I have written this column every month for the past 11 years and, in the process of researching for what to write, I learn how much I didn’t know! I have been on a multi-month odyssey looking for petitions for naturalization, and I have found out yet more new information that should make life easier.
Last month, I concluded that the only way to find Cook County Circuit Court petitions and Superior Court petitions was to order microfilm from LDS to your local Family History Center. There is an easier way! It turns out that the complete set of Cook County court petitions for naturalization are on microfilm at Northeastern Illinois University. (Sorry but they do not have the U.S. District petitions because those are federal records and this is a state archive.)
NEIU is located at 5500 N. St. Louis Ave (surrounded by Bryn Mawr, Foster, WTTW studios, and Bohemian National Cemetery). The microfilms are housed at the Ronald Williams Library on the campus. They are maintained by the Illinois Regional Archives Depository. The films and IRAD are on the lower level of the library. Critical point: Even though the library is open early, late and on weekends, the IRAD microfilms are only accessible from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, because they are staffed by state employees, not by the library itself.
Ok, now that you know this, what do you need to do? You can just show up. No appointment is necessary. Ask the staff for the microfilm that contains the petition you need. Give them the court name, the petition number and, if you have it, the LDS microfilm number found in the familysearch catalog. The microfilm boxes they bring out contain the range of petition numbers and the LDS film number printed on the box.
They have several microfilm reader/printers that autoload the film, and motorized winding of the microfilm, which makes it much easier than hand loading and winding. The equipment is in good shape and there’s rarely more than one person using it. Just forward and rewind your film until you find your petition number. (Be advised that sometimes, the petition number is crammed in the corner of the page, which was microfilmed while in a bound book. Sometimes the petition numbers are either too dark to read or completely invisible.)
As always, use the petition for naturalization to find the correct petition numbers. The numbers on the declarations of intention are completely different and there is no connection between them. For each person’s petition, the declaration and possibly other pages appear before the petition itself, so you need to skip 1-4 pages between each petition as you search.
Printed copies are 20 cents each with a minimum charge of $1. At the end of your visit, they give you an invoice and you go back to the main level circulation desk to pay for your copies.
Please be advised that the parking police there are very diligent and you need to have a parking pass on your dashboard or you will be ticketed. Cost is $5 per day. Either get one in the garage from the machine, or go to the parking office for one.
If you only have one or two records that you need, and you don’t want to drive all the way there, you can phone or mail a request (sorry no e-mail) to Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Ronald Williams Library, Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. St. Louis Ave., Chicago, IL 60625-4699.
IRAD also has Cook County marriage licenses 1871-1915, Cook County death certificates 1878-1909 outside the city of Chicago only, and Cook County birth certificates 1878-1894 outside Chicago only. Click here to see their full catalog, starting at page 60. The other counties records are held at other IRAD depositories throughout the state.
If you are looking for Superior Court petitions, it was concluded last month that it was very difficult to find the petition number and tie that number to a microfilm due to the way the catalog was created. The catalog lists volume numbers and the index lists petition numbers, and there is no connection between the two. Well, once again, I learned something new. The IRAD collection microfilm boxes list the petition numbers for all the Superior Court films along with the volume numbers. So instead of searching the familysearch index to get the petition number and then the microfilm index to get the volume number, you can skip the microfilm and just use the petition number. IRAD staff can find the correct film for you. Having copied the petition numbers and LDS microfilm numbers while I was there, I am working with staff at familysearch to get the petition numbers into their catalog so you could order microfilm from them if you wish.
Questions? E-mail Dan at email@example.com and please put “Fra Noi” in the subject line.
If you have any questions, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and please put “Fra Noi” in the subject line. Have fun!