Some states are very Internet-friendly when it comes to genealogy. Others, not so much. I’ve learned that Illinois is an online, database-rich state for genealogists. Maybe it is because of the sheer volume of records they must contend with or maybe it is simply a “digitization” state of mind that brought them to this point. Either way, genealogists are the beneficiary.
The Illinois Secretary of State, like most other state Secretaries of State, holds the responsibility for archiving, organizing, and making available the states records. For Illinois, the Secretary of State has teamed up with the Illinois State Archives to create a website, CyberDriveIllinois. On this site you will find a tremendous wealth of vital records and military database for the entire state.
No need here to worry about what county your ancestor was born, married, died or served our country from. The databases reflect all counties. I can’t tell you what a huge time saver this is if you don’t have all the data – specifically the “where” – for your ancestor’s life events.
Now as with all databases you want to try multiple spellings to make sure you’ve covered your bases with your research. And don’t despair if your ancestor isn’t in the database. Consider these as handy finding aids and not definitive gospel truths. Even so, it’s still worth your time and effort to write to the courthouse or state office for the record “if at first you don’t succeed.”
Some of the databases really surprised me. Illinois is the first state I’ve seen to have a slave and servitude database online! If your ancestor was an indentured servant you may be able to find them here. Brought over as an English convict? Check it out. You can read more about this on my post on white slavery. African slaves who were manumitted, look online. The other database that really stood out was the Civil War soldiers from Missouri. I’ve long known soldiers crossed state borders to serve for any number of reasons. But this is the first database I’ve seen that documents soldiers from another state.
Accessing the Records
I’ve included links below to a number of the databases for your convenience.
The Family History Library hosts a few really good databases for Illinois, too. I’ve included them in the list for ease of reference.
What’s Not Listed Below
This isn’t the complete universe of Illinois state databases online. The Illinois Secretary of State website (www.cyberdriveillinois.com) that I mentioned earlier has a number of county-specific databases. The Family History Library has more state-wide and county-specific databases. The statewide databases not included here are browse-only, which means the index isn’t up yet. And, of course, Ancestry has a big shopping list of Illinois databases. To find them go to the card catalog (Search / Card Catalog) and type in “Illinois” in the title field.
- Illinois Births and Christenings 1824-1940
- Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763–1900
- Illinois County Marriages 1810 – 1934
- Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths 1916 – 1947
- Illinois Death Certificates 1916 -1950
- Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre–1916
- Illinois Cemetery Transcriptions 1853 – 2009 (Elmwood Cemetery in Centrailia)
Servitude & Slavery
- 1929 Illinois Roll of Honor
- Illinois Black Hawk War Veterans
- Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls
- Illinois Civil War Veterans of Missouri Units
- Illinois Civil War Veterans Serving in the U.S. Navy
- Illinois Mexican War Veterans
- Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home Residents
- Illinois Spanish–American War Veterans
- Illinois Veterans’ History Project
- Illinois War of 1812 Veterans
- Illinois Winnebago War Veterans
One More Option
In case you haven’t found what you’re looking for in these databases or in the others mentioned, but not listed here, there is one more option. You can order microfilm from the Family History Library for $7.50/roll. They have more than a couple hundred microfilm sources on Illinois genealogy. You can see the list grouped by record group (church, newspaper, military, etc.) here.
I hope you’ve found some helpful resources here that make research in the Land of Lincoln a liberating experience.