Illinois Genealogy Trails Genealogy and History
Illinois Genealogy Trails Research Help

Illinois Genealogy Trails Genealogy and History


(Click on a topic in the left hand column to view the available info)

Where Should I Begin my Research?

  • Marriage Licenses
  • Birth and Death Records
  • Land Records
  • Military and Pension Records

Courthouse Research


What's Available, When?

Research Trip Experience Database

Other Records to Check

  • Census - Visit our Census page.
  • Cemeteries
  • Divorce records
  • Wills, Probates and Guardianships
  • County histories, old newspapers, funeral homes, church records, etc.

State Resources

  • The Illinois State Archives
  • The Bureau of Land Management 
  • The National Archives
  • Great Lakes Regional Archive Site
  • Illinois State Historical Library 
  • Illinois Genealogical Society
  • The Illinois State Museum
  • Societies in Illinois
  • Libraries of Illinois.
  • IRAD
  • GNIS
  • 1895 Atlas

Illinois Travel Information

  • Stay
  • Enjoy Illinois
  • Getting Around Illinois
  • Visiting Illinois
  • Illinois Roads Info
  • Department of Transportation
  • Illinois Airport Directory
  • The Illinois State Archives
  • IRAD

State Data

Illinois Census

Illinois Military

Illinois Events

Illinois County Data

Volunteer information



Start with your family members (parents, grandparents, great grandparents).  Families usually pass down stories, pictures, family records and documents, keepsakes and other information and this is the best place to start.  Check for a family Bible, obituaries that have been saved from old newspapers, funeral books, baby books, things like that.  These family records hold valuable information. 

Once you have your family information organized (think about keeping your information in binders and /or in a genealogy program on your computer), pick one side of your family you want to research first.  If you try to take them all on at once, it can become pretty confusing if you are new to all of this. As you gradually learn all the "ins and outs" of research, you can then begin on your other family lines.

The following records are located at the County Courthouses (County Clerk's office) in Illinois and are good to use to find the next generation back:

1.  Marriage Licenses
- after about 1875, Illinois marriage licenses contain wonderful information. It will give you the occupation, birth place and parents of each person. Many times the witnesses to the marriage were close friends or relatives (write their names down too, for future reference).  If they were married in a Church, you will have the name of that Church and you can check for any records that may be there.

2. Birth and Death Records - It was a requirement in the State of Illinois, to record these records after about 1916. Prior to that time, it will just depend on whether the County recorded either in their record books.  If you get stuck and can't seem to locate a birth or death record, try looking for a probate or a will (the probates and wills will come in very handy as you get back further in your family research) in the Circuit Clerk's office at the courthouse.  You can also use tombstone readings as a guide. Online sources you should also check are the IL State Archives Statewide Marriage index, 1763-1900, the Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre–1916 and the Illinois Statewide Death Index (1916–1950). Once you find your person in the database, you can write away either to the Archives for a copy of the record or to the IL Dept. of Public Health.

3. Land Records - Land records are normally held by the County Clerk's office. These can help you locate and prove your ancestor lived in that County during a certain time period. Online sources you should also check are the Illinois State Archives Public Doman Land Database as well as the Bureau of Land Management records for federal land patents.

4. Military and Pension Records - Pension records are available through the National Archives in Washington, D. C. While military records will give you "some" genealogical information (my ancestor's Civil War file contained two handwritten letters), the pension files normally are the most informative. The Illinois Genealogy Trails Military page offers a wide variety of online records as does the State of Illinois Archives website.

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Courthouse Research
For a listing of what records each Illinois County Courthouse has available,
along with the earliest date the records are available,
click here.

To view our "Courthouse Research Experience" database,
click here.

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Census:  This is a great way to find other family members, document your family in a county, find out where they were born, where their parents were born, occupations, etc. From 1850 on, the census will list all of the family members. Prior to that time, only the head of household will be listed and the family will be listed under special headings according to their age and sex. Again, pay close attention to the surrounding families, they often times are family members too. To see what Census information Illinois Genealogy Trails has online, visit our Census page. You may also want to visit this off-site link for links to more Census information:

Cemeteries:  Death certificates and obituaries often times list the cemetery where your ancestor is buried. Pay close attention to the stones that surround your ancestor. Many times married daughters and other relatives are buried nearby.

Divorce records:  Yes, people did divorce "back then" and these records can really be a great help to you. They would be located in the Circuit Clerk's office at the Courthouse.

Wills, Probates and Guardianships: Also located in the Circuit Clerk's office, these records can offer you a variety of h elp. Wills and Probates will give you the date of death. They usually tell you the family members that were left items the deceased owned and any land he owned. Guardianship records may prove useful to find out where the minor children went to live. These are especially gratifying records when you cannot locate your family member after the death of a parent or parents.

Also check the County histories, old newspapers, funeral homes, church records, etc. As you research, you will become aware of all the different resources available to you.

