stillbirths are recorded in the birth registers at the end of each alphabetical section; 2) many new stillbirth certificates appear to be online at FamilySearch, accessible through the catalog.

5) When you're looking for children who died but you don't know their names. Sometimes it's possible to pick out possible matches based on a known family address. So, when should you use this index? If you find matches, for deaths 1878-1933, follow the usual steps for finding those certificates. And, if you find yourself stumped, feel free to email me for help: info@chicagogenealogy.com.

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[1] Chicago Board of Health, Deaths in City of Chicago During the Years 1871-1933 Inc. Showing Name, Address, and Date of Death, Volume 27, Rid-Rzy ([no publishing information]); digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004261176?cat=293534 : accessed 12 September 2017); Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death > Deaths, Rep-Sik 1871-1933 > Image 54 of 929; citing FHL microfilm 1295973.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Which Chicago Vital Records are Available on FamilySearch?

Visit a Family History Center to access the Chicago and
Cook County vital records. Find your local FHC here.
In the days to come, I'll be exploring the Chicago vital records that are newly available on FamilySearch (to those who visit a family history center or a FamilySearch affiliate library) and, in preparation for that, I felt like I needed to see what was there. So, I made the list that you'll find below. And, if you'd like a copy for reference, you can download/print from here.

Here are a few quick observations:

  • All of the birth records on microfilm have been digitized and made available for viewing except for three Cook County birth registers (which in most cases aren't needed anyway).
  • Marriage licenses look to be complete, 1871-1941. (Great news, right?!) 
  • I was surprised to see the Chicago death certificates, 1916-1945, haven't been made available but I'm thrilled to see the earlier records.
  • Now that the coroner's death certificates have been digitized, I would love, love, love to participate in a project to index them. Some of the records on those films are so badly out of order that it's unlikely they could be found without a ridiculous amount of time and effort.
  • Indexing has opened up access to some filmed records, like delayed birth certificates, that were previously unindexed and difficult to search. That's great news!
  • It appears that 1940/1941 is the cutoff for newly added records that have been digitized from original records. If you discover differently, will you let me know?
  • There are numerous indexes to these records, film, fiche, and online, available for these records. Any of them can be used as a starting point, but I think, going forward, I'll start with the FamilySearch indexes first.
If you use Chicago vital records in your research, please check back in a few days. I'll be posting more information about some of the unique record groups--out-of-town death certificates, for example--and I'll add some video tutorials on how to use Family History Library Catalog information to easily access these records.

BIRTHS

*Chicago birth certificates, 1878-1922
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/229686

*Cook County birth certificates, 1878-1894
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/256592

*Cook County birth certificates, 1916-1922
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/258450

*Chicago birth registers, 1871-1915
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/260525

*Registers of births outside of the city [Chicago], 1878-1894
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/290932
[1878-1885; 3 films not yet included]

Chicago, birth records, 1871-1978
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/2327154
[Delayed birth certificates, 1917-1940; birth certificates, 1923-1939; birth affidavits, 1920-1926] 

Cook County birth records, 1888-2006
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/2296659 
[Birth certificates, 1923-1941; delayed series, 1917-1940; stillbirths, 1928-1942]

*Birth corrections and delayed births, 1916-1918
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/264466 

*Chicago birth corrections and indexes, 1871-1915;
unrelated, actual birth records, 1870s to 1940s
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/263721

MARRIAGES

*Marriage licenses, 1871-1920; index, 1871-1916
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/43803

Cook County marriage records, 1920-1959
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/2620697 
[1920-1941]

 DEATHS

*Chicago death certificates, 1878-1915
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/42925

*Chicago death certificates, 1916-1922
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/394759

*Chicago death certificates, 1916-1945
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/628228 
[not available as digital images]

Chicago death records, 1909-1994
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/2305942
[Death certificates, 1921-1938; stillbirths, 1909-1941]

*Cook County death certificates, 1878-1909, 1916-1922
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/88896 

*Coroners death certificates, 1879-1904
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/89876

*Out of town deaths, 1909-1915
https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/280109

INDEXES

Cook County Birth Certificates, 1871-1940
https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1462519

Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915
https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1463129

Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940
https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1462519 

Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915
https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1463129

Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920
https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1463145

Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994
https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1463134

Record groups marked with an asterisk have been digitized from the Family History Library films.

