Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at
Access the records: Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922 .

Collection Time Period

Cook County has recorded birth, marriage and death records since 1871, the year of the Great Chicago Fire. A few miscellaneous records exist prior to July 1871.

Record Description

Early records were kept in register books beginning in 1877. By the early 1900s most events were recorded on pre-printed forms.

Record Content

Illinois Cook County Birth Record.jpg

Key genealogical facts found in most Illinois birth records are:

  • Child’s name
  • Child’s sex and race
  • Number of children of mother
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Nationality, place of birth, and age of both parents
  • Maiden name of mother
  • Name and occupation of father
  • Name of medical attendants and address

After 1916 the following information was added:

  • Birth date
  • Birth place
  • Full names of parents
  • Birth place of parents

How to Use the Records

To begin your search, it will be helpful to know the following:

  • The birth place
  • The approximate birth date
  • The child's name

Input the information you have into the appropriate boxes on the search screen. This seach usually returns more than one result. Compare the information in the results to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. For example:

  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth of each parent to find a couple's birth records and parents' names.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records.
  • Use the parent’s birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname as the parents. This is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the records to identify siblings and other relatives who may have been born in Cook county. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.

Keep in mind:

  • The information in the records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after 1900.
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.

If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
  • If you know their religion, search for a church record of the birth.

Be aware that not all births are found in both the registers and the certificates so you may need to search both collections to find your ancestor's birth record.

For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records)

Record History

Legislation in 1819 required physicians to record births and deaths for their practices.  Then, the physicians transmitted the information to their medical society which published the information in the newspapers. In 1843 a law was passed where relatives of a deceased person could appear before the clerk of the county commissioner’s court and report information regarding the death. The recording of vital records was voluntary until 1877 so few births and deaths were recorded. A fire in 1871 destroyed the Cook County Courthouse and nearly all previous records housed there. The few existing originals that were created by the county clerk may be found in the county clerk’s office or in one of the Illinois Regional Archives Depositories (IRAD).

In 1877 the State Board of Health was created to supervise registration of births and deaths. All births and deaths were to be reported to the county clerk by physicians. However, many were still not registered because the penalties for non-compliance were weak. In 1915 the state of Illinois gave the responsibility of recording births and deaths to local registrars who reported the information to the county clerk and the State Board of Health (now known as the Illinois Department of Public Health). By 1919 it is estimated that 95% of the population was recorded in the vital records.

Generally, the natural arrangement of the birth records is by register book (usually comprising one to two years worth of births chronologically arranged). However, some months may appear more than once in a given volume.

The Cook County Clerk's Office issues certified copies of Cook County birth certificates for events that occurred in Cook County, Illinois.

Why This Collection Was Created?

Birth and deaths were recorded to better serve public health needs.

Record Reliability

Information in these records is usually reliable but is upon reliability of the informant.

Related Web Sites

Genealogy Online: Historical Cook County, Vital Records

llinois Statewide Marriage Index 1763-1900

This section of the article is incommplete. You can help FamilySearch Wiki by supplying links to related websites here.

Related Wiki Articles

Chicago Birth Certificates

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find infrmation, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections

Examples of Source Citations for a Record In This Collection

  • "Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922."  index and images, FamilySearch ( accessed 11 March 2011), entry for Jennie Blanche Norland, born 28 September 1889; citing Birth Records, FHL microfilm 4,031,039.; Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield, Illinois.

  • "Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915."  index and images, FamilySearch ( accessed 11 March 2011). entry for Alden Kent Thomas, born 18 June 1867; citing Birth Records, FHL microfilm 4,254,958: Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records, Springfield, Illinois.

Sources of Information for This Collection:

“Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922,” index and images, FamilySearch (; from Illinois Department of Public Health. “Birth and Death Records, 1916 - present." Division of Vital Records, Springfield. FHL microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch (; from Illinois Department of Public Health. “Birth and Death Records, 1916 - present." Division of Vital Records, Springfield. FHL microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.