by Martin W. Johnson
Summary of December 11, 1993, Presentation
Additional information added by Cecelia Yeruski
Birth Certificates | Marriage Certificates | Death
Certificates and Obits | Naturalization
Probate Records | Census Records | Draft Registration Cards | Land Records
Catholic Church Records | Lutheran Church Records | Cemeteries | County Histories and Atlases
Highlights of the Family History Center | Random Advice | Newspapers
Note: Throughout these pages the Belvidere Library refers to the Ida Public Library in Belvidere, IL, and the LDS Family History Center refers to the Rockford Family History Center (North Alpine and Rural)
Pretty spotty before 1877, but starting that year, many of them show where the baby's parents were born and the maiden name of the mother.
Except in Cook County, all Illinois marriage certificates since 1877 have a Board of Health form attached that asks for the town of birth, the full names of the parents, and if this is a first marriage.
Research tip: The 1900 and 1910 censuses asked how many years a couple had been married. While not always perfectly accurate, this should get you into the right range of years to search when you're looking through the indexes.
Before 1916 sometimes give state or county the person was born in. After 1915, there is a detailed form asking town born in, parents' full names, parents' places of birth, and spouse's name. Other questions, such as veteran status, number of years in the area, etc., are added in later years.
Prior to 1906, these papers would sometimes show age, port of arrival, and date of arrival in the U.S. After 1906, they specifically ask for village of birth, name of ship, and both dates and ports for departure and arrival.
Useful clue: The 1920 census asks for the year a person was naturalized. This should help you locate two important papers that were then filed during the naturalization year:
These two steps in the process may have taken place in two different states or courthouses.
Also worth noting: When immigrant wives of naturalized citizens became widows, they were required to go through the naturalization process.
Naturalizations were also done by the U.S. District Court located in Rockford.(Click here for more information.) Check both the Circuit Court and the District Court Records.
These give full date of death and exact place of death and generally provide the names and addresses of the heirs and other relatives of the deceased party. Later records even include detailed questionnaires about wives, children, and other subjects relevant to the estates.
Boone County Probate Index, through 1962, is available at the Belvidere Library, the Family History Center, and the Rockford Library.
Winnebago County Courthouse has two "A-Z" card indexes and a computer with certain years indexed. These are available in the Probate Office (part of the Circuit Clerk's Office)
Be sure to check all years, so you can be reasonably certain you're working with accurate information. One year the husband may have answered the questions, and ten years later, the wife got to do it if her husband wasn't in the immediate vicinity of the house. Ages and year of birth may vary considerably from census to census, plus the "Relationship" column may, in some years, have notations such as "adopted dtr.," "niece," "stepson," "grand-daughter," "mother-in-law " "father of head of household," etc.
Different census years asked for different things:
1850 and 1860: ask for the names of all members of the household and their relationship to the head of the household, plus the state or country of birth for each person .
1870: asks if their parents are foreign-born, etc.
1880: also asks for the state or county of birth of the parents of each person listed, even if the parents are deceased or living elsewhere. Asks if people are divorced.
1900: asks for the month and year born, the number of years married, number of children, number of children living, and year of arrival in U.S., etc.
1910: asks if a Union Veteran. There should be a check mark next to the answer to this question, because the space in this column is often used to indicate miscellaneous information. Asks number of times married.
1920: asks for year of arrival in U.S. and year of naturalization. Asks if divorced, etc.
World War I draft registration cards for Winnebago and Boone Counties are at the Family History Center.
World War II draft registration cards for elderly men (never called up) are at the Great Lakes Regional Office of the National Archives, which is located on the Southwest Side of Chicago.
Take a good look at the records for the first land a family purchased in this area. They usually indicate which county back east they have come from, as long as they had not been in this area more than a year or so.
Land sales records usually show the first name of the seller's wife.
Sometimes, these can have some really useful information. For example, parish membership lists were occasionally published, showing all the families at a given time, along with names, places of birth, dates, etc. Baptismal entries (infants, normally) and Confirmation entries (usually around age 13) typically give place of birth and parents' names.
Catholic Church records for Boone and Winnebago and several other counties are on microfilm at the Rockford Diocese vault in Rockford. However, no research may be done at the Diocesan level. You must write or visit the parish. Included in this diocese are all the Northern Illinois counties between here and the Mississippi River (Chicago and Joliet Dioceses pick up Cook, Lake, Will, Kendall, Du Page and a few other of the eastern counties.)
All of the Catholic Church records for Cook County, Milwaukee County, the Twin Cities, etc. have been microfilmed by the Mormons at their respective diocesan archives. Rockford, however, is one of a handful of Catholic dioceses that won't allow them to microfilm the old church books. I strongly recommend that you write to the Diocese of Rockford (1234 North Court Street - 61101) and let the Bishop and his staff know that you are in favor of letting the Mormons microfilm the old records. Explain to them how this would benefit everyone -- including their archivists--who would be able to refer requests in the future to the Family History Center and not have to deal with us themselves.
The Lutherans have very good membership records. Their Confirmation and death entries up to 1940 or so show the town born in.