“Illinois” and “Cook County” were removed from titles when unnecessary.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Some Chicago Vital Record Images Online at FHCs



I'm SO excited to share this news! I was searching the FHL catalog this evening, opened the entry for Chicago Death Certificates, 1878-1915, clicked the camera icon, and got a message that the images were only viewable at a family history center or a FamilySearch affiliate library.So, I did what anyone who is married to a family history center director would do. I said, "We need to go take a look!" Sure enough, the images for these records are available online again--just not from home.And so are a LOT of other wonderful Chicago records--early birth certificates and coroner's certificates, to name a few.I'll be blogging about the specifics in the days to come but at quick glance, the strategy for accessing them seems to be to this:1) Find the name in the Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994 index on FamilySearch and note the film number, the digital folder number, and the image number. In this case it's 1030909, 004004149, and 00984. (This works for records at least through 1915. I'll talk about later records in another blog post.)2) Go to the catalog, locate the film number, and click on the camera icon next to it. (One easy way to approach this process is to search for the film number in the catalog, click on the record series title that appears in the search results,  and then scroll down or use Ctrl-F to locate the correct film number.)

3) Make sure the digital folder number matches the "film number" on the top left of the screen. (It's confusing. That "film number" is really the digital folder number.) Then, type the image number in the box and hit return. The certificate you are looking for will appear as a highlighted thumbnail. Click it to enlarge.

(If you have trouble figuring out the images, check the sidebars on my chicagogenealogy.com tutorial pages; they were written with films in mind, but they're applicable to the digital folder images as well. Or just email me from the contact page on the website and I'll happily help you find what you need.)These records are a wonderful resource for Chicago genealogy and I hope they will remain accessible in this way for many years to come. Many thanks to the Cook County and FamilySearch for making them available in this way.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Celebrating FamilySearch's Digital Access: New Blog Post Series

Single microfilm shipment.
I'm going to miss these little boxes!
Yesterday was the final day to order FamilySearch microfilms and I'll have to admit, I felt unsettled. Last chance. Last chance! I kept wondering if there were any films that I was going to really, really wish I could view at my local Family History Center months down the road.

And, you know what? I don't think so.

A couple of weeks ago I scrambled to order a reel with records from Maine because they weren't online. They will have to be read page by page and it's something I don't want to ask anyone to do for me. Yesterday, taking one last look in the Family History Library Catalog to see if I'd missed anything I should order, I noticed the images are now available on FamilySearch.

As much as I love microfilm--and I really do--it's time to embrace the new system.

In celebration of the the end of an era--and the beginning of another--I've decided to write a series of blog posts focusing on the Chicago and Cook County records that are now online. And, I think I'll focus, at least in part, on unique records just waiting to be discovered.

Watch for the first installment this weekend!





Sunday, September 03, 2017

IRAD at NEIU: Collections for Chicago Research

I'm an administrator for an active Chicago Genealogy Facebook group and with so many indexes for records online now, one question that's asked over and over is, "How can I get [fill in the name of a record type here]."

Recently, someone asked about a marriage license from 1891 and my first thought was that the record could be obtained from FamilySearch microfilm at the Wilmette Illinois Family History Center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. It's less expensive than getting records directly from the county, and if a researcher can't go in person, there are plenty of local researchers who offer document retrieval services at those places for a reasonable fee.

But then I remembered there's another great option for getting early Cook County marriage licenses that is likely often overlooked--the Illinois Regional Archives Depository at Northeastern Illinois University, better known as IRAD at NEIU.

Their holdings include Cook County marriage licenses, 1871-1915, and here's the good news! They will take requests by mail or phone. When I last used their service, the only cost was to reimburse them for copying which meant sending back a check for $1.00 after I received the record.

Search the Local Government Records Database to learn about what else they have to offer. Selecting "Cook" for the county and hitting "Submit" will show you all of the database entries for NEIU.

Here are some not-to-be missed records from their collection:

Birth certificates, 1878-1894 and birth records, 1871-1915. Note the "outside the city of Chicago part," because that's really important. IRAD holds the county records--say, if an ancestor was born in Evanston--but they don't have the Chicago city records.

These records are indexed in Ancestry's Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922 and FamilySearch's Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940 collection BUT here's the deal: both indexes lump Chicago city records and Cook County records into one, even though, somewhere along the line, the County Clerk's Office saw them as two different record sets.

So, how do you know if the record you want is county--meaning IRAD will likely have it?

First off, if the index entry mentions Chicago, it's very likely it's a city record.

If it doesn't, it's time to do a bit of detective work.

Find the film number mentioned in the index entry and search it in the Family History Library Catalog. If the result says "Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1894" or "Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915," it's likely IRAD will have the record. If the result says, "Chicago Birth Certificates" or "Chicago Birth Registers," then they almost certainly won't.

