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Showing posts from 2011

Divorce Case Listed in Tract Book

Yesterday I learned that a document number listed in a Cook County tract book was actually the case number for a divorce granted in the Superior Court. Here's the story: A few weeks ago, I visited the Tract Department in the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office ( 118 N. Clark Street, Room 120, Chicago, Illinois 60602 ) and got some help book and paging some c. 1910 documents that I wanted to view. As the clerk looked at the list, three document numbers stood out to her. One had the letters "M L" following the number. I learned that this means "mechanic's lien" and that those early records aren't available. One of the other two numbers--six digits each--had "C" following it and the other had an "S." The clerk mentioned that they might be "corporation" documents. It seemed a bit odd--the transaction appeared to be between family members--but we book and paged them and I went across the hall t

Chicago Jewish Historical Society

I'm working on a blog post about Northwestern Memorial Hospital Records which include birth registers from the Maxwell Station. One Google search led to another this evening and I landed on the page for The Chicago Jewish Historical Society . If you have some time, check out their Journal Archive . Simply put, it's rich with history worth reading.

New: Cook County Marriage Index 1912-1924

FamilySearch has Cook County marriage license images from 1871 to 1920. A search of "Smith" at suggests that marriage licenses are available there from 1930 forward. So what about the licenses from 1921-1929? Up until now, I've always said, "There's no public index. Just mail in a search request form to the Cook County Clerk's office." I've done that successfully for my own research. Yesterday a fellow researcher (who wants to remain anonymous) mentioned an database called Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1912-1924 , new as of 17 Oct 2011. The notes say " The majority of these records come from the years 1914-1923" but the index still opens up a few more years and gives us an alternate way of searching before 1921.  As you can see above, the index is alphabetical with both brides and grooms listed and it provides the name of the spouse, a date, and a serial number. Comparing an entry

Cook County Naturalization: Stories from the Chicago Tribune

Many years ago, I remember seeing a picture of newly naturalized citizens in our local upstate New York newspaper. They were smiling, maybe even holding flags, and I sensed that they had just done something meaningful and significant.  I've always thought of my naturalized ancestors approaching the process in the same sort of way. It wasn't until I did a search for "naturalization" in the Chicago Tribune Historical Archives that I realized there might be more to the story than a person's driving desire to become a citizen. In October 1858, for example, the Chicago Tribune was encouraging two groups of individuals to naturalize--men of age who had arrived under the age of eighteen five or more years previous (they could naturalize immediately without filing first papers) and men who had filed declarations two or more years previous so that the waiting period to file the final papers had passed. Why? Because the 1860 presidential election was coming up and th

John S. Allen: Violin Maker

Today's post isn't about Chicago but it's about genealogy and another subject dear to my heart--fiddles and the people who make and play them. A few weeks ago a bit of insomnia brought me a couple of satisfying research finds, both fiddle-related, and today I thought I'd share one of them. John S. Allen On December 23, 2008, a fellow fiddler started a discussion on Fiddle Hangout titled " Who was John S. Allen? " I spent the holiday trying to answer that question. I knew that Mr. Allen had studied violin making with J. B. Squier in Boston, probably in the 1890s, and I knew that he had some connection to Battle Creek, Michigan, most likely moving there to work with Mr. Squier's son, V. C. but that was all I knew. Without an age or birth place or parent or sibling or spouse--some little something in addition to the name--I exhausted most all of the options I had and finally gave up the search. Recently a Fiddle Hangout member who had seen the archiv

Now Online: Chicago Catholic Church Records to 1915

You can now browse Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic church records online for free at FamilySearch and because the Archdiocese includes nearby towns, you will also find records for places like Oak Park, Evanston, and Cicero. To access the images, you'll need to log into FamilySearch but if you don't already have an account, no worries. It's quick and easy to sign up and it's free. To find the images, go to FamilySearch , click on "US, Canada, and Mexico" under "Browse by Location," and scroll down to "Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925." These records were digitized from Family History Library microfilm and even though the date in the title goes to 1925, you'll find that the records for most parishes end with 1915. That was the cutoff year when the records were filmed. So, here are some tips for accessing the records. 1) Many of the books have index pages in the front. 2) If you're not sure which pari

