Monday, December 29, 2008

Searching Chicago City Directories at

Chicago city directories, seventy-three volumes covering 1843 to 1923, are available on and because they are fully searchable, they offer plenty of research possibilities to those who learn how to easily access them. Here's my approach:

1) Log into and select BROWSE, NEWS AND TOWN RECORDS, CITY DIRECTORIES, ILLINOIS, CITY DIRECTORIES--CHICAGO. If you want to search every year available, scroll down and type in your key word(s) in the "Search within: News and Town Records » City Directories » Illinois » City Directories - Chicago IL" box. If you want to search a specific year, read on.

2) Click on the year you want to search. Then, type the surname you're looking for into the "Search within" box at the bottom of the screen. Scroll through the results until you find one that is close to the name you're looking for. "1843 » Rhines, Henry (p. 23)" will bring you to a page that begins with Rhines, Henry. If you were looking for "Roth" or even "Smith," you could navigate to the Rhines page and then use the small thumbnail navigation bar at the bottom of the screen to quickly locate the page you really needed. The rollover feature makes that easy to do.

But don't just limit your searches to names. Over the Christmas holiday, I had the pleasure of starting a small curiosity project of my own--trying to find out more about a Boston violin maker named John S. Allen--and searching known business and home addresses allowed me to find others who were working and/or living at the same addresses--though not necessarily working in the same business or living in the same apartment. I also tried searching "violin maker" and "violinmaker" (they brought up different entries) to see who else might have been working in the city in the same year.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two Sets of Death Certificates--1908-1915

Between 1908 and 1915, there are two sets of Chicago death certificates listed in the Family History Library Catalog. One group (the largest) is organized by "certificate number"--the number you find in the online index. The other group is organized by "register number"--the number you find in the Chicago Death Index, 1871-1933, a microfilm index.

So, what's the difference between the two groups? In some cases, but not necessarily all, the record found in the register number group appears to be a copy of the original death certificate. The writing is neat and in one hand.

However, I don't think all of the records in the register number group are copies. I was unable to find a death record on a certificate number film today--it seemed to be missing--and when I located the corresponding record on the register number film, the record looked to be original.

Chicago City Directories Online

More are more Chicago city directories are appearing online.

A number of years are available in PDF format at (Look under the "Tools" tab.

Directories are also available at This is a subscription site, but you can access it for free at Family History Centers that have the portal set up on their computers.

A list of some online Chicago directories is available here:

Parent Names on Pre-1910 Infant Death Records

Chicago death certificate blanks didn't have a place to record parent names until 1910 but if you find an infant in the index under "Unknown SURNAME" it's very likely that the actual record will read "Child of Given Name and Given Name SURNAME." If you're looking for infants who were born and died between census years, it's worth checking the death records for unknown infants.

Using the Family History Library Record Lookup Service

Have you heard about the Family History Library Record Lookup Service? It's a very convenient way to obtain digital copies of Chicago vi...