Illinois Biography

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United States Gotoarrow.png Illinois Gotoarrow.png Illinois Biography

Ronald Reagan with family - 1916-1917
Biographies provide useful genealogical information such as a person’s birth date and place; names of family members, including maiden names; education; occupation; and social, political, and religious affiliation. They may also contain a physical description of the person, previous residences, and immigration information. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research about early settlers and prominent citizens of a state, county, or town. Local histories may contain biographical sketches of lesser-known people.

Major Biographical Collections

Two major archives and libraries in Illinois have biographical indexes to local histories and other sources in their collections. The Illinois State Archives has card indexes to biographies (not every name) found in selected local histories. The archives also have most of the collection of county biographical volumes edited by Newton Bateman, titled Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (subtitles, places, and dates of publication vary by county). Many of these are also at the Family History Library. See Illinois History for more information about this source.

  • Bateman, Newton, et. al. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois. Chicago, Illinois: Munsell Pub., 1908.WorldCat 657034755FHL Book 977.31/E1 H2e First of 47volumes available at the Family History Library.

The Illinois State Historical Library, a division of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, has an extensive collection of local histories. It has a biographical card index to about 10,000 Illinoians featured in local histories and other sources. The library also has every-name indexes to some of the histories. Many of its printed sources are available through interlibrary loan, and the library will do limited searches for a fee. Excellent collections are also at the Newberry Library. See Illinois Archives and Libraries for addresses.

Biographical Encyclopedias

Examples of statewide biographical encyclopedias are:

Encyclopedia of Biography of Illinois. Three Volumes. Chicago, Illinois: Century Publishing and Engraving, 1892–1902. FHL Film 1421972 Items 5–7; FHL Book 977.3 D3e

The United States Biographical Directory and Portrait Gallery of Eminent Self-made Men, Illinois Volume. Two Volumes. Chicago, Illinois: American Biographical Publishing, 1876. FHL Fiche 6048198 First of 8; FHL Book 977.3 D3u This book is a reprint of the 1883 edition, published under a slightly different title. FHL Film 1000172 Item 2

Illinois Biographical Dictionary: People of All Times and All Places Who Have Been Important to the History and Life of the State. New York, New York: Somerset, 1993.FHL Book 977.3 D36i

The Biographical Encyclopedia of Illinois of the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Galaxy Pub., 1875.FHL Film 1000172 Item 1

See the United States Biographies for information on nationwide biographical collections. See also the "History" and "Genealogy" sections for additional sources.

The Family History Library has many collected biographies and local or county histories with biographical sketches on residents.

  • To find additional biographical sources in the Family History Library Catalog, use the Place Search function. For example: Access the Family History Library Catalog. Type the word "Illinois" in the place search, then click Search; then locate Biography; or type 'Illinois, the name of the county" then click Search; then locate Biography. To explore each biography title, click on the highlighted blue title.
  • To find biographies and published family histories on specific surnames in the Family History Library Catalog, use a Last names Search.

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