Death certificates, outside the city of Chicago, 1878-1909. Again, note that they have county records, but do not hold Chicago certificates. These records that match the Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre-1916 entries that say "COOK COUNTY" in the city field. (Don't get confused by the word "COOK" in the county field.) Or, if you've found them in an Ancestry or FamilySearch index, use the approach mentioned above to determine if they are city or county records.

STEWART, ALEXANDER 1908-03-25 COOK COUNTY 66 YR U 00005187 COOK

STEWART, ALEXANDER 1893-07-31 CHICAGO 08 MO U 00016937 COOK

Marriage licenses, 1871-1915. These records are indexed in the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900 and on Ancestry and on FamilySearch. It doesn't matter if the ceremony took place in the city or county; they're all grouped together and if you have the license number you should be able to get the record from IRAD.

Naturalization records. The Circuit Court Archives holds original naturalization records for the Circuit, Superior, County, and Criminal Courts (and looking at or copying the original is best), but IRAD also holds these records on microfilm.

Probate records. You will see many references to probate records in the database and these sources can be useful, but it's the Circuit Court Archives that holds the case files. My personal preference is to do probate research at the Circuit Court Archives but if you're at IRAD for another purpose, those films might come in handy.

Unique collections. IRAD also holds some records you might not think to search unless you knew they were there--saloon licenses, dog licenses, insanity records, and school inspectors' minutes, to name a few. I don't believe the staff can undertake extensive searches in unindexed records, but the collections are easily accessible if you can go in person.

Three of their unique collections have online indexes and they will take requests to retrieve the matching records.

Chicago City Council Proceedings Files, 1833–1871

Chicago Police Department Homicide Record, 1870–1930

Cook County Coroner's Inquest Record Index, 1872–1911











Thursday, July 06, 2017

Last Chance to Add Films to the Wilmette FHC Collection



Other than the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the Wilmette Family History Center is THE place to go to research early Chicago and Cook County vital records.

They have complete collections of births to 1915, marriages to 1916, and deaths to 1947 on microfilm and anyone can use the films free of charge.

What they don't have is all of the available films for births 1916-1922, marriages 1917-1920, and Cook County deaths outside the city of Chicago up through 1947, and when FamilySearch stops circulating films on 31 August 2017, they will no longer have a way to add to their collection.

Last count, Wilmette needed about 600 films to complete their vital records sets and the good news is FamilySearch appears to be running a sale on extended loan films. For $7.50 (1/3 the normal price) one of those films can now be added to the collection.

If you live within driving distance of Wilmette and research Chicago families, it would be to your benefit to help complete the collection before it's too late.

If you live hundreds of miles away from Wilmette, there might not be a direct benefit, but there is something to be said about being part of a group that accomplishes something for the good of many and $7.50 is a small price to pay for that.

If you are interested in helping the Family History Center collect the remaining films, contact them in one of the ways below and tell them ChicagoGenealogy sent you. :)

Contact Information
Wilmette Family History Center
847-251-9818
il_wilmette@ldsmail.net




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Take a Few Minutes and Backup Your Facebook Posts!

Screenshot of Facebook's archive download page.
I view Facebook as a modern equivalent of the sentence-or-two-a-day journals that my great-great grandmother kept in the late 1800s and early 1900s and I use it as an enjoyable way to regularly record my day-to-day life experiences. As trivial as my posts might be (I write way too much about banjo practice), they are very important to me and, aspiring family historian that I am, I hope they will someday be important to the people I leave behind.

This morning, Facebook reminded me that I've had an account for ten years and that got me thinking: I would be so sad to accidentally lose access to that decade of my life.

So, I took thirty seconds to Google how to backup Facebook posts and it's so ridiculously simple, I've  decided everyone should do it. :)

Here's how:

1. Log in.

2. Click on the down arrow in the top right corner of the screen and choose "Settings."

3. You should be on the "General Account Settings" page. (If you're not, figure out another way to get there.)

4. Click the link at the bottom of the screen that says "Download a copy of your Facebook data."

5. In a few minutes (be patient) you'll receive an email with a link that will allow you to download a zip file.

Once you open the zip file, you'll notice you have three folders--html, photos, and videos--and a file called "index.htm." That index is the key to accessing the download. Right-click and open it in your browser. And then, explore! You'll be able to access all sorts of things--timeline photos, messages, events, friend lists, group lists, liked pages lists, and more.

But don't let reminiscing distract you from the task at hand. Once you've downloaded the archive, move the folder to a safe place (or places) so the files will be available for years to come.

