Chicago Area/Cook County Research

SSGHS often receives questions regarding Chicago and Cook County research. Before contacting SSGHS, please check Chicago and Cook County: A Guide to Research by Loretto Dennis Szucs, as well as Finding Your Chicago Ancestors : a Beginner’s Guide to Family History in the City and Cook County by Grace DuMelle.

Among the topics addressed are:

  • The availability of vital records
  • The impact of the Chicago Fire (1871) on vital records
  • Local sources for immigration and naturalization records
  • The availability of Chicago area newspapers

Vital Records

Cook/Will counties births, marriages and deaths are at the state or county level. Some marriages are on Illinois State Archives databases. Digitized vital records are listed in the catalog of the Family History Library (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). The State of Illinois did not begin keeping vital records until 1916. Will County records begin in 1877. Cook County records begin in 1871 (earlier records destroyed by the Chicago Fire). Information may be incomplete for these earlier years. Check at:

SSGHS Library (a FamilySearch Affiliate Library; also offers Ancestry Library Edition) 

Cook County Building
118 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60602
Vital Statistics, Randolph Street, Concourse
(312) 603-5656

Will County Clerk
Main Office
302 N. Chicago Street
Joliet IL 60432
(815) 740-4615

Census Records

SSGHS offers access to all U. S. Federal Censuses and Illinois state censuses via FamilySearch and Ancestry Library Edition. SSGHS does have some federal census microfilm and some Illinois state census microfilm.

U. S. Federal Census records are also at National Archives regional facilities and many large libraries:
NARA Great Lakes Region
7358 South Pulaski Road
Chicago, Illinois 60629-5898
(773) 581-7816

 State of Illinois

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Places to Look For Obituaries or Other Announcements

SSGHS Library has photocopies of obituaries appearing in several area newspapers for various years. Please see our online catalog.

Obituaries in the Chicago Heights Star since 1906 are indexed by the
Chicago Heights Public Library
25 W. 15th Street
Chicago Heights, Illinois 60411
(708) 754-0323

Obituary and Death Notice Index of the Coal City Courant and Other Sources is available from the Coal City Public Library District
85 N. Garfield St.
Coal City, IL 60416
(815) 634-4552

Frankfort Area Obituary Index is a collaboration between the Frankfort Public Library District and the Frankfort Area Historical Society. See the index for titles and dates covered:
Frankfort Public Library District
Adult Services Department, Obituary Request
21119 S. Pfeiffer Road
Frankfort, IL 60423
Phone: 815.534.6173

Printed obituary indexes for Joliet, Illinois newspapers from 1915-18 and 1976-2012 are at the Ottawa Street Branch of the Joliet Public Library. Joliet newspapers are on microfilm there from 1846-present.
Joliet Public Library – Ottawa Street Branch
150 N. Ottawa St.
Joliet, IL 60432
(815) 740-2660

An index to obituaries in The Times of Northwest Indiana (also known as the Hammond Times) for the years 1940-2014 are online through the Web site of:
Hammond Public Library
564 State Street
Hammond, IN 46320
Since The Times publishes an Illinois edition, researchers may have success with this source.

Obituary indexes of the Gary, Ind., Post-Tribune, 1921 to the present:
Lake County (Indiana) Public Library
1919 W. 81st Avenue
Merrillville, IN 46410

Early newspapers for Northwest Indiana and Joliet, IL carried news and columns from our coverage area. 

Microfilms of Northwest Indiana papers may be found at the Lake County Public Library in Merrillville, Ind.; Porter County Public Library in Valparaiso, Ind. and at other Northwest Indiana libraries.

Area Family History Centers

(Church of the Latter-Day Saints)

SSGHS Library (a FamilySearch Affiliate Library)
3000 W 170th Place
Hazel Crest, IL 60429-1174
(708) 335-3474

402 Longwood Drive
Chicago Heights, IL
(708) 756-1280
(2 blocks west of Ashland Avenue & 2 blocks north of Joe Orr Road)

655 Springfield Avenue
Joliet, Illinois
(815) 725-8621

Hyde Park
5200 S University Avenue
Chicago, Illinois
(773) 493-1830

Griffith Indiana
300 Wirth Rd (near Cline Ave.)
Griffith, Indiana
(219) 838-8189

Valparaiso Indiana
503 Burlington Beach Rd
Valparaiso, Indiana
(219) 464-4411

Area Genealogical Societies

There are at least 20 genealogical societies in the Chicago area, including Cook County, collar counties and northwest Indiana.

Several societies concentrate on a particular geographic area. A few of these include: Chicago Genealogical Society, Lockport Area, DuPage County, Elgin, Fox Valley, North Suburban, Northwest Suburban, Tinley-Moraine, Zion, and more.

Several societies have an ethnic focus, such as: Afro-American, British Isles, Czech-Slovak, Scottish, Polish, Lithuanian and more. One even has a computer focus.

Several area libraries have active genealogy clubs.

For information on other Chicago area societies, or to find societies in Illinois and elsewhere, visit the website for the National Genealogical Society.

Area Historical Societies

Other valuable resources are the many local historical societies, museums, libraries, and historic sites in the greater Chicagoland area. Many have physical locations with their own one-of-a-kind resources. Almost all have a website, and many have a Facebook presence, as well.