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Local and Family History Research

A guide for beginners in searching local or family history using government and association sources.

Tips from Federal Agencies

Census Materials

Federal Census search
Every ten years since 1790, the federal government has taken a census to enumerate the population. Census enumerators would canvass their districts house-to-house, collecting information about individuals and households on large forms called population schedules. Milner owns all the available decennial population schedules for Illinois from 1820 through 1930 (in microfilm on floor 4) and provides online access to the 1940 and 1950 censuses. Milner also owns other state population schedules for selected years. We have selected print indexes for Illinois and other state censuses.

City Directories

City directories are usually published annually for many cities across the nation and give a detailed view for that city. Directories list households and businesses by street address within the community. For researchers, the yearly information can fill the gap left by the decennial censuses.

American Directories through 1860. Microfiche E154.5 .A5, Onsite Storage--A large set of city directories includes several Illinois cities and counties.

United States City Directories (1861-81, 1882-1901). Microfilm E154.5 .A52, Onsite Storage--Sets includes directories for about 80 major cities in the U.S. Illinois cities include Chicago, Joliet, and Peoria.

Bloomington-Normal City Directory, et al. The McLean County Museum of History digitized directories from 1855-1920. Links lead to the Internet Archive. You can also see them listed at the Internet Archive page.

Print F549 .B65, Floor 4 and Special Collections.--Volumes from 1953 to the present are located on the 4th floor with earlier volumes located in Special Collections. The earliest volumes date back to the 1870s. Street indexes to Bloomington have been published since 1893. Normal streets were added to the street index in 1920.

County Histories

Milner Library holds many bound volumes of Illinois county histories, published in the late 1800s and early 1900s. All are listed in our Catalog. Most are located in the call number area F547 and are on the 3rd floor. County histories include biographical profiles of community members. We also acquire volumes covering historic research on Illinois counties with emphasis on McLean County, Illinois.

Illinois County and Regional Histories of the Old "Northwest." Microfilm F541 .C6, Onsite Storage.--In addition to county histories, this set also contains biographical records, plat books and atlases for various counties. An index is available in the Reference Collection, F541 .C6. Please seek assistance at the Reference Desk.

Digitized Newspapers

Microfilm Newpapers

Milner Library has a variety of local, regional and national newspapers, many extending back to the nineteenth century.

Bloomington Leader (Bloomington) 1870–97, 2nd floor microfilm (Encompasses Bloomington Daily Leader, Bloomington Leader, Daily Leader, and Weekly Leader)

Daily Bulletin (Bloomington) 1881–1927, 2nd floor microfilm

Pantagraph (Bloomington) 1853–present, 2nd floor microfilm

Normalite (Normal) 1929–present, 2nd floor microfilm

Chicago Defender 2010–present, 2nd floor microfilm [Also available online]

Chicago Tribune 2012–present, 2nd floor microfilm.  [Also available online]

Illinois State Journal (Springfield) 1836–1974, 2nd floor microfilm

Illinois State Register (Springfield) 1852–1900, 2nd floor microfilm

State Journal Register (Springfield) 1974–1980, 2nd floor microfilm

New York Times 2017–present, 2nd floor microfilm [Also available online]

Questions? Contact me!

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Angela Bonnell
Milner Library, Office #417
309 438-2354