Friday, January 30, 2009

Illinois State Archives On-Line Databases

The Illinois State Archives (ISA) provides free on-line access to databases of state-wide marriage (1763-1900), pre-1916 deaths, 1916-1950 deaths, and misc. veteran records, plus wills, poor house, coroner, probate and birth records for a variety of Illinois counties. The records are indexed, and can be searched by name and county.

Illinois Digital Archives (IDA) includes digital images of a variety of Illinois records, including cemetery records, historic newspapers, and photo collections. To search records indexed from the State Archive, enter the bride or groom's last name. If the name is a common one, select the county (if you know it) from the list.

The system returns only exact matches, so if you search for Hartrick and that name was transcribed as Hartrich, you won't find a record. However, if you search for Hart, the system will list all the records that begin with Hart, including Harter, Hartford, Hartrich and Hartrick. Enter few details when you first begin searching (e.g., last name only), then add complexity in order to reduce the number of "hits."

Once you find an entry for your ancestor, you have several options for obtaining the original record. Contact the County Clerk of the county where the event took place, or use Interlibrary loan to order microfilm from the Illinois State Archives. The ISA web page gives details of how to order copies. Birth, marriage, and death certificates can be ordered on-line for some Illinois counties (e.g., Champaign county).

Search the Digital Archives by entering your ancestor's name in the [All of the Words] search field. If your ancestor's name is not extremely common, search the entire collection. To limit the number of hits, limit the collections to be searched by removing the check mark from the box next to [Search all collections] and then selecting a few collections to search.

Take a few minutes to browse through collections by clicking [Browse] on the gray menu bar beneath the words "Illinois State Archive." See if you can find the Abraham Lincoln burial record in the Oak Ridge Cemetery interment records:

Because the collections are digital images, you can print copies of documents, save them to your hard drive, or add them to a Google Notebook.

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