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Showing posts from 2010

Finding Chicago Naturalization Records

I was looking at FamilySearch’s historical records section over the holidays and noticed that the Soundex cards for Cook County naturalization were added on December 22. Now that they’re online for free, it seems like a good time to talk about Cook County naturalization research. In this post, I’ll focus on finding the records, but I’ll try to share some of the interesting things I’ve discovered about the Cook County naturalization process in another blog post soon. If you're looking for Chicago and Cook County naturalization records you'll want to begin with the Soundex index to naturalization petitions for U.S. District & Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9, 1840-1950 . (I just call it “The Soundex Index.”) It’s the same as NARA publication M1285 and it includes entries for people who naturalized in northern Illinois, northwestern Indiana, southern and eastern Wisconsin, and eastern Iowa. Online Access

Stockyards Fire Anniversary: Who Died in the Fire 100 Years Ago?

An article by Becky Schlikerman on the Chicago Tribune website-- 100 years since Stockyards fire raged --caught my eye this morning and turned my attention to a fire that happened in the city's stock yards one hundred years ago tomorrow. The fire marshal, James Horan, was killed in the blaze and his descendants will commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy with a wreath ceremony. Mr. Horan's death certificate is available at FamilySearch and we can learn a lot about him from that record. He was born in Chicago in 1859, the son of Irish immigrants, and he had served the city as a fireman just short of thirty years at the time of his death. Notice how the names of the cemetery and undertaker are written. Is it possible that the family had a difficult time deciding where Mr. Horan would be buried? Or perhaps someone mistakenly wrote the wrong information and then corrected it? The informant, Daniel Horan, was Mr. Horan's brother and I can imagine him stepping in to help t

Pre-Fire Sinai Congregation Marriages

It's quiet at the Wilmette Family History Center today and so I decided to explore the Chicago entries in the Family History Library catalog as a way of learning more about the new FamilySearch website. One of the titles that caught my eye was Marriage and death records, 1861-1905 from Chicago's Sinai Congregation, Film 1013426, Item 16. The reel was available and so I decided to take a look. The congregation's first service was held on 21 Jun 1861 and mention of it is made on the first page. The next page begins with January 1868 marriages and the entries seem to be numbered sequentially beginning with #91 and ending with #528. Following those entries there's a page that begins with marriage #1 from July 1861 (see the image) and the numbers then climb to #90. This means that there are approximately 150 pre-Fire marriages recorded in the book. It's a treasure of value to all of us but especially to those who have ancestors' names recorded there. The re

Mother Reunited with Daughter: Chicago Daily Law Bulletin Follow-up

A blog reader noticed an entry in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin image I included in a previous post that referred to "People ex rel v Superior of House of the Good Shepherd" and wondered about the details of the case. I decided to follow up and obtained a copy of the file. It seems a writ of habeas corpus was filed by a man named Miles Martin on behalf of a child named Sylvia Lear who was living at House of the Good Shepherd as Minnie Bell Pursell. According to the document, "Sylvia was some years ago stolen from her mother and the parties who took her have since died and the child falling into other hands, at last was placed in said House of the Good Shepherd to avoid the care and Expense of providing for such child." The petition continued: "...the mother of said Sylvia after diligent Search and Enquiry for her child she having the only lawful right and custody to the care Custody and Education of said child, at last found out, that her said daughter wa

Restoration of Pre-fire Naturalization Records

38163 Petn of D H Schwahn to restore record of naturalization In a previous post, I mentioned finding the entry above in an 1881 Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and I promised to follow up. I asked the Circuit Court Archives to have the file brought in from the warehouse and I returned to view it last Friday. The file held no surprises. Mr. Schwahn naturalized in 1865 and all record of his naturalization was destroyed in the Chicago fire in 1871. He petitioned the court to have the record restored and it was. So, what do we learn from the documents? First, that Mr. Schwahn was very likely naturalized, as stated, on or about 1 November 1865. Second, that he had "resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for and during the full term of five years last preceding said 1st day of November" and "more than one year immediately preceding the said date in the State of Illinois." We also learn that he renounced allegiance to "the Emperor