Indexing Chicago Catholic Church Records: Tip for Reading Polish Surnames

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm determined to contribute some time to indexing Chicago's Catholic parish records because I think it will create a much-needed resource for pre-Fire research and this morning I'm working on a page from a Polish church. I'm familiar with the records and I've even bumped into a lot of Polish surnames in 5+ years of working with Chicago vital record searches but I'm still struggling to read some of the names. This morning I was puzzling over the surname in this entry: The "kowiak" was clear but was the surname really Autkowiak? It just didn't feel right. I went to the Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA) website and pulled up the Dziennik Chicagoski Death Notice Index Search 1890-1929 . I typed "kowiak" in the surname box, chose "wild card search" and hit enter. In this case, the answer to my question was on the first page of results. Antkowiak. Of course! I know that &quo

FamilySearch's Chicago Catholic Church Record Indexing Project: Please Help

Yesterday I learned from the IL-COOK-CHICAGO-L mailing list that FamilySearch has begun a project to index Chicago's Catholic church records. The project title is US, Illinois, Chicago—Catholic Church Records, 1833–1910 [Part A] and the resulting index will give us powerful new ways to access these records. Why is the project so important? Just off the top of my head . . . 1) It will create an index to pre-Fire Catholic deaths. 2) It will create a multi-parish index to pre-Fire Catholic births. 3) In many cases it will alleviate the need to try to guess a baptismal parish using a family’s address (which often doesn’t work) 4) It will be a useful tool for locating baptisms that took place in a parish that wouldn’t have been the “logical” choice. I don’t have a lot of free time—we are working very hard to meet our goal of having the new version of ready for public beta by the site’s two-year anniversary this coming October—but I will do my best to

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Part 6

The naturalization record for Sigurd Nelson that I ordered from the Iron Range Research Center arrived last Saturday and I'd give the process a 9 out of 10. The online index was easy to search, the online ordering process went smoothly, and communication from the Center was great. Three days before the document arrived I received a pleasant email letting me know that it had been mailed. The only thing that would have made it better? Receiving the record in digital format a few days quicker. (See The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Part 5 ) If you've read previous posts, you'll remember that I am searching for the wife and child of a man named Sigurd Nelson. The researcher who's interested in them believes that they died of influenza before 1920 but he doesn't know anything more about them. I have reason to believe that the Sigurd Nelson who was living in Duluth is the man the researcher is interested in and I was hoping that this Sigurd's naturalization record would

Cook County Circuit Court Archives: Criminal Case Index, 1873-1944

Recently a researcher asked if I could check indexes at the Circuit Court Archives for a crime that happened c. 1922. I'm always happy to learn something new and so I said I'd give it a try. I'm no expert on using this resource, but maybe a few quick notes about my experience will be helpful to someone else. The microfiche index with the title "Counter Index Alpha Criminal Div" is kept in a thick black notebook on top of the filing cabinets. It covers 1873-1944, but some years are missing. The entries for the earliest years are docket book pages. Information includes the name(s) of the defendant(s), the indictment number, the reason for indictment, a dollar amount that's probably bail, and brief dated notations that probably document various steps as the case proceeds. One of the cases had a December 1879 entry that seemed to read "Cont [or Cout] by Agt" and an August 1880 entry that said "Stricken off &c." The later years have in

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Part 5

The researcher who is looking for Sigurd Nelson's family members provided me with new information a couple of days ago and looking back on it tonight, the birth place he sent reminded me of the World War I Draft Registration Card that I mentioned in a previous post. The "Kristiana, Norway" from the email seems like a great match for the "Christiana, Norway" on the card for Sigurd Godferd Nelson. Earlier today I had a hunch that I might be on the right track. Now I'm thinking that I really might be. The Duluth newspaper mentioned that Sigurd G. Nelson had naturalized with other veterans in 1920 and I decided to go looking for an online index. I found one at the website for the Iron Range Research Center in Chisholm, Minnesota. A search for Sigurd Nelson brought up five possibilities with one clear match. The fee to order the record was $10 and I went ahead and placed the request. If Sigurd filled out the usual forms, I'm very likely to find