Most of the Lutheran records for churches with Swedish members are on microfilm at the Swenson Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Also listed on the Swenson Center microfiche index: some Swedish Covenant, Baptist, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, and Methodist church records, as long as there were Swedish members of the congregations.
Many German Lutheran records were microfilmed years ago by the old A.L.C.A. synod and are now kept by the E.L.C.A. synod at their archives on the Northwest Side of Chicago.
You can see the two microfiche indexes of Lutheran church records on microfilm at the Belvidere Library and at the Family History Center. The actual microfilmed church records can be purchased from these two Lutheran archives. I would recommend that local libraries obtain copies. (Records of the two Swedish and five Norwegian churches in Belvidere and Boone County have been purchased and are at the Belvidere Library. Lots of good information in many parts of these films.)
Listings of the graves in most Boone County and Winnebago County cemeteries have been typed up. Note: Unfortunately, the Scandinavian Cemetery in Rockford, IL, has not been done.
The LDS Family History Center library at North Alpine and Rural Street in Rockford has been my best source for information, indexes, Lutheran and Catholic church records, books, etc. for the past 20 years.
Anyone visiting their facility can use the books and indexes they have there free of charge. You can also order films or fiches (from Salt Lake City) for a small shipping charge.
Included among their holdings:
Bargain of the Century! There is an "A-Z" index for 1916-1938 Illinois deaths at the Family History Center, and it gives the date and place of death. That's the good news.
The really good news, however, is that you can get copies of the death certificates from the Illinois State Archives in Springfield for only 50 cents each! The only bad news is they will allow you to order no more than two copies at a time.
If you've ever tried ordering a death certificate from other agencies, you will understand what a bargain this is. If you've got the time and the patience, collecting death certificates on all your ancestors and relatives, as well as those of people with the name surname, can yield all sorts of useful information.
* U.S. Master Social Security Death Index for deaths occurring from the early 1960s through 1991 is available in a very easy-to-use computer program. You don't need to know any computer jargon to use it; just follow the instructions on the screen as you go along. For each name you look up, it gives the year the person was born and the state in which they obtained their Social Security card. Also given are the month and year they died and the ZIP Code and date of death.
* Hamburg Passenger Lists: They have all the indexes, for both direct and indirect routes, plus the actual passenger lists from Hamburg, for the years 1850 through 1880.
* Wisconsin Information: Many Boone and Winnebago County residents got married in or retired to Rock and Walworth counties in our neighbor state to the north. The Family History Center has the microfiche birth, marriage, and death index for Wisconsin through 1906. Unfortunately, the marriage indexes for those counties from "Racine" to the end of the alphabet are not in this particular microfiche collection. Thus, to find Rock and Walworth County marriages, you have to look at several separate 16mm indexes, which are available at the Rockford Family History Center.
* Other Illinois Counties: They also have the indexes and actual marriage records on microfilm for McHenry, Kane, Ogle, and other counties along with other area records.
* Miscellaneous Goodies: Check the red spiral notebook for an updated computer printout of films they have by country, state, or county. They also have a numerical microfilm index and microfiche number list showing what's available at the Center. Don't forget to look through their "A-Z" patrons' drawers and various other drawers at the Center. Any microfiche items that are ordered by patrons stay there. As a result, they have hundreds of microfilms, many of which are on indefinite loan. Included in the microfiche collection is a catalogue of what's available in Salt Lake City, arranged by area.
The A.I.S.I. census indexes for 1790 through 1850 are on microfiche and are grouped by regions, rather than states, saving you lots of time checking through the index books of several states. There is also a Family Registry Microfiche Index, with the names of ancestors being traced and who is tracing them. The application form for this program is usually on microfiche, and this can yield some valuable information.
They have a microfiche index of European church records and court house records, etc. that are available on microfilm. (Most church records are indexed under the name of the parish location rather than the name of the small village(s) that might supply the church with parishioners.)
There is an Author/Title index available on microfiche, plus a surname index of books that have been published about families.
Their computers have an ancestral file, which anyone can be added to by submitting computer disks of pedigree charts and family group sheets. (This is a relatively new project that is gaining momentum as more and more people get "computer-literate.")
* All cemeteries, no matter how small, should be walked and have lists of graves typed up.
* Church records should be microfilmed and made accessible at several archives and libraries.
* Courthouses in Northern Illinois that have records on microfilm at IRAD facilities:
* Courthouses in Northern Illinois that have many of the above records on microfilm at Salt Lake City:
If you have questions or comments about any of the above points, I invite you to call or write.
Martin W. Johnson
514 West Menominee Street
Belvidere, Illinois 61008
Newspapers published in Boone County are available at the Ida Public Library in Belvidere. The Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield, IL, has copies of some the the oldest papers published in Boone County.
Newspapers published in Winnebago County are at several locations. Rockford newspapers are at the Rockford Public Library and include some Swedish language newspapers. Pecatonica newspapers are at the Pecatonica Public Library. The Loves Park Post newspaper is at the North Suburban Library in Loves Park. Newspapers published in Camp Grant and also some of the old editions of several other papers are available at the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield, IL.
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