Records of marriage were kept on the county level from the time when the county was formed, in most cases. However, most counties did not begin recording deaths and births until 1877. It wasn’t until 1916 that all counties consistently recorded those records. There may be some records available of deaths and births before 1877, but they are few and far between. In 1941 the “Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in Illinois” was published by the Works Projects Administration
(WPA). It lists each county’s available records as of that time. An index to Illinois marriage records from 1763 to 1900 can be found at the Illinois State Archives. Each county’s recorder can also supply copies of marriage records from that county.
Any deaths or births that were recorded before January 1, 1916 were recorded in the recorder’s office of the given county. That office should be contacted for those records. However, many records can also be found through IRAD (Illinois Regional Archives Depository). Researchers should check with IRAD to see if its holdings include the records of interest.
From January 1, 1916 onward, all deaths and births were required to be recorded at the Illinois Department of Public Health and the county recorder’s office in the county where the event took place. The Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records or the county recorder’s office can supply copies of those records. Deaths that occurred after January 1, 1916 until about 1950 have been places in a statewide online index. It can be found on the website for the Illinois State Archives and is called simply “Illinois Death Certificate Index.” The Illinois State Archives is also currently working on creating an index of deaths that took place before 1916. However, recent death and birth records, as well as some earlier records, may be restricted for privacy.
The county clerk of the court holds divorce records for the county. Researchers may also find it useful to know that 400 divorces took place in Chicago around 1868, after the Civil War ended.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has divorce and marriage record indexes on file that cover 1962 to the present day. However, copies of those records can only be obtained from the original counties where the events were recorded. State records are not available to individual researchers. Some Illinois county courthouse records, especially from the southern part of the state, can be found on microfilm at the Illinois State Archives. IRAD Centers can also give researchers access to those records. Researchers may also submit information requests in writing to the IRAD Coordinator, Illinois State Archives.