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Post 4

Note: If you haven't been following my posts, you can find background information for the search in The Search for Mrs. Nelson and Child Begins . A number of years ago I spent some time searching Duluth newspapers at and so I decided to see what I could find out about Conrad and Sigurd Nelson using that approach. A search for "sigurd nelson" in Minnesota newspapers brought up seventeen results. One was a mis-match. Seven were for a Sigurd G. Nelson who was an elected representative from Ironwood, Michigan. That left nine possibilities. Among them I fould Sigurd the divinity student and Sigurd the young single man attending social events. It's possible this is the same person. Then I found Sigurd the soldier--possibly two men. One was mentioned as Sigurd and the other was mentioned as Sigurd G. Sigurd G. returned to be naturalized after the war. And then there were two mentions of a Sigurd being arrested for vagrancy, one before the war and

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Post 3

Note: If you haven't been following my posts, you can find background information for the search in The Search for Mrs. Nelson and Child Begins . The researcher tells me that Sigurd was born 13 January 1894 in Norway and I've decided to try to use that information to find a matching record in's World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 . I usually start with bare bones information to see what I'm up against and a search for "sigurd nelson" yielded 316 matches--to many to scroll through at this point. I edited the search and added a birth year of 1894 +/- 2 years. That narrowed the search to 218 results. I'm not 100% sure that he was living in Cook County at the time he would have registered, so I added a January birth month. This gave me three results. *Sigurd A. Nelson, born 14 Jan 1892 in Illinois (living in Cook County) *Sigurd Nelson, born 22 Jan 1893 in Wisconsin (living in Pacific, Washington) *Sigurd Godferd Nelson, bor

The Search for Mrs. Nelson: Post 2

I am searching for the unknown wife and child of Sigurd Nelson. (See The Search for Mrs. Nelson and Child Begins for details.) FamilySearch's Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947 seemed like a good first step because spouse names are included the database. I chose the advanced search option typed in "sigurd nelson" with 1916-1922 with "Exact & Close match" selected. No matches were found. I removed the dates and searched again. This retrieved three records: *Sigurd A. Nelson who died in 1944, wife Emma, parents listed *Sigurd A. M. Nelson Jr., the son of Sigurd A. M. Nelson and Anna W. Bietan who died 23 May 1921. His birthdate was given as 20 Oct 1817 but he was three years old so he was likely born in 1917. *Anna Cathrine Maurer who died at the age of 44, the daughter of Sigvard Nelson. I decided to follow up on Sigurd A. M. A search for "sigurd nelson" in FamilySearch's Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920 broug

The Search for Mrs. Nelson and Child Begins

Background Recently someone asked for help finding out what happened to the wife and child of "Captain Sigurd Nelson." I haven't been able to turn up anything quickly but I think there are answers in Chicago records and I'm not ready to give up. I thought blogging might be an interesting way to keep track of a multi-step search done over a number of days and so I offered to take on the project as a no-charge challenge in return for permission to talk about the search in a public forum. The Starting Point Name of wife unknown Wife died in a flu epidemic, 1918-19?? Child of unknown age and gender also died from flu Sigurd died at age 32 in 1926 and is buried at Montrose Cemetery Sigurd has no grave marker and no family members are buried with him Sigurd was born in Norway in 1894 Sigurd came to the United States in 1912 at age 18 Sigurd's military records destroyed in 1972 St. Louis fire Sigurd had an older brother Conrad in Chicago Conrad

Norwegian Ancestors? Try the Pedersen Funeral Home Records

Recently a client asked for help locating death information for members of a Norwegian family and made me think of the John M. Pedersen & Sons Funeral Home records that are available on Family History Library microfilm. If you have Norwegian ancestors who died in Chicago between 1899 and 1972, you might want to check these out. Last night I took a look at the first few items on film 1672191 which covers part of 1913 through part of 1926. The first thing I noticed was that the volumes were indexed and the index included addresses, something that might be helpful when researching a family with a common surname. The handwriting was clear and it was easy to jot down page numbers of interest. The volume I looked at was organized chronologically, one page, one person, and the page numbers were easy to read. The entries included the usual information about the deceased--things like name, death date, parents, birth date, and address--but they also included specific burial informatio

