The Research Center has a number of resources that can help in researching Chicago family history, although we do not collect standard genealogical sources. The Newberry Library and the National Archives and Records Administration – Great Lakes Region, can also assist in your search.
We have a complete collection of Chicago city and telephone directories, dating from 1839 to the present. A searchable database for the years 1844, 1851, 1859-68, 1871, 1873, 1881, 1890, 1910, and 1917 is available in the Research Center.
We have suburban telephone directories for 1920-1971 as well as scattered holdings between 1978 and 1996.
We have Chicago criss-cross directories for 1928, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1978 to the present. You can consult the 1928 criss-cross directory on our website. We also have a few suburban criss-cross directories.
The Chicago Blue Book (1890-1916) serves as a directory of the more prominent citizens of the city, with entries organized both by name and by location.
Address Conversion Guides
When doing research on past addresses, it is important to remember
that in 1909 part of the Chicago street numbering system was altered.
In addition, over time, many Chicago street names have been changed.
Guides to street numbering and street name changes are available in the
Research Center or on our Architecture and Building History
We have Chicago Tribune and Chicago Defender databases available in the Research Center with full page and article images and searchable text.
The Research Center has an extensive collection of Chicago newspapers. Search our online catalog for specific holdings.
We have newspaper clipping files covering Chicagoans active from the 1940s to the late 1980s as well as more notable Chicagoans from earlier years. We also have clippings on businesses, community areas, streets, and churches.
The following additional resources may prove helpful in your research:
- Biographical entries in the card catalog (usually limited to birth and death dates and occupation)
- Biographical dictionaries
- Yearbooks from Chicago high schools and professional schools
- Church publications, particularly histories of individual congregations
- Material on Chicago businesses, such as trade catalogs and anniversary publications
- Material on Chicago neighborhoods, such as newspaper clipping files, photographs, published histories, fire insurance maps, and neighborhood newspapers
- Resources for researching the history of Chicago homes or buildings
Research Center staff will assist you during your visit. Staff can provide limited assistance by e-mail. For searches too extensive for staff to undertake, patrons may wish to hire a freelance researcher.
Other Sources of Genealogical Information for Chicago
Consult your local public library for general materials on family history research. Loretto Szucs's Chicago and Cook County Sources (1986) and Grace DuMelle’s Finding Your Chicago Ancestors (2005) can help you get started. The Chicago Genealogical Society (http://www.chicagogenealogy.org/) can also be a valuable resource for the family historian.
For local and family histories, census information, etc.:
Local and Family History Dept.
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, IL 60610
For Cook County birth, marriage, and death records:
Cook County Clerk
Bureau of Vital Statistics
118 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60602
For divorce, probate, and other court records:
Circuit Court of Cook County
50 W. Washington Room 1113
Chicago, IL 60602
For military, immigration and naturalization records, and census information:
National Archives and Records Administration-Great Lakes Region
7358 S. Pulaski Rd.
Chicago, IL 60629
Phone: 773.948.9019 Fax: 773.948.9050
For cemetery records:
There is no central repository for Chicago area cemetery records. You will need to contact the individual cemeteries for their records.
For information on other areas in Illinois
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
112 North Sixth Street
Springfield, IL 62701
Telephone: (217) 558-8844. Fax: (217) 785-6250
Illinois State Archives
Springfield, IL 62756
Please note that links other than those beginning with www.chicagohistory.org will take you off of the Chicago History Museum website. The Museum is not responsible for the creation, maintenance, or content of linked sites.