Illinois Ancestors: State archives website offers unified searching

Illinois Ancestors: State archives website offers unified searching

The website of the Illinois State Archives provides an opportunity for researchers to search for any name in all of its online databases in one simple step. Go to and enter a last name, followed by a comma, and then a first name. (Or simply enter a surname; searches are not case sensitive.)

According to the site, "a list containing all databases containing the name you enter will be returned. Simply click on a database from the list which is returned to search for the person in that database."

The website also offers suggestions if a search is unsuccessful.

Beginning genealogists would be wise to check the Illinois State Archives' website at and click on Genealogical Research at the Illinois State Archives.

There, one can find more information on birth records, death records, marriage records, land records, military records, World War I draft registrations, census records, veterans records, and free pamphlets available, as well as links to other helpful websites.

Other resources

Do not be disappointed if the person you are researching does not appear in a record that you believe he should be in. For example, my great great uncle, Albert Porter, spent his last days in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Home in Danville, and yet his name is not included in the Home Residents database.

There is a most helpful set of microfilm records containing an index to residents at that home, as well as filmed pages of the Home's Registers, which contain 2 large pages of data pertaining to each of those residents. The Illiana Genealogy Library in Danville has those microfilms (thanks to the efforts of Archivist Lowell Volkel many years ago), and the state archives does as well.

One may request staff of the state archives to look up such veterans who were residents of that home (or any other specific record) by writing Illinois State Archives, Reference Unit, Margaret Cross Norton Building, Capitol Complex, Springfield, IL 62756; or phone 782-4682.

One may also submit a research inquiry electronically to the state archives by using the Archives Reference Request Form; the link is on the website.

Digital Illinois

Many Illinois libraries have been working on digitizing records, thus offering patrons access to historical documents, images, and more. Digital Illinois is a consortium of libraries (including The Illinois State Library), historical societies, museums, and other cultural institutions in Illinois.

The Illinois Digital Archives is the repository for those digitized records with a website at To view the collections, scroll down from the Abraham Lincoln documents at the Illinois State Library to the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 from the Field Museum.

Other state digital archives

To learn about digital archives in other states, visit and click on a specific state. The webmaster has 36 states linked so far; he hopes to include "hidden gems" for each state. Check back regularly; "the site will update often."

Irish lives remembered

Anyone with Irish ancestry is sure to enjoy the latest issue (as well as previous issues) of the free genealogy e-magazine, "Irish Lives Remembered," available at

This May issue includes 16 pages pertaining to tracing ancestors in County Wexford. The photo on the cover is of President John F. Kennedy "enjoying a cup of tea with his new found Irish family in his ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford in 1963."

A most informative article, "How to Trace Your Family Homestead — Insider Tips for Better Results," explains the importance of Griffiths Valuation (the Irish Emigrant Database), which "is actually a composite source comprising 300-plus books, published between 1847 and 1864 by district and in sequence (and) remains one of the 'hidden treasures' of Irish genealogy." This article includes a case study using the homestead of Kennedy's ancestors. His great grandfather, Patrick, emigrated to America in 1848.

University College Cork provides a special 15-page supplement "inviting everyone to its two Summer Schools. A perfect way to combine your genealogy and history passion with a holiday in County Cork."

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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