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Adoption Research: Using the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin to Find Birth Names

I have learned a lot from conversations with other researchers and recently a patron at the Wilmette Family History Center told me how she found a birth name for her father who was adopted in 1927. The resource she used was new to me and I was intrigued. I thought others might benefit from her experience and so I asked her to write a guest post for my blog. She graciously agreed and you’ll find her contribution below.

Update (2 Dec 2018): There is one provider who can help find adoption information in Cook County:

Illinois Adoption Lookup for Cook County, Chicago, 1934 - 1963 from julic

My sincere thanks to Barbara, the author of this guest post.

Unknown to most adopted people and their families, there is a record that can be easily accessed that will give the birth name of the child given up for adoption in the majority of cases: the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (CDLB). Adoptions are legalized through the county level of the court system and the petitions to adopt are posted in the CDLB and list the adoptive parents and the infant or child they wish to adopt.

The Rinn Law Library of DePaul University on 25 E. Jackson in Chicago has all of the CDLBs on microfilm and, most importantly, THESE RECORDS ARE PART OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN AND CAN BE ACCESSED BY ANYONE! The library is located on the 5th floor and the microfilms are kept behind the check in desk.

The CDLB is very organized and the section where the petitions are listed is usually on page 3 or 4 under “New Cases” for County Court, which always falls after the Superior Court listings and before the Probate Court ones. Since the CDLB is published daily there are only 6 to 10 pages at most so one can search through a lot of records relatively quickly. My own successful search for the birth name of my father, who was adopted as infant in 1927, took a scant few hours and some of that time was wasted in looking through the Legal Notices sections for Adoption Notices. The only time adoptive parents post an Adoption Notice is when the biological father or family of the child has not consented to the adoption, or the infant’s identity was truly unknown (i.e., a foundling).

The other mistake I made was in looking in the CDLB issues that were published less than 6 months after the birth of my father -- the child has to have been living in the adoptive household for a minimum of 6 months before they can petition to adopt. I found his petition was filed almost exactly 7 months after his birth so it is a strong possibility that he may have been 1 month old at the time of his surrender to my grandparents.

Once you have the birth name you can look for the birth mother in other documents, e.g. census data, birth indexes (for the mother’s name), etc.

For those whose adoptions took place in other counties or states I recommend contacting Melisha Mitchell, founder of the White Oak Foundation ( Melisha is a great resource and passionate advocate for adoptees and their families. It was she who told me where to find these records and of the 6 month waiting limit. Her website is chock-full of information and has many links to other resources as well.


Patti Browning said…
What are the date ranges for this research source? My mother gave a little boy up for adoption c1959 and I am wondering if his name might exist in the CDLB?
Barbara said…
I'd contact the Rinn Law Library at 312.362.8701 to make sure of the dates they have...

Another law library that has the CDLBs is the one on the 29th floor (I think) of the Daley Center at 50 W. Washington...I checked with them first but they said their copiesonly went back to the 1940's
Cynthia, I was aware of this but finding someone to check is not the easiest task. I'm a reunited Cook Co. adoptee myself. But Anita Field and I are the co-founders of IL Open ( So we are in touch with others still searching. Are you available to check the CDLB?
Just updated the blog post to include links to two researchers who offer help with Cook County adoption research through our website,
Unknown said…
I just checked with Chicago Law Library at the Daley Center and they only go back to 1934.
Anonymous said…
What is the cost?
Mike Allenson said…
Thanks so much for this information!

A few points. The library doors require a student card to get in the door - there is a buzzer near the door with an intercom. The main desk is to the right where you can ask for the films.

The microfilm reader is, thankfully, a new computer model. If you've never worked with a microfilm reader before, you may want to get familiar with one at a local library or family history center before going in order not to waste time there.

It's easier to search with the camera zoomed out to maximum so you can catch the entire page at once. If you find the listing you need, or have trouble reading small print you can zoom it back in.

In the years I was searching (1947/1948) The County Court New Suits listings were not always between Superior and Probate. They were often there, but for formatting or other reasons they could be anywhere in the first 4-5 pages, especially on weekends or holidays. If you don't see them where you expect them, go back to page 1.

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