McCoy Brothers Gravestone Benefit Concert

There's something you should know about me before you read this post. If I had all the time and money in the world, I would sit around all day alternating between two things: genealogical research and playing my fiddle. Well, maybe three things. I'd probably need a bit of chocolate to keep me going. I like history. Chicago history. And I like music. And when something captures those things together, it catches my eye. A few weeks ago I learned that there will be a benefit concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music on Sunday, October 3, to raise money to purchase gravestones for the McCoy brothers, Chicago musicians who died in 1950 and were buried in unmarked graves. I thought I'd help get the word out. There will also be guitar, mandolin, and body percussion workshops and a walking tour of the Restvale Cemetery that day. I don't know much about the McCoy brothers--only what I read at the tribute website --but I like them. I like that music was their passion.

Exploring the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin: Part I

A couple of weeks ago I was searching microfilm indexes at the Circuit Court Archives looking for a divorce entry and I came on some pages that I found close to impossible to read. The writing was small and faded and I had to give up. Unfortunately, I didn't find the divorce in any of the other years I looked at and so the search is hanging. And soon after, I met a Family History Center patron who has been unable to find a naturalization petition for his grandfather. It's possible the process was never completed but the researcher isn't ready to give up. In both cases I wondered if there might be an alternate way to search for court records, and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin came to mind as a possibility. I learned, some time ago, that it's a good way to search for adoptions ( see this post and I wondered if it might be a good tool to use to search for divorces and naturalization records, too. I was able to find one copy of the Bulletin online at Google Book

Illinois Statewide Deaths Indexed a FamilySearch

FamilySearch's Record Search continues to grow and yesterday (August 13) a new series was added. The title is Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947 and the description reads "Name index of deaths and stillbirths in Illinois, 1916-1947. Includes records for Cook County and Chicago." The corresponding images don't seem to be online but the index provides a wealth of information (if listed on the record) including birth date and place, parent names and birth places, spouse name, burial date and place, and occupation. If you want a copy of the actual record I will continue to offer access to the Chicago records (and some Cook) unless they go online for free and you can get the statewide death records from Molly Kennedy. (See " Lookups Available ") You can also order the films through any Family History Center. The cost is $5.50 + any notification fee a center might add and the reels usually arrive in about 2-4 weeks depending how often a center orders

Census Search: City Directory Approach

Recently, I wanted to find a family in the 1900 census. I was told that they lived at 708 Melrose from 1896-1903 and so, theoretically, they should have been enumerated at that address. (I double-checked the 1896 and 1901 city directories and that was the address given.) Unfortunately, a name search of the 1900 census yielded no match. It's possible to the maps at A Look at Cook to determine the enumeration district in order to page through a census, but it's also possible to use a neighbors approach now that the Chicago city directories are online and searchable at In this case, I searched the 1901 directory by address (708 Melrose, 706 Melrose, etc.) looking for a name that I thought would easily appear in the census index at (Note: It's important to put the search terms in quotes, e.g., "704 Melrose") Carl Schmidt at 706 Melrose was a possibility but the name was too common. Eventually, I found Richard E. Pause at 702 Melrose a

Researching Polish Ancestors? New Translation Guide Available

I've volunteered at the Wilmette Family History Center for a number of years and one of the perks in serving there is the chance to meet many talented and downright-pleasant-to-get-to-know researchers. Judith Frazin is one of them. She's the author of A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents (including Birth, Marriage and Death Records) and the newest edition of the book recently won her an achievement award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. If you are researching Polish ancestors, as many people who have Chicago roots are, take some time to explore this book! Sample pages including table of contents Check WorldCat to see if there's a copy available at a library near you. (The Wilmette FHC has one, if you're in the area.) If not, you can order it through the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois website.

