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Finding out more about Illinois genealogy usually just means a few forms sent in for vital records, or a visit to the local library or archives. There is at least 100 years worth of documented history to look through, and usually much more if you know where to look.
Illinois Vital Records
There are some privacy restrictions for getting Illinois birth, death and marriage documents, but exceptions are made for anyone researching Illinois genealogy.
Certified copies are the most restricted, and they are limited mainly to direct relatives. For genealogy purposes, you don't really need a certified copy so you can request an uncertified one. To get an uncertified birth record, you have to wait 75 years if they are still living. If you can prove that the person on record has died, then you can get copy more recent than 75 years. Death records are issued without question after 20 years have passed.
Either birth or death records can be requested from the Division of Vital Records, which is part of the larger Department of Public Health. Their website has the proper forms and current details for making your request. Marriage records are not held by this office, and can only be accessed by getting in touch with the county clerk's office of the county where the marriage is registered.
For birth and death records, you will have the best luck looking back until around 1916 though some areas by have additional records to 1877. Pre-1916 documents will have to be found through the county clerk's office as the state office does not have records that old.
The forms can be sent to the Vital Records office in Springfield, and you will need to include all the relevant dates, locations and names to specifically identify the record you need. The forms will also list what the current fees are. Birth records are currently $15 and death records are $10.
Illinois State Archives
Vital records are important but they are not everything in Illinois genealogy. You can also get a lot of good information from census records, military service records, draft cards, court files, land records and more. These are all found as part of the archives holdings.
The Archives are in Springfield, but if you are not able to visit their location in person they will do some searching and photocopying for you (for a fee). If you can go in person, they are open during regular weekday business hours.
Join a Local Society
Doing genealogy research can be difficult and having others in the same boat to turn to can be a great assistance. The Illinois State Genealogy Society is a very good resource to find others with their own collections of records for the region. Their website has some good databases available for free to anyone but members have access to additional material.
You can also delve into very specific areas of Illinois genealogy by joining one of the many county-based groups instead. Nearly every county in the state has at least one genealogy group.
Illinois Genealogy Databases
Illinois Genealogy on Other Sites
Find Illinois Societies and Biographies
Illinois Genealogy Links