Illinois Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Marriage records were the first vital records kept by Illinois counties, typically commencing with the formation of the county and continuing through the present. Births and deaths were not generally recorded at the county level until 1877, and the practice was not universal until 1916. A scattering of records before 1877 may exist. The Works Projects Administration (WPA) Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in Illinois was published in 1941 and outlines available records by county. The Illinois State Archives makes available the statewide index to all Illinois marriages (1763–1900) at www.sos.state.il.us/departments/archives/archives.html. Copies of all marriage records for Illinois can be obtained through the county recorder in the county where the event occurred.
Births and deaths that were recorded prior to 1 January 1916 were only recorded at the county recorder’s office. For births and deaths prior to 1916, contact the County Recorder’s office in the county where the event took place or Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD; see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). Check the IRAD holdings to determine whether the desired county records are in its collection at www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/irad/iradholdings.html.
After 1 January 1916, it became mandatory to record births and deaths at both the county recorder’s office and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Copies of both births and deaths after 1916 may be ordered from the County Recorder where the event occurred or the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, 605 W. Jefferson St., Springfield, IL 62702-5097. There is an online statewide index for deaths that took place after 1 January 1916 up to at least fifty years ago (presently 1950) through the Illinois Death Certificate Index at the Illinois State Archives website. Pre-1916 death records are being indexed at this writing by the state archives with index data being posted on the website. Keep in mind that varying privacy concerns may impact access to both birth and death records, particularly recent ones.
Divorce records are kept by the county clerk of court. It is interesting to note that in 1868, shortly after the end of the Civil War, the city of Chicago granted 400 divorces.
Indexes for marriage and divorce records are kept by the Illinois Department of Public Health from 1962 through the present, but only verification will be made. Copies of the actual record must be requested from the appropriate county. Individuals may not search the state records. The Illinois State Archives has microfilm copies of records found in some Illinois county courthouses, mostly for southern Illinois. Researchers may use these microfilms at the archives and IRAD Centers. Staff will perform a limited amount of research in these county records in response to written requests. Inquiries may be addressed to the IRAD Coordinator, Illinois State Archives.
Ancestry.com has the following collections of Illinois vital records:
- Cook County, Illinois Birth Index, 1916-1935
- Illinois Marriages, 1790-1860
- Illinois Marriages to 1850
- Illinois Marriages, 1851-1900
- Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960
- Cook County, Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988
FamilySearch.org has a variety of Illinois collections available for free online:
- Illinois, Births and Christenings, 1824-1940
- Illinois County Marriages, 1810-1934
- Illinois, Marriages, 1815-1935
- Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947
Chicago (Cook County) records are also available at FamilySearch.org:
- Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915
- Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922
- Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920
- Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922
- Illinois Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Illinois birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.
- Illinois Marriages Search Engine - free Illinois marriages search engine that has indexed marriages posted across the web.
- Illinois Obituary and Death Notice Archive - free Illinois obituary archive that has transcribed obits from across the state.
- Illinois Library of Files - free Illinois obituary and data files archive from across the state.