Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I just have to vent - Illinois is not a fun state to work with!

I'm sorry. I really am. But I am going to have to use my blog to vent out some personal frustration I experienced today. At least it's genealogy-related. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I'm a volunteer for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness for my local Illinois county. If you're not familiar with the site, take a look here . It's basically a site where people who need lookups or research help can hook up with a someone who volunteers to help for free. It's based on geographic area so it makes it pretty easy to find someone where you need them.

I usually just get obit requests but I finally had to take that off my offerings because I was getting more than I could keep up with since I don't live in the town with the big newspaper microfilm collection. So my requests have gone down a bit but at least they tend to be a bit more interesting. This time though, I got flooded with marriage lookups and was anxious to see how things went. If you recall my experience with another IL county Courthouse while I was doing one of the NGS Home Study Course lessons, you may not be surprised to hear the answer.

Today was really just another reason why I can't stand doing work in Illinois. It literally makes me want to pull out my own, that's not exactly true. It makes me want to pull out the hair of the courthouse employees who are denying me access to records that are in an officially "open records" state. My goal today for all of the requests, was to make sure the records they wanted were actually there and to get a sense of what kind of info would be available to them if they decided to order the copies. Sounds reasonable right? I'm not asking for anything that anyone could deem private, especially since the most recent marriage lookup was for a marriage that occurred in the 1920s. Apparently the Clerk's Office employees didn't agree with me.

First, the security guards at the door to the Courthouse wouldn't let me bring in my camera. Ok, whatever. I'm down with security so if they feel like my Canon Powershot is a threat to someone fine. So I took it back to my car...which was parked back in the parking garage.

Then, when I get to the Clerk's Office, they have a receptionist that told me they had an index for the older records that I could look in. Yeah, that didn't happen. I know what she was talking about. The index to marriage records going up to about 1915 are supposed to be open public records, available to view. They even say so on the Clerk's website. Apparently nobody else knew the deal because they looked at me like I was sprouting marigolds out of my head. So that's strike two.

When I got to the employee with all the information that the receptionist made me write down, she took her time ending her conversation with the employee "working" in the next cubicle, then took the forms and started getting down to business. Until she saw that I had written N/A on the line asking how many copies of each record I needed. Again, she looked at me as if I was sprouting something out of the top of my head. I told her I was doing lookups for other people who just wanted to know if their records were actually there and whether there was additional information. Her concern was apparently that I wasn't planning on purchasing any of the records and made a look at the lady next to her and said "Can we do that? Just look up records if she doesn't even want to buy any of the copies?" When the lady finally said yes, she could, she just couldn't give me any of the information but they could at least check for them, she promptly turned her computer screen away from me so she would be sure I wouldn't see anything and then minimized her window as yet another preventative measure. Unbelievable!

One of my requests had a date range of about 10 years for the date of the marriage. She wouldn't give me a closer range to help my requester out with her own request for copies. But then, when I told her that most of the people I was trying to help out live out of state and may want me to come back and purchase the copies for them and asked what I would need so that they would release them to me, she actually said that "the records are open to the public so just come back, fill out the forms, and pay."

So yeah, all that cloak and dagger stuff to supposedly protect identities when in actuality, they just don't want to release information that brings them income. I cannot express how livid I was. And to make matters worse, this is not the only Illinois county that I've experienced this attitude with. To be fair, it may just be a greater Chicago-land area problem since I seem to encounter this issue more with counties here in North Eastern Illinois rather than further South. I had a much more successful visit a couple years ago when I visited a more rural county further away so maybe that's it; the closer you get to Chicago, the worse time you're going to have trying to access things.

Or maybe it's just me, maybe I am actually starting to grow a flower garden out of my head!

1 comment:

  1. Uh, oh - I was hoping on doing some onsite research in Illinois some day (Greene and Jersey counties). Hope I have better luck....