Thursday, December 30, 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 to the Naturalization Soundex Index

There are two places to access the index online. If you have an subscription you can search the cards by name, year of birth, year of arrival, and state of residence in U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project.

If you don’t have an Ancestry subscription, you can now browse the cards for free at They’re included in the historical records part of the site in a database called Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950.

Browsing the Soundex Images

Here’s my approach to browsing the images:

1) Use the Soundex converter at Rootsweb to find the correct Soundex code. Type in the surname, hit the "Get Soundex Code" button and you're done.

2) Select the correct Soundex range from the choices available at FamilySearch. (The link in this paragraph will take you to the correct part of the FamilySearch site.)

Example: B-653 Tekla to C-124 means that section will include B-653 surnames with given names starting with Tekla and run through the end of the C-124 given names.

3) Find a card with the correct given name using a high-low number game strategy. There are 6586 cards in the section that would include Charles Berman (B-655). I'd type 3000 in the image number box to get my bearings. The corresponding card is B-656 with a G given name so I'd try a lower number. Typing in 1500 brings up a card for B-655 with a J given name so I'd try again. Typing in 700 brings up an A given name for B-655. The number 900 brings me to a B-655 card with the name Charles John. If I chose that as my starting point I'd page through the images going backwards until I had exhausted the entries for Charles or similarly-spelled names and then I'd return to image 900 and page through going forward if I hadn't found the match.

The introductory pages to this index remind researchers not to overlook "initials, alternate spellings, and "old country" versions of names." Good advice.

Locating the Naturalization Records

Once you’ve found a card and saved it to your computer, you’re ready to locate a copy of the corresponding naturalization record. Check the court. If it says Circuit, County, Criminal, or Superior, the original records are at the Circuit Court Archives. If it says District, the original records are held by NARA. Records from all the courts are also available on Family History Library microfilm.

1. Circuit Court Archives

I can suggest four ways to get naturalization records from the Circuit Court Archives.

In Person: The Circuit Court Archives has the Cook County Naturalization records from the Circuit Court, County Court, Criminal Court, and Superior Court. If you live in the Chicago area, you can visit their office on the eleventh floor of the Daley Center to view the records (free) and obtain photocopies (minimal fee). The office is easily accessible from the L and the staff is very helpful and friendly.

By Mail: If you can’t visit in person, you can request the records by mail, but it’s a two-step process. Once you submit the order form the office will bill you for the copies and then send them out when payment is received. The cost is $2.00 for the first page and $.50 for each one thereafter (a naturalization record would have just a few pages at most) + a $15 mailing fee + postage.

Important Information to Read Before Requesting a Search

Mail-in Request Form

From Family History Library Film: Using the new catalog at FamilySearch, pull up records for “Cook, Illinois” and then narrow the search by clicking on the link for Naturalization and Citizenship. This will bring up a list of available records and once you’ve identified the correct reel you can order it in at your local Family History Center.

From a Local Researcher: If you don’t live in the Chicago area, it might be quicker and/or easier to request a lookup from a local researcher rather than ordering by mail or ordering FHL films. I can retrieve naturalization records at the Circuit Court Archives if I’m going downtown (send me an email) or KimStankiewicz offers the service through our website.

2. National Archives and Records Administration’s Great Lakes Regional Archives

If the court is listed as District, then the original records are kept at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Great Lakes Regional Archives, 7358 S. Pulaski Road, in Chicago.

In Person: If you’re going to go in person, contact them ahead of time to double-check the search procedure. I have next-to-no experience doing research at NARA but it took a couple of visits for my husband retrieved a naturalization record for someone last year.

NARA Naturalization FAQ

By Mail: NARA’s website says that naturalization records must be obtained by written request and that it can be done in person or by mail, fax, email, or online. I tried the online ordering link earlier today (4 Jan 2011) and it wasn’t working so I couldn’t learn more about how that process works. The fees page on their website suggests that there’s a charge of $.75 each for record copies and that there’s a minimum $15 fee for mail orders.

From FHL Film: The District Court naturalization records are available on Family History Library microfilm. If you have access to a Family History Center you can order in the reels and obtain the records that way. Here’s a quick link to the film numbers up through 1947.

