Have you heard about the Family History Library Record Lookup Service? It's a very convenient way to obtain digital copies of Chicago vital records.
If you're familiar with FamilySearch's Cook County indexes, skip to the bottom of this post to find out how to use the lookup service to get copies of the records. If you're not, skim the quick tutorial on finding index entries, and then continue on to learn how to get the corresponding images.
Start by searching a FamilySearch index like the ones linked below.
- Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915
- Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1949
- Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1968
- Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1871-1998
Using a death certificate search for Marcia Mahala Smith as an example, search the Cook County death index. The two matches are shown in the image below.
Click on Marcia's name to open a new window on the right of the screen.
Click on "view record" moves to a new screen.
"Image unavailable" means the certificate can't be viewed on FamilySearch from a home computer because of copyright restrictions, but don't stop there.The arrow circled in red is the key to obtaining a digital copy of the certificate. Click on the it to find the digital folder number and the image number--the key pieces of information needed to retrieve the certificate image.
If you can visit a local family history center, an affiliate library, or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, you will have an option to view and download the certificate. But, if you can't, the Family History Library Lookup Service is a great alternative. Simply fill out the form using information from the FamilySearch index page, submit, and watch your email inbox for a digital copy of the record.
Everything you need to know about using the service is available on the page linked above, but, in a nutshell, you can request up to ten records per week and experience tells me the images usually arrive in a few days, but sometimes it takes longer. All of the early Cook County vital records that appear in the indexes should be available, but it's possible some of the later ones might not be. (If a record can't be shared, the volunteers will let you know.)