Illinois Church Records

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Illinois Wiki Topics
Illinois flag.png
Beginning Research
Record Types
Illinois Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

In the decades following statehood, the largest religious groups in Illinois were the Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches. These groups came primarily from the southern states. At the same time, Congregationalists, Lutherans, and members of the Reformed faiths came from the eastern states. Roman Catholics became numerous in Illinois after 1860, especially in the northern industrial areas. Several counties in the northeastern part of the state became havens for Lutheran Scandinavians.[1]

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Look for online records.[edit | edit source],, and can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Caution sign.png

Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:

  1. Near matches: Researchers might mistakenly accept an entry very similar to their ancestor, thinking it is the only one available. Only use information that matches your ancestor in date, place, relationships, and other details.
  2. Stopping research: Researchers might assume the database proves church records do not exist. Actually the record is still out there, just not in this incomplete collection of records. Keep searching!

Illinois Statewide Marriage Index[edit | edit source]

Genealogy Trails[edit | edit source]

Catholic[edit | edit source]

Catholic Heritage Archive

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

Methodist[edit | edit source]

Other Collections[edit | edit source]

Look for digital copies of church records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the state, county, or town.
  • If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
  • Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
  • To find records:
a. Click on the records of United States, Illinois.
b. Click on Places within United States, Illinois and a list of counties will appear.
c. Click on your county if it appears.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Click on Places within United States, Illinois [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]

These aids generally provide lists of records that are known to exist and information on their location.

for Primitive Baptist Churches in Illinois by County. Lists churches, their history, and surnames of member families.

Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
  • Each denomination page offers an online address directory of local churches for that denomination.

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.

Here you will find archive information unique to the state. Many more archives are kept by denomination. For denominational archives, go to Searching for Church Records by Denomination.

Illinois State Genealogical Society
P. O. Box 10195
Springfield, IL 62791-0195

Telephone: (217) 789-1968

Illinois State Archives

St. Louis County Library[edit | edit source]

History & Genealogy
St. Louis County Library

1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard
St. Louis, Missouri 63131

Phone: 314-994-3300

Baptist[edit | edit source]

for Primitive Baptist Churches in Illinois by County. Lists churches, their history, and surnames of member families.

Disciples of Christ[edit | edit source]

Evangelical[edit | edit source]

  • History of the Illinois Conference of the Evangelical Church 1837-1937 ICE Church Records 1837-1937: This index names persons who were associated with the development of this German-speaking church denomination within the northern part of Illinois from the 1840s to 1937 and the capacity in which they were associated. Those persons were primarily clergymen, but early church founding members and others are often named.

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

A bibliography of Illinois Lutheran Church Records and Histories can be found at The Lutheran Genealogy.

History & Genealogy
St. Louis County Library

1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard
St. Louis, Missouri 63131

Phone: 314-994-3300

ELCA Region 5 Archives
Wartburg Theological Seminary
333 Wartburg Place
Dubuque, IA 52003-5004

Phone:(563) 589-0320

  • Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church.

Methodist[edit | edit source]

Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference
United Methodist Church Historical Society
1211 North Park Street
Bloomington, Illinois 61701
Phone: (309) 828-5092, ext. 227

Records cover central and southern Illinois as well as records of some disbanded congregations. Members of the staff will do some searching of those records for a small fee.

Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary
Attn: Archives
2121 Sheridan Road
Evanston, Illinois 60201
Phone: (847) 866-3909

The Archive of the Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary houses the records of the Northern Illinois Conference of the Evangelical Methodist Church. In addition to records of disbanded churches, it has records of many Scandinavian congregations. Selected records of the archive have been microfilmed and are in the Family History Library collection.

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

Ecclesiastical Province of Chicago map 1.png

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Archives and Records Center of the Archdiocese of Chicago
Attn: Assistant Research Archivist
711 West Monroe
Chicago, Illinois 60661
Phone: (312) 534-4400
Fax: (312) 831-0610

The diocese includes the counties of Cook and Lake

Diocese of Belleville
Catholic Pastoral Center
2620 Lebanon Avenue, Building 6
Belleville, IL 62221
Phone: 618-722-5057
Fax: 618-235-7115

The diocese includes the counties of: Alexander, Clay, Clinton, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Marion, Monroe, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, Saline, St. Clair, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White, and Williamson[2]

Diocese of Joliet
425 Summit St.
Joliet, IL 60435
Phone: 815-221-6100

The diocese includes the counties of: DuPage, Ford, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall, and Will.[2] The 1859 records of St. Anne’s Church, which stood in what is now Richton Park, along with the two Mission churches of St. James in Strassburg and St. Boniface in Monee, are included in this Diocese's records.

Catholic Diocese of Peoria
419 NE Madison Avenue
Peoria, IL 61603
Phone: (309) 671-1568

The archives has records for some closed parishes. For open parishes, contact the local parish.
The diocese includes the following counties: Bureau, Champaign, DeWitt, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Knox, LaSalle, Livingston, Logan, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Peoria, Piatt, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell, Vermilion, Warren and Woodford.[2]

Diocese of Rockford
555 Colman Center Drive
P.O. Box 7044
Rockford, IL 61108
(815) 399-4300
The archives has records for some closed parishes. For open parishes, contact the local parish.
The diocese includes the counties of:Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Kane, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, and Winnebago.[2]

Diocese of Springfield
Catholic Pastoral Center
1615 West Washington St.
P.O. Box 3187
Springfield, Illinois 62708-3187
Phone: (217) 698-8500

The diocese includes the counties of: Adams, Bond, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jasper, Jersey, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Moultrie, Pike, Sangamon, Scott, and Shelby.[2]

United Church of Christ[edit | edit source]

History & Genealogy
St. Louis County Library

1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard
St. Louis, Missouri 63131

Phone: 314-994-3300

Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:

Next, go to the Wiki article for your ancestors' denomination.[edit | edit source]

There are frequently additional, nationwide or regional archives and online collections for each denomination. Find the article for your ancestors' denomination and follow the instructions there to access these sources.

Wiki Articles for Records of Major Religious Denominations

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Illinois Genealogy Resources, Church and Religious Records
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.