Passport Applications: Passport applications can be an excellent source of genealogical information, especially about foreign-born individuals.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has passport applications from Oct. 1795-Mar. 1925; Paper copies of passport applications, 1795 - March 1925, can be ordered by mail from

National Archives and Records Administration
Attn: Old Military and Civil Records (NWCTB)
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001

Your letter or online form must include the following information:

your name and mailing (postal) address; the passport applicant's name, year of birth, place of residence at the time the application was made, and the approximate year of travel. The applicant's year of birth and place of residence are used to distinguish between persons having the same name.

The U.S. Department of State has passport applications from Apr. 1925 to the present. All requests for passport records issued from 1925 to present should be mailed to:

Paper copies of passport applications, Apr. 1925-present, can be ordered by mail from

Department of State, Research & Liasion Branch
1111 19th Street NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20522-1705

Ellis Island Records - Searchable database

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State Resources

The Illinois State Archives, located in Springfield, has all Illinois census on microfilm, with exception of the 1890, which was destroyed in a fire in 1921 They also have listings for the military in Illinois, which includes, for Civil War Veterans, a description of each man (eye, hair color, etc.) The IL State Archives also houses books on Illinois in general and some on individual County history. Mortality Indexes are available. There are many other items the Archives has available, and a visit to their website is a definite must. One area that seems to get passed over is the Descriptive Inventory at the Illinois state archives. There are all sorts of records listed that may prove to be beneficial to your research.

The Archives also has online data that you can
search today, including the Marriage database, Illinois Land Sales Database, the Chicago Council Proceedings for 1833-1871, the Civil War Veterans of Illinois, the Spanish American War Veterans and many other online data

Illinois Genealogy Trails Online Databases
(this data can also be found by visiting the IL State Archives in person):

  • Illinois Genealogy Trails has some of the Civil War Muster Descriptive Rolls online now, click here to view them
  • Illinois Genealogy Trails has Mortality Indexes online
  • Illinois Genealogy Trails has started to transcribe the Joliet, IL Prison Convict Register
  • Illinois Genealogy Trails- Military page
  • Many of our county websites have county histories online. Select your county of interest from our map

The Bureau of Land Management has an online database of land patents that are searchable AND include images of the original patents. Be sure to check this out!

To figure out the set up of the Principal Meridians and Base Lines Of Illinois Counties, Townships and Ranges, we have a
map on our Schuyler County site

National Archives can be of great help to you. They house many records, important to any genealogist. A few of their main resources are Immigration , Passenger Lists and Military Files. Visit their website for more information. 

The Illinois State Historical Library (now called the Abraham Lincoln Library), just down the road from the Archives, is another great resource. They have, among other things, old newspapers that have survived over the years. To do a search to see what newspapers are available for the area in Illinois you are researching, click here to access The Illinois Newspaper Project's Database. You can purchase a roll of microfilm or request a lookup.  More information can be found at their website. Included here are a large assortment of books on Illinois and other States.  A terrific resource for anyone researching in Illinois. To read about Events in Illinois, such as slavery, the 1811/12 Earthquake, Epidemics, etc., visit the Illinois Trails Events page. To find records regarding Illinois' history, Governors, Old Laws and Trails, Institutions, Early Settlers, helpful hints and forms and so on, visit the Illinois Genealogy Trails State Data page.

Other State resources include the Illinois Genealogical Society and the Also most historical and genealogical societies have publications you can purchase. These include Census, Marriage, Cemetery, Military and other transcriptions that can help you if you can't visit the Courthouse yourself. Here's a list of Societies and their contact information, including website, if known.

The local county librarian can also be one of your resources. For a listing of Illinois Public Libraries,
click here. Located at the ISGS site online, are the listings of Libraries of Illinois. Be sure to check the Illinois Genealogy Trails County pages as well, for more information on a specific County. We are working hard to bring this type of information to you via our website.

Illinois is rich in history.  The Illinois State Museum has provided a terrific timeline that should be a great help to you.  It gives a wonderful view of different periods in Illinois history.

The Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) (*see The Illinois State Archives, IRAD section, for more information concerning your area's IRAD*), also houses County records. Their website gives you information on where to look for these records, and you can also do a search of what is available by County. We've provided you with a listing of what records are available at each County Courthouse.

Need to locate a church, cemetery or find out what county a town is located in? You can find the answers through the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). The GNIS search form can pinpoint any place in the United States. Simply use the search form, follow the directions and you should find what you are looking for.

f you're looking for a town that no longer exists, try using our transcription of the 1850 Gazeteer Atlas
For later years, here's a link to the maps contained within the
1895 Atlas. They're maps only.

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Illinois Travel Information
(Links Checked Aug 2010)

Finally, if you are planning a visit to Illinois to do research, here are a few links to Illinois Travel Information.

Enjoy Illinois - Tourism information, Trip planner, State Parks, Visitor's bureau, etc.
Illinois Travel Guide

Visiting Illinois - Links to Convention and Visitors Bureaus

Illinois Roads Info - Road Construction sites. Presented by the State of Illinois

IDOT - Illinois Department of Transportation

Illinois Airport Directory - presented by the Illinois Department of Transportation

The Illinois State Archives

IRAD -Illinois Regional Archives Depository

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Illinois Genealogy Trails Genealogy and History

State Data

Illinois Census

Illinois Military

Illinois Events

Illinois Counties

Volunteer information

Illinois Genealogy Trails Main Page 

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