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Local and Family History Research

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

Basic Strategies

1. Gather data

2. Use family information to delve deeper into family research

  • Locate "Vital Records" for individuals [What are vital records?]
    • Birth
    • Marriage
    • Death

Vital records are considered "primary sources" and though the physical artifacts are typically preserved in archives, many have digital counterparts that can be searched online. In Illinois, the Illinois State Archives offers a number of databases to assist in family research. Some Illinois counties such as McLean, have online indexes for records at the county level.

       Examples of Vital records

Marriage: Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900 

Death: Database of Illinois Death Certificates, 1916-1950 and Social Security Death Index, 1962-2014 

  • Search in primary sources such as census records, newspapers, maps and other government records
  • Investigate specific ethnic group resources

3. Ask for help from librarians!

  • Visit local libraries--particularly genealogical, county, and state libraries--to take advantage of local resources and local expertise! It's likely these local libraries will have sources that can augment what you've learned from family members. Many sites offer guides for researching and seeking assistance. The State of Illinois' Archives offers the following guides.