Guest Author, Julie Tarr
One of the best places to conduct genealogy research in Illinois is at the State Archives in Springfield. This massive repository is home to many government records, some of which are of interest to genealogists. The Archives is located at the Margaret Cross Norton Building, Capitol Complex, near 2nd & Edwards. You can contact the Archives at 217-782-4682 or visit their website.
Death Certificates 1916-1947
I would imagine this is the most-used resources among genealogists doing research at the Archives. All of the death certificates in the state from 1916 to 1947 can be found on microfilm. To obtain the records, you will first need to visit the index for Illinois death certificates, 1916-1950. Once you locate the decedent, record all of the information contained in the line item, as you will need this to determine which film the record is on. At the Archives, refer to the binders in the reading room to locate the film number based on the information obtained from the index. Retrieve the film and locate the record.
Although the Archives do not hold the actual death certificates prior to 1916, they do have a statewide index available. Refer to Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre-1916 for additional information (including what counties are available) and to search the database.
The Archives collection of military-related records is probably another highly-used resource for genealogists with Illinois roots. You can expect to find the following records related to Illinois veterans:
- War of 1812 (1812-1814)
- Winnebago War (1827)
- Black Hawk War (1831-1832)
- Mexican War (1846-1848)
- Civil War (1861-1865)
- Spanish-American War (1898-1899)
- Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Home, 1887-1967
- Illinois Soldiers' Widows' Home, 1896-1960
- National Home in Danville, 1898-1934
The Archives also holds the World War I draft cards for Illinois registrants. In addition, the Archives has all 898 rolls of the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 from the National Archives. Also from NARA, the Archives has the War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index.
There are various indexes available on the Archives' website, which can be accessed here. For additional record holdings and more information about military records, see Genealogical Research Series #3 – Military Records (opens a PDF).
Federal & State Censuses
Federal population schedules for Illinois, including its territorial period, are available for 1807 through 1930. The Archives also holds the special schedules of agricultural, industrial, and mortality for 1850-1880. For more information about the federal census records, and to learn whether they are indexed, refer to Genealogical Research Series #4 – Federal Census Records (opens a PDF).
While there are state census returns held in the Archives, you will need to refer to Genealogical Research Series #5 – State Census Records (opens a PDF) to learn what counties are available for a particular census year.
Other Online Indexes
In addition to some of the indexes already mentioned, there are a few others we should note. The Archives, in conjunction with ISGS, continues to build a statewide marriage index. Visit Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900 to learn more, including what counties are indexed. You can also access the search from this page.
Some of the collections that are contained at the IRAD facilities are also indexed. For example, there is an index to Livingston County probate files (1837-1958), which are held at the Illinois State University IRAD facility. For a complete list of these indexes, visit the Databases page and scroll down to the section “Records in the Illinois Regional Archives Depositories (IRAD).”
There you have it—a crash course on what you will find among the many resources held at the Illinois State Archives. For additional information and guides for genealogical research at the Archives, refer to Genealogy in the Illinois State Archives. For a complete listing of all the records housed at the Archives, refer to the Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the State of Illinois (now a searchable database).
If you ever need help with any of the records, just ask. The Archives staff is very knowledgeable and extremely helpful.