Illinois Vital Records

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Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on researching and using vital records. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Public Records or the county clerk's office of the county where the event occurred.

Vital Records Reference Dates

Illinois' vital records start the following years:

Births Marriages Deaths
Earliest 1877* County Formation 1877*
Statewide Registration 1916 1962 1916
General Compliance 1922 1877 1919

* A few Illinois counties kept birth and death records before this date.

Searching Online Records[edit | edit source]

Some Illinois Vital Records are indexed and can be searched online at sites including the Illinois State Archives, FamilySearch, . After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.

Birth Records[edit | edit source]

Birth Records reveal
Yes or Maybe
 Y  M
Name of Child Green check.png  
Birth Date and Place Green check.png  
Parent's Names Green check.png  
Mother's Maiden Name Green check.png  
Parent's Ages   Green check.png
Parents' State or Country of Birth Green check.png  

Online Birth Records

  • 1877-1940 Most entries were indexed from microfilmed county records. 28 counties are missing from this index (Aug 2014). For a list of counties included, see Coverage Table
  • 1842-1872 Indexed from Illinois births, prior to act, excluding Chicago: 1842, 1849-1872, microfilmed records. See FHL film 1992052 (first of 6 films)
  • 1824-1940 Includes entries indexed from church records or submitted by individuals.

Births 75 years or older

Birth Records Timeline

  • 1843 Legislation, a parent could report a birth to the county. However, very few births were recorded in only a few scattered counties.
  • 1877 The State Board of Health required all births be reported to the county clerk, although many were not reported because compliance was not enforced. [1]
  • 1916 Statewide registration of vital statistics began in 1916 and was generally complied with by 1922.
    • These usually give the name and sex of the child; the names, birthplaces, and ages of the parents (with the mother’s maiden name); the occupation of the father; and the number of children born to the mother.
    • Birth records of adopted children may give the birth parents but have frequently been amended to show only the adoptive parents.
    • 75-year restriction on obtaining birth records for deceased persons. Exception: immediate family members.
    • Request a special form from Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records.[2]

Delayed Birth Records[edit | edit source]

Delayed registrations of births were made when the individual applied, usually as an adult. An advantage is that they had to provide evidence to support the birth, which often included the testimony of a close relative or a church or Bible record.

The records can be located in the county where the birth occurred or the county of residence in the state when the individual applied for the delayed birth record. Some delayed birth records can also be found at Illinois Regional Archives Depository System (IRAD) depositories and the Family History Library (FHL).

Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

The county clerk usually kept marriage records from the time the county was organized. A few records date from the 1790s.

Several types of marriage records were kept, although sometimes only one type of marriage record was preserved or filmed:

  • Marriage registers before 1877 provide the date of marriage, names of the bride and groom, and the person who performed the marriage. Starting in 1877, pre-printed marriage register books in Illinois provided columns for ages, residences, birth places, and sometimes the names of the parents or guardians of the bride and groom.
  • Marriage returns were reported by the minister or Justice of the Peace who performed the marriage. County histories or city directories can be checked to learn which religion and congregation a minister served. Ministers’ returns may reveal that the marriage took place in a private residence, often the home of a parent or relative.
  • Marriage licenses or applications couples were not required to obtain a marriage license until 1877.

The counties continue to record marriages to the present day and only county clerks can issue certified copies of the marriage certificate.

A statewide register of marriages was started on 1 January 1962 as county clerks forwarded marriage information to the Illinois Department of Public Health. For a fee, the Division of Vital Records can search their statewide register and provide the marriage date and county for couples married after 1962.

Online Marriage collections

Gretna Greens:

When an Illinois eloping couple's marriage is not in their home county, search for it in alternate places like Crown Point, IN, or South Bend, IN, or Evansville, IN, or Lee County, Iowa Genealogy.[3] Also check counties that "neighbor" the home county.

Death Records[edit | edit source]

Death records are available in the following:

  • Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)
    • Orders can be made online, by mail, by fax, or in person. Application Form
    • Requirements include: decedent's full name, date of death, city and county where death occurred (if known), your relationship to the decedent, reasons for requesting record and a legible/readable copy of your valid photo identification card.
    • A genealogical copy is less expensive than a certified copy.
    • The "Tips" section at the bottom of their webpage mentions misspellings, incorrect data, erroneous entries, and that some 1936 deaths are listed as occurring in 1935.
  • Illinois State.
    • Only 1916 to 1947 are currently available.
    • Order online.
  • Illinois State Archives Reference Room (ISA)
    • Records for deaths that occurred more than 50 years ago.
    • The following is required: decedent's name, date of death, name of county (and if provided, township of death), and death certificate number.