To learn more about the download and what information is included, visit Facebook's What categories of my Facebook data are available to me? page.


Thursday, May 04, 2017

GoFundMe Project to Save Wayne County, MI Adoption Records

One of my Facebook friends made me aware of a GoFundMe campaign titled Save Wayne Co. MI Adoption Records, set up by Deidre Erin Denton to purchase, preserve, and share five volumes of Wayne County, Michigan adoption records covering 1925-1927.

I don't know Deidre but she appears to be a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and I think her project is genuine and sincere.

My small contribution along with the generosity of others has brought in $885 toward her $1225 goal which covers the $1060 needed to purchase the books with a little extra for storage boxes, etc.

I'd like to see her reach her goal. Why? Because, if these were Chicago records, I'd likely be doing the same thing.

If you have a moment, please check out her campaign and consider making a small offering of support.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cook County Records of Foreign Wills

Franziska Lux entry, Cook County Probate Court,
"Record of Foreign Wills," v. 1, p. 619.
I can think of a number of times when I've sat, looking at a newly-discovered set of genealogy records, thinking, "Oh, wow!" but I had no idea that this morning would be one of them.

I've spent the month of April working hard to update the pages on chicagogenealogy.com and in the process, I had reason to examine the Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999 collection on Ancestry.com. Earlier this week, I noticed it included some "Records of Foreign Wills." I was intrigued, so I took a quick look.

A 1901 legal guide defines "foreign will" as  “…executed in a state or country by a testator there domiciled, admitted to probate there upon the death of such testator, and subsequently offered for probate or registry in another state.”1

That seems to fit. Simply put, the books appear to have been used to record wills that had a tie to Cook County but were part of probate cases handled elsewhere.

That doesn't seem very exciting, does it? But read on.

Let's use the entry for Franziska Lux, from "Strehlen in Silesia," who died 15 November 1904, as an example.2 (View image on Ancestry)

First off, the record begins with a translation of a document created in Strehlen on 18 Febuary [sic] 1905. From it, we learn that "the butcher Heinrich Lux" lived on Muensterberger Street and that Franziska Lux nee Schaefer, "the shoe makers widow," died on November 15, 1904. Franziska's brother Joseph Schaefer's estate was yet to be settled in America--he died in Chicago--but she was due to inherit from it. The document, signed by Heinrich, states, "The brother of my mother Joseph Schaefer, died in America before my mother, about 1903," suggesting that he, Heinrich, was Franziska's son.

We also learn that Joseph had two sons, Paul and Richard, who lived in America and another individual, Anna Lux, about 18 years old, was living with "the butter trades woman Raschdorf at Schildberg" and was "probably under the guardianship of the County Court of Muensterberg.

Imagine if you were a descendant of Joseph Schaefer, looking for a tie to Germany. Names. Relationships. Addresses. Death dates. Where else could you find that information so easily? And in English?

But that's not all. From another page we learn that Franziska's deceased son, Joseph Lux, had three children: Paul, Richard, and Anna, possibly the one mentioned above. Franziska had four children: Paul, a music teacher in Crefeld, Anna Hottermann, in America, Martha Hergesell of Brelau, and Heinrich, the butcher, who was taking care of his mother.

Obviously all of the records are not as information-rich as this one, and for most of the wills, "foreign" means out of state. But, if you have Chicago ancestors who were in the city during the early 1900s—the collection begins in 1904 with Volume 1 and ends in 1922 with Volume 18—it's worth taking a quick look.

The key would be to try to discover entries for relatives who lived outside Chicago so my best advice would be to look for specific people or search for family surnames and browse the matches.

I haven't tested to see if all of the volumes are included in the searchable index, but Franziska's name comes up, both for the index page at the front of Volume 1 and for the page where the actual will is recorded, so they may be. (Hint: The index entry with a date is the one that leads to the actual record.)

If you give the collection a try and finding something of interest, please post a comment and let me know!

_______________

1William Herbert Page, A Concise Treatise on the Law of Wills (Cincinnati, Ohio: W. H. Anderson & Co., 1901), 423; digital image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=ClYaAAAAYAAJ : accessed 26 April 2017).

2 "Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 April 2017), "Record of Foreign Wills 1," 619-623, entry for Franziska Lux, 18 Feb 1905, ; citing "Record of foreign wills; Author: Illinois. Probate Court (Cook County); Probate Place: Cook, Illinois."

Celebrating Digital Access: Coroners' Inquest Records, 1872-1911

Yesterday I wrote about  coroners' death certificates . Today I'll focus on a related source—the Cook County, Illinois coroners'...