If you are researching ancestors from the Chicago area, you may want to head over to FamilySearch.org where you will find a new database: Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940 (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1462519). It’s an index only, so the records are abstracted and not images of the originals, but nevertheless, it’s a great resource. I found my grandmother’s birth record there a few weeks ago, something I hadn’t seen anywhere before. Since I am all about using original records when documenting my genealogy, I will likely try to obtain a copy of the original before too long. I noticed some spelling errors on the abstract, so I am wondering if the original is also misspelled or maybe just difficult to read. If you can’t find an ancestor in the database who you think should be there, I am told from some good people on the Chicago Genealogy Facebook Group that the database is a work in progress and not yet complete, so be sure to check back.
Speaking of the Chicago Genealogy Facebook Group, have you been there? I have found this group to be both knowledgeable and generous. If you are like me and want to obtain copies of original documents, the people here can point you in the right direction to do so. Whatever your topic of interest as it relates to Chicago Genealogy, you will likely find good info here. I recommend using the search box first thing to see if your topic of interest has already been discussed. If, after searching, you still require some advice or help, just ask. People are more than willing to help.
Besides FamilySearch and the Chicago Genealogy Facebook Group, I want to share just a few of my favorite Chicago Genealogy Resources. First, I love ChicagoGenealogy.com. The tutorials on this website provide a clear map on how to obtain everything from vital records to probate records. They are organized by topic and year group which really helps make sense of what records are available and where. Wondering why you can find Great-grandma’s marriage record, but not Grandma’s? Take a look here, and it will likely all start to make more sense.
Probably the first Chicago-specific genealogy book I ever bought, I still consult Grace Dumelle’s Finding your Chicago Ancestors on a regular basis. Published in 2005, some of the information is no longer current, but overall, it is still a great reference. DuMelle provides Chicago-specific research strategies to answer the most commonly asked genealogy questions. She also describes the type of information you are likely to find on different types of records, which can help save a lot of time and effort.
Finally, I use the online Chicago Tribune Archive pretty frequently. Many Chicago area libraries provide this database to their patrons for free. If you are in the Chicago area and not using this resource, I would suggest you head over to your local library’s website right now to see if it is available to you. I use it most often to search for obituaries, though I have also found a few news stories featuring my ancestors. Interestingly, I have had the most success finding my family in the post 1950 obituaries. Whether this has to do with my family’s views Old Man McCormick’s political leanings, the early generation’s inability to afford newspaper obits or their closer ties to their specific ethnic communities and newspapers, I am not sure. Nevertheless, if this is also the case for you, remember to conduct a WIDE search. Look not only for people in your direct line, but also for Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc. Obituaries can really help define who is who in your family tree and provide clues to help you discover your deeper roots.
These are some of my favorite Chicago Genealogy Resources. What resources do you use?