Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lesson Learned

Just because the employee on the phone tells you that the marriage records are open, that doesn't always mean that you can view the actual records.

After my failure to get to the Lake County, IL court house last week (thanks to the most abysmal parking situation at a court house that I've seen to date) and the subsequent knowledge that the records are not open to the public anyway, I decided to return to that marriage survey assignment from Lesson 6 of the NGS home course today with a trip to neighboring McHenry County. The County Clerk's office has the vital records, with marriages back to 1837, housed in the county administration building in Woodstock, IL. The marriage records are not on microfilm and when I called yesterday, I was told that they are open records. When I arrived at the office this morning however, I was greeted by an employee who made that confused face when I said I was there to view the records. Once I explained that I was doing a survey on how the records changed over time, what years may be missing, etc. she brought me a ledger which she said covered the earliest years. In a way, it did but it was clearly not what I needed. She brought me the index to marriages in the county between 1837-1895. The index was alphabetized by surname of the groom and merely stated which book and page the actual record (whether it was a return or a certificate, the employee wouldn't tell me) was located. So I requested what appeared to be the earliest ledger for the actual records to which I was told those are not open. She asked her "boss" about whether she could show me the records but the answer was no. So there ended my second attempt to view marriage records for this assignment and the third county to shoot me down.

Lake County does not have open marriage records, McHenry County does not have open marriage records, and according to the Cook County Clerk's satellite office in Rolling Meadows, the records for Cook County aren't accessible either. I'm starting to think I may have to go over the border into Wisconsin to get this assignment done. I have one more county in IL that is under an hour away from me that I could call, Will County, but if they tell me the same thing then I'm going to have to start looking at alternatives to get this assingment done. I could possibly just order film from the FHL and do it that way. I was really hoping to be able to get in there and at least see the ledgers or possibly pages like in Indiana. This past fall, I was able to toil away like a kid in a candy store in courthouses in Randolph and Jay counties in Indiana and Darke county Ohio, as well as the archives building in Xenia, Greene County, Ohio. That's four counties of records in one week all with ledgers and pages to view! It was great! Oh well, guess those days are gone and I'm looking at strike 3.


  1. Good to know...I have a few McHenry Co. folks to explore.

  2. Julie, the official word is that the records are not technically "closed" however, it seems to be the policy of most IL counties to refuse viewing of records unless you have a family member to look for. Even then though, you will only be able to view the record for the person you came, and presumably paid, to see.