Familysearch opens the door, and its many volunteer indexers, have done it again!

On July 18, a block of new indexed birth and death records appeared on that will help Chicago genealogists. There's a backstory to it but I'll keep it brief. microfilmed the Cook County birth records (1878-1922), marriages (1871-1920) and deaths (1878-1947) years ago. When the website went up, they posted the images of those documents and indexed the records for easy location.

But Cook County, not surprisingly, wanted to charge $15 per copy of these records and was not thrilled to lose a revenue stream to, which made the images available for free. So they used legal tactics to make renegotiate their contract, while forcing them to remove the free images from their site. As part of the deal, the microfilm will still be available and additional records would be indexed after the 1922 and 1947 dates. So far they have not added any new marriages. They are scheduled to add births to the index (1923-1938). So far as of this writing (Aug. 13) they've added 1923-1924 for Chicago, and many years from 1923-1938 for the suburbs, but not all of them. As new records are indexed, they should be added and you can find more of the people you're looking for. They plan to add all Cook County deaths 1959-1994 to this index. (Why not 1948-1958?) So far they have 1959-1964 and 1976-1994 for Chicago only.

I'll keep you informed of new data so you can search it when it makes sense to do so. It is frustrating to be told that the index is 1923-1938, then search it and find no one because they haven't loaded those years yet. But that's the way these indexes work. They would rather load a partial index and please some of the people some of the time, and cheese the rest of us off, than to cheese off everybody.

So what will you find in the index? The birth index will show the name, parents (including mother's maiden name), birthdate and city of birth. It has helped me confirm that certain people were born in Chicago, Oak Park or Evanston, for example. The census only tells us they were born in Illinois, Ohio or Italy. If they were born in Illinois, this index will help make that data more complete. The index does not have images of the certificates themselves, for the reasons already explained. It lists a "digital folder number" and an "image number," which is how the Family History Library in Salt Lake City catalogs the digitally photographed images. (The indexes for older records list the microfilm number and the certificate number.) The death records are the same: The index shows the name, date of death, parents, birth date, birthplace, and even cemetery name. This has been very helpful finding the cemetery names for some people whose death notices say "interment private" and are not found in Catholic cemetery kiosks. It also helps using the parents' names to rule out which ones are their kids and which aren't.

Much of this data is already indexed on, the Cook County official website for buying copies of vital records. However, the index just has the name, event (birth, marriage or death) and the date. If you're looking for John Smith born around 1926, Cook County might have seven of them. The index on familysearch should eventually have the same seven, but with the parents listed in the index, you can pick the right date and order the right copy from Cook County if you need to.

To find this data get into Then click "Search" and select "Records" from that drop down. You'll end up on a search screen with a first and last name but please do not use this screen yet. First on the world map, click on somewhere in the United States. Then click on Illinois from the U.S. state list. THEN click "Start researching in Illinois."

Now either click on Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates 1878-1938 or Illinois Cook County Deaths 1878-1922, 1959-1994.

...or you can just click here:

Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1938

Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922, 1959-1994

Once you're there, you will see a screen where you can type the names.

You can also click on "Spouse" or "Parents" to limit your search to people with a certain spouse or set of parents respectively. If you click on Birth or Death down below, it will allow you to limit the years in the search. So you can find only a Giuseppe Volpe who died between 1960 and 1964, for example.

Now you'll see the search results and decide whether you want to see more detail about the Joseph Volpe who died in 1964. (It does quite well giving you results that include ethnic variations. A search for Giuseppe will find Joe and Joseph. A search for Giovanni will find John or Jon.)

It is recommended to click on his name on the left to see more detail.

This will not take you to to buy this certificate, but you can be a lot more certain that you will receive the certificate for the right person because you found it in familysearch.

Write to Dan at and please put "Fra Noi" in the subject line.