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CGS Virtual Meet-Up – “Ask the Expert” About Chicago Property Records

9 Jun 2020 4:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

CGS Virtual Meet-Up – “Ask the Expert” About Chicago Property Records – June 25 at 7:00pm CDT

With Craig Pfannkuche

Chicago/Cook County property records are a wonderful source of data for family history researchers. This is so, in part, because the property records for Cook County are kept in a “Torrens” form. In every other county in Illinois, property records are organized alphabetically and chronologically. This certainly makes it easy to find a specific land seller (grantor) or buyer (grantee) on a specific data. It needs to be remembered that, because Chicago was settled in a very ethnic manner with different sections of the city hosting different ethnicities to a great degree, many relatives, when they came to the city, tended to move in very closely to that earlier immigrant family member. What the Torrens system allows, which the other system does not, is for a researcher to actually “walk the streets” of a neighborhood in a specific year looking for the names of relatives. The records allow one to figuratively walk down a street seeing who all is living on a street in any specific time period.

There is a second very important reason why Cook County property records should be of great interest to family history researchers. Often, when a person dies, the family property is passed on to the next generation; sometimes to a married daughter of the property owner.  One can, by looking at the records, discover married family members who can not be found in the “Index to Illinois Marriages.”  Upon occasion, as in the presenter’s case, an adult child who got the property was “blackballed” by her siblings because she, and not other family members, got the property.  The presenter’s parents never once mentioned that married daughter’s family name until the presenter came across it in the property records.

There is a third extremely important reason to do research in Cook County property records. Remembering that deaths were not required to be “registered” in Illinois until 1916, those who died while owning property most often had their “estates” go through probate.  The property records make note of deaths which are not listed in the “Index to Illinois Deaths.”  One might think that relatively poor people in Chicago did not own property but, because of Samuel Gross, Chicago “cottages” were much more widely available than is usually thought to low income workers in the 1880’s and beyond. Further, property records can indicate whether there were “bad guys” on one’s family tree.

This presentation will discuss these things in some detail. Additionally, the presentation will discuss the method which one must know in order to search property records as well as where this work can be done. While one can use a “Property Index Number (PIN)” to find information about a specific piece of property, the presenter will discuss the use of the Sidwell maps to find neighborhood properties even if a specific address and/or PIN number is not known.  It is a most interesting and exciting method for a researcher to use.

Registration is required via the Chicago Genealogical Society website under Events. At the time of registration, you will have the opportunity to submit a question to the expert. They will try to incorporate submitted questions into the talk and will answer as many questions as time allows after.

This talk will take place virtually via ZOOM. All people registered will receive an email a few days before the event with log-in instructions and a link. This information is not to be shared. If you are not familiar with ZOOM, we suggest you watch this YouTube video ahead of time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9isp3qPeQ0E  

The talk will be recorded and uploaded to the members only section of the CGS website for future viewing.



Chicago Genealogical Society is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.  Address: PO Box 1160, Chicago, IL  60690-1160

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