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

Online directories, street guides, maps, other resources:

Maps and historical sources of Chicago area: Encyclopedia of Chicago

Vital Records

Cook/Will counties births, marriages and deaths are at the state or county level. Digitized vital records are listed in the FamilySearch catalog. 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.

Illinois State Archives Statewide Databases include:
> Illinois Statewide Marriage Index (1763-1900; incomplete for all counties)
> Illinois Statewide Death Index (pre-1916 incomplete for all counties; 1916-1950 and 1951-1971 complete for all counties)

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) 603-7790

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

Census Records

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

U. S. Federal Census records are also at National Archives regional facilities and many large libraries:
National Archives at Chicago
7358 South Pulaski Road
Chicago, Illinois 60629-5898
(773) 948-9001

 State of Illinois

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
Illinois State Archives
Illinois State Library
Illinois Digital Archives (many steel company and Pullman resources)

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.

Chicago Heights Public Library
25 W. 15th Street
Chicago Heights, Illinois 60411
(708) 754-0323
Index of obituaries in the Chicago Heights Star since 1906

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

Capturing Crete is a collaboration of the Crete Public Library District and Crete Area Historical Society. Obituaries appeared in The Crete Record & The Crete Citizen dating from 1920’s to 2000’s. See the index at

Frankfort Public Library District
Adult Services Department, Obituary Request
21119 S. Pfeiffer Road
Frankfort, IL 60423
Phone: 815.534.6173
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.

Joliet Public Library – Ottawa Street Branch
150 N. Ottawa St.
Joliet, IL 60432
(815) 740-2660
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.

Oak Lawn Public Library
9427 S. Raymond Ave.
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
Local History Obituary Index for Oak Lawn and Beverly area newspapers.

Hammond Public Library
564 State Street
Hammond, IN 46320
Index to obituaries in The Times of Northwest Indiana (also known as the Hammond Times) for the years 1939-2019.

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

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.

FamilySearch Centers

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

FamilySearch Centers

  • 402 Longwood Drive, Chicago Heights, IL 60411; (708) 756-1280
  • 13150 South 88th Avenue, Orland Park, IL 60462; (708) 361-5474
  • 655 Springfield Avenue, Joliet, Illinois; (815) 725-8621
  • 5200 S University Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60615 (Hyde Park); (773) 493-1830
  • 300 Wirth Rd (near Cline Ave.), Griffith, Indiana 60419; (219) 838-8189
  • 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 in 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, McHenry County, 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. A group called CAGGNI 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.

For societies in the Chicago Southland, visit

For societies in the I & M Canal Heritage Corridor, including societies in Will County, visit