Online Death Records

Fetal Deaths Parents can request a copy of a "Certificate of Birth Resulting in a Stillbirth." A "Fetal Death Certificate" is issued and you must have a direct connection to the fetus, or written authorization from a family member[4]

Death Records reveal
Yes or Maybe
 Y  M
Name of Deceased Green check.png  
Death Date and Place Green check.png  
Age or Birth Date and Place Green check.png  
Parent's Names Green check.png  
Mother's Maiden Name Green check.png  
Name of Spouse   Green check.png
Residence Green check.png  
Occupation Green check.png  

Death Records Timeline

  • 1843 Legislation, members of a family could report a death to the county. However, very few deaths were recorded and only a few scattered counties have incomplete records.
  • 1877 The State Board of Health required all deaths to be reported to the county clerk, although many were not reported because compliance was not enforced.[5]
  • 1916 death records were mandated by the state with copies sent to the state capital. Compliance to this law reached 95% by 1919.[6]
    • These may give additional information, such as the city or town of birth, the informant (who may be a close relative), and the length of residence in the state or county.
    • Sometimes burial information, the cause of death, and the names of the physician and mortician are provided.

Cause of Death[edit | edit source]

  • Causes of Death - use this resource when trying to interpret a disease or medical condition listed on a death record or certificate

Divorce Records[edit | edit source]

In the early 1800s, the legislature, the circuit courts, and city courts granted divorces. Illinois divorce records may indicate the date and place the marriage was dissolved. Circuit or city courts have handled most divorce proceedings. The Superior Court of Cook County in Chicago also has jurisdiction over divorces.

The actual records before and after 1962 are available in the county where the divorce occurred. Contact the county clerk of the circuit court for certified copies of dissolution of marriage records. Click here for a list of the circuit court clerks. For a fee, the Division of Vital Records can verify the dissolution of marriages after 1961 if the husband's last name is known. Some divorce records are also available from the Illinois Regional Archives Depository System (IRAD) and the FamilySearch Catalog.

Adoption Records[edit | edit source]

See Illinois Adoption Research.

Start with Vital Records[edit | edit source]


It is usually best to start a vital records search using one of the online links listed above. Original records were officially recorded in the county (except for those recorded in Chicago). Links to county pages appear in the box at the end of this article. Statewide vital records are available at the following locations:

Additional Helps[edit | edit source]

Tips[edit | edit source]

  • Information listed on vital records is given by an informant. Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record. The closer the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) and whether or not the informant was present at the time of the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the record.
  • If you are unable to locate vital records recorded by governments, search for church records of christening, marriage, death or burial. A family Bible may have been used to record births, marriages and deaths. Other substitute records.
  • Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records. Copies of some vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailable to anyone except a direct relative.

Burned, Lost, or Missing Records[edit | edit source]


For a list of record loss in Illinois counties see the following:

Alternative Records[edit | edit source]

These links will take you to wiki pages describing alternate sources for birth, marriage and death records.

  • Church Records: Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
  • Cemetery Records: Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information. These records may also reveal family relationships.
  • Census Records: Census records are a valuable source for birth and marriage information. You may also determine approximate time of death when the individual disappear from the census. This is a good place to begin a search.
  • United States Social Security Administration Records: The SSDI indexes deaths for those who had social security numbers and the death was reported to the Social Security Administration. Most records start in 1962.
  • Newspapers: Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices. Also check newspaper social columns for additional information.
  • Obituaries: Obituaries found in newspapers can list the age of the deceased, birth date and place, death date and place, and names of living relatives and their residences.
  • Periodicals: Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
  • Military Records: Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information. In addition, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
  • Probate Records: If no death record exists, probate records may be helpful in estimating when an individual has died. Probate records in the 20th Century often contain the exact death date.
  • History: Local histories, family histories and biographies can all be sources of birth, marriage and death information. Often this information is found in county-level records or in surname searches of the FamilySearch Catalog.

More Online Illinois Vital Records Links[edit | edit source]

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

Illinois County Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)

References[edit | edit source]

  3. Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at accessed 8 January 2011).
  4. “United States Fetal Death Records,” Lake Superior Roots, v 29, no 2. (Marquette, Michigan: Marquette County Genealogical Society, 2016), 11.
  5. [1]
  6. Schweitzer, George K, Illinois Genealogical Research (Knoxville, TN: George K. Schweitzer, 1997)

You can learn more about state and county vital records as well as the laws of Illinois affecting them in:

[Category:Illinois Vital Records]]