One Person, Two Death Records

This is one of those not-sure-what-it's-worth-but-it's-fun-to-ponder posts. I was searching for a death record online at's Record Search and I happened on two death records for the same individual. WACHOWSKI, ADAM 1908-07-16 CHICAGO 06 MO U 00019664 I wasn't surprised. I knew that from 1908-1915 there are two sets of records for Chicago--but I had never really compared certificates from both sets before. I believe the first record, the one with hurried handwriting stamped with numbers and a date, is the original, and the handwritten number in the top right corner is the certificate number--the one you find in the online index--and that's how those records are arranged. I think the second record is a copy of the original probably made at the Cook County Clerk's Office. Notice that it has a different number in the top right corner--a register number--and that's the way those certificates are organized. Things to notice . . .

Fife Major's Tunes

Fourth of July and I was looking for something to play on the fiddle to celebrate the occasion when I remembered that my husband's ancestor, Benjamin Swetland, a Revolutionary War fife major, had jotted down a couple of tunes in a notebook which was handed down through a number of generations and then, apparently, donated to the Chicago Historical Society. A facsimile of the notebook page appears in Chapter Sketches By Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution (see Google Books). The first tune "God Save the Congress" is the tune that we know as "My Country 'Tis of Thee." But I can't read the title of the second one and I don't recognize the tune when I try to play it. Can anyone help? Can you read the title? Do you know the tune?

Picasa for Family History Documents

I'm a fan of Picasa , a photo editing program that's available for free download from Google, and I mostly use it for organizing, tweaking, and sharing scans of genealogical documents. A Picasa tutorial is beyond the scope of a short blog post, but I thought it would be useful for me share a list of the features I find particularly helpful with some simple directions on how to use them. ORGANIZING Select Images to Appear: You can decide which images appear in Picasa by selecting folders under "Tools" then "Folder Manager." Organize Images: Move images from folder to folder by dragging and dropping. You can also rearrange images within a folder using the same approach. Rename an Image: Click on an image to select it, then hit F2. Type the new image name in the pop-up box. Rename Multiple Images : Select multiple images (holding down Ctrl lets you do that) and then hit F2. Type an image name and the selected images will be renamed in sequential or

Finding Chicago Death Records that "Aren't On" FamilySearch: Indirect Approach

I recently received a request for help in finding a death certificate for William J. Quinn. It doesn't come up easily in search results at FamilySearch's Record Search even though it's there. QUINN, WILLIAM J 1892-01-21 CHICAGO 04 MO U 00014953 COOK Here's how I found it: I checked the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Index . If the name was there, William would have had a coroner's death certificate (different from the inquest) and I don't think those records are online. Searching "Quinn" and scanning for the death date, I didn't find a match. Next I used Stephen Morse's One Step access to the Illinois Statewide Death Index to find "Q" deaths for January 1892. (The certificate numbers for Chicago death records before 1916 group the records together by first letter of surname within each month.) I found a number of possibilities and so I chose the one that I though had the best chance of being indexed correctly: Charles Quinl

Using Birth Registers to Search for Birth Certificates Not Coming Up on FamilySearch

I’ve had a number of researchers tell me, “I can’t find a birth certificate for that person on FamilySearch’s Record Search . It must not be online yet . . . “ I’m going to stick my neck out here. I suspect (but don’t know for certain) that the birth certificates available on FamilySearch now include all of the Chicago records that were available when the records were microfilmed . My guess is that if a researcher can’t find a birth record online, it’s for one of two reasons: 1) The birth wasn’t reported so there’s no birth certificate to be found. 2) The name is misspelled in the index. One of the best ways to check for both possibilities up through 1915 is to use the Chicago birth registers which are also online. A little bit of background. It seems reasonable to me that the birth registers were created to log birth certificates that were returned to the county. The entries in all but the earliest books group names together by the first letter of the surname for each mon