Thursday, February 4, 2010

Success!!! Marriage records found in IL

Ok, for those who have been able to follow my rather schizophrenic genealogy assignments over the past month or so, congratulations! For everyone else, I've been working my way through the NGS Home Study Course and got stuck on the final lesson of the first CD. The lesson has three assignments, two of which I've completed. The final assignment was causing me problems though. I needed to complete a marriage records survey at a local repository, preferably one with the ledgers, manuscripts, loose pages, etc. of genealogists' dreams. Well that didn't happen for me here in IL. I made two wasted trips to two different county courthouses because the marriage records were deemed restricted by the staff, even though IL is not technically considered a closed records state. Another county courthouse in IL denied access to me before I called a courthouse over the border in the neighboring state. They too, denied access to marriage records unless you're looking for an ancestor in which case you have to pay them before they will copy that single record for you. So the question of how to complete this assignment when no one would let me see the records was becoming more and more complex. I made a few discoveries though which might be helpful for those who have some work to do with IL records.
  • the Family History Library has microfilmed marriage records for Cook County (including the city of Chicago), Lake County, and McHenry County in IL and Kenosha County in WI-all of the counties that denied access to the records in-person. All of the films are available to rent.
  • IL marriage records can also be viewed at various depositories throughout the state thanks to the Illinois Regional Archives Depository system, called IRAD. Their website is found at and you can search the holdings online to find out where the records you might need are located

Today, I visited the IRAD facility located at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb. It was about 4 hours round-trip but considering all of the time I had already wasted trying to complete this assignment, it was worth it just to have found what I needed. I focused on the Lake County, IL marriages but the IRAD holdings at NIU also include various records (not just marriages) for Boone, Bureau, Carroll, DeKalb, DuPage, JoDaviess, Kane, Kendall, LaSalle, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will, and Winnebago counties. There are six other system depositories located throughout the state. You can find the breakdown of county records here


  1. Conducting onsite research is so very different that online searching. Here in San Joaquin County, California, historic county records are spread out all over the county. Some deed books at the historical society, some estate records at the university library, blah blah blah. And to make matters worse nothing has been digitized and there is no finding aid to help. And then places like a small private museum doesn't even have a catalog of their holdings or care if they ever get one! Over time you will get the hang of researching on location but in the begining it is frustrating and alot of wasted time.

  2. This was the first real IL research that I've done, surprising really since this is where I'm from. But both sides of my family were fairly new to IL so the majority of research was done elsewhere up to this point. Now that I'm back it was a good time to start pulling those IL records. It was just a bit of culture shock when I compared the experience to other places I've worked. I've done a very little with California work, San Francisco Co. in the 1860s-1930s, and I did get a similar sense as what you described. Time and experience would definitely help you get the hang of it.