Illinois Genealogy & History Guide

Illinois Genealogy Resources:




Illinois quick facts:

  • Statehood:
    December 3, 1818
  • State Capital:
  • State Nickname:
    The Prairie State
  • State Bird:
  • State Song:
  • State Flower:
    Purple Violet
  • State Tree:
    White Oak
  • State Motto:
    "State Sovereignty, National Union"

Illinois Genealogy Research Guide:

Illinois Census Records:

The first Federal census enumeration for Illinois was in 1820, 2 years after Illinois achieved statehood.  Illinois was included in Federal census records every decade thereafter.  Due to the 72 year privacy restriction, the most recent Illinois census which is public record is 1930.  The handy chart below will enable you to learn what census records are available for Illinois at a glance.

Illinois Federal Census Years:

  • 1820 Census - This is the first federal census which included Illinois state.
  • 1830 Census
  • 1840 Census
  • 1850 Census
  • 1860 Census
  • 1870 Census
  • 1880 Census - The 1880 soundex index is available on microfilm.
  • 1890 Census records were lost in a warehouse fire except for a small census fragment containing part of ED #174 of McDonough County.
  • 1900 Census  - The 1900 soundex index is available on microfilm.
  • 1910 Census  - The 1910 miracode index is available on microfilm.
  • 1920 Census  - The 1920 soundex index is available on microfilm.
  • 1930 Census  - No Soundex Index for 1930.

Other Illinois census schedules besides the regular population schedules we are familiar with include:

  • Mortality Schedules 1850-1880 (people who died during the census year)
  • Agricultural Schedules (farms 1840-1880)
  • Industry Schedules (1860-1880)
  • Social Statistics Schedules (1850-1870)
  • Dependent, Defective, and Delinquent Schedules (1880)

Although Illinois took state census enumerations for years: 1820, 1825, 1830, 1835, 1840, 1845, 1855, and 1865, the only ones which remain intact are 1820, 1855 and 1865.  Most of the county returns for years 1820, 1830, 1835, and 1845 are missing.  Half of the 1840 Illinois state census is missing.  The 1865 Illinois state census is the most complete of all of these.  It is only missing 3 counties: Gallatin, Mason and Monroe.  State censuses can be helpful in your Illinois genealogy research but.... remember.... these state censuses only contain the heads of households and numerical statistics for the other family members.

Illinois Military Records:

US Military service records can be obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The Illinois State Archives has a great many free military databases of Illinois veterans available online.  Access these databases of Illinois Veterans below.

Illinois Civil War soldiers records can be searched online at the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System but don't  consider this a definitive source.  The records held at NARA are more comprehensive.

United States Civil War Prisons has some prisoner lists online.

Illinois Vital Records:

Illinois began officially recording birth records statewide in 1916.  Incomplete birth records were recorded by county clerks in some Illinois counties as early as 1877 but these are incomplete.  Birth records from 1916 to present are on file at the Illinois Department of Public Health Vital Records Division.  Earlier Illinois birth records are on file in each individual county.

Illinois death records are on file in the Illinois Department of Public Health Vital Records Division for years 1916-1947.  Earlier records are on file in each county as early as 1877 but these are very incomplete.  The Illinois State Archives maintains databases of Illinois Death Certificates 1916-1950 and Pre 1916 Death Records.

Illinois marriage records are on file in each individual county.  Different counties began on different dates.  The Illinois State Archives has a database of marriages occurring before 1901.  See the list of counties and the corresponding date spans.

Illinois Genealogy Subscriptions Online:

Many websites with genealogy resources for Illinois are available online. Some offer free IL genealogy databases and other information for the online researcher, but the fee based subscription websites hold a more consistent amount of quality data and offer free trials to that data, giving you a chance to try it out.

1. Illinois Genealogy Databases at Ancestry

          Get the Free Trial when you register!

2. offers genealogy databases, a library and U.S. Census Collection.

         FREE TRIAL of


Illinois VioletsCondensed History of IllinoisIllinois Violets

European explorers, Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet reached Illinois soil in 1673.  By 1675, a mission was established near what is today known as Utica, IL.  This establishment came to be known as the Great Village of the Illinois. It was soon destroyed by the Iroquois Indians.

In 1680, French traders Rene Robert Cafelier, Sieur de La Salle and Henry de Tonty built a fort near what is today known as Peoria.  The fort was called Fort Crevecoeur.  Two years later in 1682, La Salle and Tonty erected Fort St. Louis across the Illinois River from the destroyed site of the Great Village of the Illinois.

The first permanent settlement of the great Illinois land occurred in 1699 with the establishment of the Holy Family mission at Cahokia.

In 1717, Illinois became part of the French colony of Louisiana after which ensued many bitter battles between the French and the Native Indians.  The French and Indian War lasted for seven years and ended in 1863 at which time, Britain took control of Illinois country.

Between 1778 and 1784, Illinois lands were under the control of Virginia.

For 13 years, between 1787 and 1800, the land was part of the Northwest Territory.  In 1800, Indiana Territory was created and included what is today known as Illinois.

In 1803, the U.S. Army established Fort Dearborn near present day Chicago and the Kaskaskia Indians ceded most of their Illinois land to the U.S.  By 1809, the Illinois Territory was carved from Indiana Territory and on December 3rd, 1818, Illinois became the 21st state to enter the Union.

The first state capital of Illinois was Vandalia which is located in present day Fayette County.  Vandalia served as the state capital of Illinois for 20 years: 1819-1839.  Today, that city contains many historical sites where you can learn more about this time during the history of Illinois.

In 1839 Springfield was named as the new state capital and the Cumberland Road is completed, allowing easier travel for westward travelers.

Farming was a principal occupation in early Illinois, with its rich, fertile farmlands.  Even today, corn, wheat, soybeans, alfalfa and hay are primary crops.  Beginning in the 1860s & 1870s, coal mining played an important role in the history of Illinois.  See more at Coal Mining in Illinois.

Today, more than 12 million people call the state of Illinois home.

ILLINOIS HISTORY FACT: The word Illinois means "Tribe of Superior Men" or "Warriors" in the Algonquin Indian language.

ILLINOIS HISTORY FACT: President Ronald Wilson Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911 in Tampico, IL.

ILLINOIS HISTORY FACT: The New Madrid earthquakes occurring between 1811 and 1812 were some of the strongest known earthquakes in the history of the United States.  It is reported the quakes were felt throughout the United States.  Learn more.

Illinois History Resources Online:


Violets courtesy of Santa Lady