Family Atlas: Illinois

Family Atlas
a monthly column by Jen Baldwin


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Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Barack Obama: all residents of this month’s featured state when elected to the Presidency.

Originally the Illinois Territory, it was admitted into the Union on 3 Dec 1818 (Source: Only twelve years later, Chicago, the states largest and dare I say, most well-known city, was founded.

This month, I will begin with the state society, as their fall conference is quickly approaching, and it seems appropriate. The Illinois State Genealogical Society, or ISGS, will be meeting October 19th & 20th in Rockford, Illinois, and the discussions will be led by a whole slew of well-known names: John Philip Coletta, Ph.D., Thomas MacEntee, and Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, just to name a few. Our own In-Depth Genealogist team features some fantastic Illinois researchers, as well! The ISGS website includes free databases, a calendar of events, newsletter and an Illinois Resources page that features several ways to research your mid-west tree.

Of course Chicago is home to numerous resources, and we’ll get to that in a bit, because there are so many outside of the city that are deserving of the spotlight for a moment. From “Wayne’s World of History and Genealogy” we get the Perry County, Illinois History and Genealogy page, lists names of coal mines, a list of mine fatalities, and reference sources, as well as giving a brief history of the area, focusing on the mining industry. The Lake County Discovery Museum, and it’s associated Lake County History Archives has more than 1400 postcards available for your perusing pleasure; and another 2000 from Fort Sheridan, previously a U.S. Army base. Have you read a historical summary of a one-room schoolhouse? Get access to 52 of them from the year 1918 on the site (links direct you to a section of the Illinois State Archives). Evanston will find you in the Evanston History Center at the Charles Gates Dawes House, which is certainly an impressive home for the local historical society and archives. Online resources are available, including maps, city directories, and newspapers. Also included is a small selection of links to other local sources.

State wide resources start with the Illinois State Archives and their searchable databases. The list is long, so make sure to dedicate some time to this site. The collection of homicide records from 1870-1930 for the Chicago Police  just demands to be searched! Another site that really caught my attention was the Illinois Natural Resources Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, which hosts a collection of historical aerial photography from 1937 – 1947. If you read through their description, you will see that most of the originals of this collection have been damaged, lost or destroyed, so this online database is of incredible value. Select the area in question by county, and then get an overview of each available image. This is one of the more impressive photographic sets we’ve come across at The Family Atlas.

Probably because of my own Moravian ancestry, the Bohemian National Cemetery of Chicago turned out to be a new addition to my bucket list. Included on their “Information” tab is a brief history, map, and Q&A. They have also provided a color coded list of Veteran’s interred there. The University of Chicago Library provides us with additional digital collections; including the 1933-34 World’s Fair, The Ohio River Valley 1750-1820, and “Large Scale Digitization” which is an entirely different set within the library. Names of the historically famous and infamous pop out from the screen: Jefferson Davis, Ida B. Wells, Eugene Field, and William H. Anderson, anti-saloon activist; all contribute to an incredible display of American history. The diverse culture of Chicago is also represented well, and The Polish Museum of America website includes a Photo Gallery, a Library News Archives, and a detailed description of their Music Archives. Of course, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the National Archives at Chicago and Dayton also house incredible resources and collections, waiting to be explored.

Take some time to research Illinois. You will find a vast variety of resources and available collections, from a state that obviously takes care in preserving their story. On line or on site, you won’t be disappointed.




© Jen Baldwin (Ancestral Journeys) 2012

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of The In-Depth Genealogist. Receive The In-Depth Genealogist free by subscribing HERE.