From a FHL Researcher: If you don’t have access to a Family History Center or if you’d like quick access to digital copies of the naturalization records, jorgfe offers that lookup on our website.

This post has grown much long and taken much longer than I expected to write and so I'll wrap things up with a couple of links to not-to-be-missed pages.

Important Information About Cook County Naturalization Records (learn what kinds of information you can expect to find depending on the year the naturalization papers were filed)

Cook County Naturalization Declarations of Intention Index (search the declarations index online)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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 the grieving widow.

Today's article says that the fire "left behind 19 widows and 35 orphaned children" and I wondered who those unnamed people were. I searched the Chicago Tribune at and found several articles mentioning funerals for the men who were killed. Twenty-four people died as a result of the fire, twenty-three on December 22 and one on December 23. Twenty-one of them, members of the Chicago Fire Department, are memorialized on a monument at the Chicago Union Stockyards. Of the remaining three, two were "firemen" employed by Morris & Co.--Andrew Dymuran and Patrick Realph--and one was a messenger boy, Stephen Leen.

The Illinois Statewide Death Index entries for those who died in the fire are listed below. Click on the small images next to the death index entries to view the death certificates. (I located the records on FamilySearch using a database called Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922).

BRANDENBURG, HERMANN G 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 41 YR 00001591

BURROUGHS, WILLIAM J 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 46 YR 00001592

COLLINS, PATRICK E 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 47 YR 00002883

COSTELLO, THOMAS J 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 30 YR 00002882

CRANE, NICHOLAS 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 36 YR 00002884

DANIS, EDWARD J 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 46 YR 00003820

DOYLE, DENNIS 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 51 YR 00003819

DOYLE, NICHOLAS D 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 27 YR 00003821

DYMURAN, ANDREW 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 23 YR 00003822

ENTHOF, GEORGE C 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 30 YR 00004369

FITZGERALD, JAMES J 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 31 YR 00005280

LANNON, ALEXANDER D 1910-12-23 CHICAGO 39 YR 00010632

LEEN, STEPHEN 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 16 YR 00010631

MCINERNEY, MICHAEL F 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 33 YR 00012830

MOORE, CHARLES N 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 28 YR 00021038

MORIARITY, ALBERT J 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 34 YR 00012040

MURASKI, GEORGE F 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 42 YR 00012039

POWERS, PETER J 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 34 YR 00014890

REALPH, PATRICK J 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 25 YR 00016424

SCHORSETTE, EDWARD D 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 27 YR 00018188

STURM, WILLIAM G 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 42 YR 00018189

WALTERS, FRANK W 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 57 YR 00021124

WEBER, WILLIAM F 1910-12-22 CHICAGO 35 YR 00021125

I haven't looked at these records carefully yet but it seems to me that each death certificate linked above will tell a story worth remembering--just like Mr. Horan's does.


If you're interested in learning more about the fire and its aftermath, the Chicago Tribune is a good place to start. Here are a few things that I learned as I searched through articles:

*Mourning clothes were provided to survivors free of charge by Charles A. Stevens' company. Employees went to the homes to take orders and measurements. (24 Dec 1910, p. 2, col. 6)

*Dennis and Nicholas Doyle were father and son. (24 Dec 1910, p. 2, col. 7)

*"Phone girls" handled a record number of calls during the incident. A number of them had relatives who died in the fire. (23 Dec 1910, p. 5, col. 6)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

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 register entries include the names of the bride and groom, the marriage date, and the marriage date according to the Jewish calendar. A few entries have additional information. For example, one mentions that the bride was from Valparaiso, Indiana and at least two others note that one of the parties was born Christian. Some previous civil marriages are also mentioned. The death entries seem few and hard to find but the one I saw provided the name of the deceased and a death date.

After looking through the book, I wanted to know a little bit more about the congregation and so I checked the 1870 Edward's Chicago City Directory (p. 931). At that time the Sinai Congregation was listed at "Van Buren street, corner Third avenue," one of five Jewish congregations in the city, and it had about 100 members.

The Chicago Sinai Congregation will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2011. For more information about the congregation's history, visit their website.

The film says the original marriage and death book is held by the Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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...