Sunday, August 29, 2010

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. And I like that there are people who value their music and want them to be remembered.

If you can't make the concert, consider donating a few dollars to a good cause.

Friday, August 20, 2010

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 Books. It's from 1881.

I haven't looked at earlier or later volumes and so I don't know if this one is representative of all of the volumes or just those published in the 1880s, but I'm guessing the information is similar.

So, what's in it?

The first page includes the upcoming day's calendar for the following courts:


The District Court is also mentioned later in the volume.

The calendar is followed by lists of cases arranged by court. Headings include

New Suits
Miscellaneous Orders

And there are specific mentions of bankruptcy, chattel mortgages (deferred payments on furniture and musical instruments), bills of sale, and trust deeds, mortgages, general assignments. I even stumbled on an adoption in the County Court.

Petn of W B Engel et al to adopt child

Divorce cases are listed and the entries could serve as an alternate index. Here ar some example entries:

37111 Linns B Bentley v Lucy Bentley. Bill for divorce. H F Vallette solr.

36995 Meiter v Meiter. Ord for deft to pay $50 solrs fees and $8 per mo alimony.

I believe the number in front of the entry could be used to order the file in from the warehouse at the Circuit Court Archives.

Unfortunately, it's hard to tell if naturalizations were routinely listed. I searched using variations of "petition" and "naturalization" and came up empty handed except for five entries to restore records.

38163 Petn of D H Schwahn to restore record of naturalization

I'm curious to know what these cases were about and I will try ordering in a file the next time I go downtown. I'll also try to find an index entry for an 1881 naturalization so that I can see if mention of it appears.

Watch for "Exploring the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Part II." And in the meantime, if you have a few minutes, you might want to explore the Bulletin on your own. If you find something interesting, please post a comment.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

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 and whether or not a film is on backorder.

If you find a Chicago/Cook record, 1916-1922 listed in the statewide index, you should check FamilySearch's Illinois death certificates and stillbirths, including Chicago, 1946-1947 to see if the image is available there. Between 1916 and 1922 there should be some overlap in the two databases. Note the subtle differences between two entries for the same death.

Collection: Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947
Note: Image not online
Name: Thomas A. Bielby
Titles and Terms (original):
Death Date: 21 Aug 1916
Death Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Gender: Male
Marital Status:
Race or Color:
Age: 42
Estimated Birth Year: 1874
Birth Date:
Birthplace: Chicago, Ill
Father: Thomas W. Bielby
Father's Titles and Terms (original):
Father's Birth Place: New York
Mother: Catherine Reordan
Mother's Titles and Terms (original):
Mother's Birth Place: Ireland
Occupation: switchman
Residence: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Street Address:
Spouse's Titles and Terms (original):
Spouse's Birthplace:
Burial Date: 24 Aug 1916
Burial Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Cemetery: ...
Additional Relatives:
Digital Folder Number: 4152370
Image Number: 1603
Film Number: 1852282
Volume/Page/Certificate Number: 24078
Collection: Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922
Note: Image online
Name: Thomas A. Bielby
Titles & Terms:
Death Date: 21 Aug 1916
Death Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Gender: Male
Race (Original): W.
Race (Standardized): White
Death Age: 42y 6m
Estimated Birth Year: 1874
Birth Date:
Birthplace: Chgo., Ill.
Marital Status:
Spouse's Titles & Terms:
Father: Thomas W. Bielby
Father's Titles & Terms:
Father's Birthplace: New York
Mother: Catherine Riordan
Mother's Titles & Terms:
Mother's Birthplace: Ireland
Occupation: Switchman
Street Address: 346 N. Lockwood Ave.
Cemetery: Lyonsville Cem.
Burial Place:
Burial Date: 24 Aug 1916
Funeral Home:
Additional Relatives:
Film Number: 1276305
Digital Folder Number: 4004836
Image Number: 690
Reference Number: cn 24078

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 and I was able to easily locate him in the census. Scrolling down the page, the entries jumped from 704 to 710 making it appear that 706 and 708 were skipped.

I followed a similar approach to locate the odd numbers for the same street thinking that perhaps the entries were made out of order. This page shows 707, 709, and 711.

I'm thinking it's possible that the families living at 708 Melrose were, indeed, skipped, but why? I notice in the 1900 city directory that there's a business listing for Bruno Rohden (stove repairs) at 708 Melrose. Is it possible that 708 Melrose was a storefront and that the enumerator didn't check to see if anyone was residing at that address?

What do you think?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

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.

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...