Free Genealogy Workshops in Wilmette this Saturday

If you're in the Chicago area, there are two free genealogy workshops at the Wilmette Family History Center on Saturday, July 30, both led by Denise Mortorff, a retired university lecturer from California with 35+ years of family history research experience. 10:00 am FURTHERING COLONIAL ANCESTRY USING MEDIEVAL & EARLY MODERN RECORDS Furthering your colonial ancestry requires resourcefulness. Move your search forward by learning the historical context in which you are searching, the knowledge and skills required to conduct research, record types, their availability and how to determine their ”fit” with your research needs. 11:00 am YOU FOUND IT WHERE? ORGANIZATIONS & GENEALOGY RESEARCH WORLDWIDE Thousands of organizations around the world house materials that can enable researchers in furthering their ancestry. Learn about organization types, how to identify those pertinent to your research needs, and ways to access their collections from a distance. Considerations in

Finding a Story in Antique Photos

Last week my husband's banjo teacher told me that a friend of his had uploaded scans of historical photos--including pictures of early musicians--to a Facebook account and that I should really take a look. I did. One photo in particular caught my attention--a man and a woman standing side by side for the photographer. I don't know anything about the people in the photo but it was easy for me to imagine a story filtered through my own experience and imagination. The man's coat--not a suit jacket, a coat--was heavy and hung from his shoulders in a box-like shape. The bottom of it was noticeably wrinkled and his pants were baggy and worn, his shoes coarse. His large hands were drawn up across his chest in an awkward sort of way but they looked strong, like the hands of a laborer. The woman cut a solid figure clothed in a dark dress with rows of light vertical dots and a wide ribbon at her collar. The fascinating thing was that the faces of the man and the woman seemed to

Fourth of July: A Cautionary Tale from The Chicago Tribune, 1907

On July 4, 1907, The Chicago Tribune used a cartoon drawing to remind local folks to use caution when celebrating the holiday with fireworks and other explosives. (The image below is from The Chicago Tribune , 4 July 1907, p. 1 and it was accessed through .) Unfortunately, the advice came too late for Mrs. Hart and her son. Her death certificate tells us that she died of "Organic Heart Disease" but apparently there's more to the story than that. (Death certificate image from FamilySearch's Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922 ) The Chicago Tribune reported that she "fell dead on her doorstep from heart disease when son and playmates exploded giant firecracker." ( The Chicago Tribune , 4 Jul 1907, p. 1, col. 3 accessed through Have a safe and happy Fourth of July everyone!

Face to Face with a Marriage License Clerk

It's funny how things happen. This morning my husband was reading The Ancestry Insider and the blog post linked to a FamilySearch Wiki entry titled " Gretna Greens in the United States " and he sent me the link. I knew I'd seen articles in the Chicago Tribune about the topic so I logged into and did a quick search and suddenly found myself face to face with Cook County's "Marriage License Clerk Salmonson." Did you ever wonder what the County Clerk's office was like at the turn of the century? Take a look at this photo and imagine yourself next in line to get a marriage license. "Name? How do you spell that? Residence? Age?" Peer into the photo below to see the clerk's office through your ancestors' eyes. I've often wished that I could talk to some of the clerks from days gone by. I'd love to ask them about the records that they kept--how they were created and organized and stored. This is kind of a next

Are Sources Ever Really Exhausted?

An email from a blog reader a little over a week ago got me wondering. How many valuable records are there out there that we don't search for because we don't know they exist? A number of years ago I discovered the Minnesota Historical Society has a collection of papers from James A. Smith, my husband's ancestor. It was an exciting find and I immediately called to see if I could get photocopies of everything in the file. I gave them my debit card number and waited for the envelope. Nothing came and I thought, "Oh, well." And then a box arrived--a box with three or four inches of paper and a receipt for more than I usually pay for a week's worth of groceries. I was a bit poorer than I had expected to be but I was elated. Most of the papers documented activities of the Northwest Fur Company in the mid-1860s (James was a partner) but there were also some land records and other miscellaneous items. A few years later I was able to go to the Minnesota Historic

Genealogy-Related Focus Group Opportunity in Chicago

If you live in the Chicago area and would be interested in participating in a paid genealogy-related 2.5 hour "market research discussion" organized by Schlesinger Associates on January 31 or February 1, email me and I'll send you the flyer. This is not related in any way to or In fact, I didn't even qualify to participate! I received an email from Schlesinger Associates and offered to help get the word out. I'm guessing, though, that it might be related to a post on the FamilySearch Facebook page yesterday asking for participants for a focus group in New York City. But, it's just a guess.