Chicago Genealogical Society


  • 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.  

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

  • 19 May 2020 5:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    6 June 2020 at 1:30pm

    Chicago Genealogical Society Webinar: 

    Travels with My Sister:  Genealogical Journeys 

    Our speaker will be Caron Brennan.

    Traveling to a significant location in your personal history can be a very satisfying experience. Seeing the homes of your ancestors, walking the paths of your people and seeing the geography that informed their existence can be moving as well as helpful to understanding them. This presentation uses Caron's real-life adventures of traveling to do genealogical research.

    Caron loves history, biography, puzzles and a good mystery, which makes her perfectly suited to genealogy research!  She has been researching her family history since a 6th grade school project got her interested. Caron’s only vice is genealogy so she has subscriptions to many resources including,,,, and She is also a big fan of free sites, her most used being

    Caron belongs to several local and regional genealogy groups as well as being a member of the Genealogical Speakers Guild and a Professional Member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.  She is currently the Society Liaison for the Illinois State Genealogical Society; Facilitator for the Chicago Region of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and Web Master for the Chicago Genealogical Society.  She previously held Board positions at the Illinois State Genealogical Society, the Chicago Genealogical Society and CAGGNI (the Computer-Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois).

    When not working at her day job, researching her own family tree or making genealogy presentations, Caron may be researching for others or writing for her blogs! 

    The program handout will be posted in the members only section of the CGS website the day before the webinar under the Webinar Archive tab.

    The webinar will be recorded and saved in the members only section of the CGS website for future viewing.

    Registration is required.

    Please register for Travels with My Sister:  Genealogical Journeys with Caron Brennan on Jun 6, 2020 1:30 PM CDT at: 

    After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

    Brought to you by GoToWebinar®

    Webinars Made Easy®

  • 6 May 2020 4:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2020 Chicago Family History Research Sites Guide

    Find suggestions for tracing your Chicago family history in our City’s fine repositories, as well as a summary of their holdings. There are, of course, additional genealogical resources in the city, but those listed here are basic starting points. Directions from Downtown using public transit are also included.

    Start today planning your next Chicago research trip now so when the stay-at-home order is lifted you will be ready to go!

    You can find the guide on our website. Go to the Chicago Genealogical Society’s website at  Select the Research Tab on the top bar and then select “Chicago and Cook County”. You will find “Chicago Family History Research Sites” and a link to a .pdf.

    Good luck with your research!

  • 1 May 2020 10:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Where Did Grandpa Go? Using Maps to Solve Genealogical Problems. Our Speaker will be Ginger Frere.

    Using case studies, Ginger Frere will demonstrate ways in which a wide variety of maps can be used to solve genealogical mysteries. Learn how to break down brick walls caused by boundary changes, look at migration paths, and find the exact location of where your ancestors lived.

    Ginger Frere, MLIS, MBA, is a professional researcher who provides a variety of services to authors, historians, film makers and individuals interested in genealogy. Her primary research interests include Chicago history and the creation of online tools for students and genealogists. She has worked on projects such as the development of, fact checking a book on the Chicago Fire for the History Comic series, and the development of a Newberry Digital Collection on “Chicago After the Fire” for teachers and students.

    In addition to researching, Ginger is a frequent speaker in the Chicago-land area and a regular instructor in Chicago’s Newberry Library Adult Education seminar program. She is also a Newberry Scholar-in-Residence.

    The program handout will be posted in the members only section of the CGS website the day before the webinar under the Webinar Archive tab.

    The webinar will be recorded and saved in the members only section of the CGS website for future viewing.

    Registration is required.

    Please register for CGS Webinar #5: Ginger Frere, MLIS, MBA on May 2, 2020 1:30 PM CDT at: 

    After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

    Brought to you by GoToWebinar®

  • 6 Apr 2020 10:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dedicated Chicago Genealogical Society members volunteer to write Program Notes for CGS programs and events for members who were unable to attend. Program Notes are for presentations, tours and genealogy day events. These Program Notes were published in the society’s newsletter until April 2019. Going forward CGS posts the Program Notes separately on the website. 

    Just published in the members only section is an index of Program Notes from January 2006 – April 2019 detailing what issue the Program Notes were published. Once a member locates an issue date of interest, they can go to the “Past Issues of CGS Newsletter” tab in the members only section for the issue. 

    Check out the index. Maybe you will find a new avenue to research or get an idea to spur your research forward. See example below. 

  • 13 Mar 2020 3:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Latest Chicago Genealogist is Here!

    See the online 2020 Spring Edition, Vol. 52, No. 3

    To access the electronic version, go to the Chicago Genealogical Society’s website at  Sign into the website and select Members Only Section button on the upper right side. Select The Chicago Genealogist tab. Look for the newest version “Vol 52, No 3 2020” on the top row. Click on it and then you can read & enjoy the newest issue.

    Direct link for members:

    Requested paper copies will be mailed once the printing is finished.

  • 29 Feb 2020 11:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Chicago Genealogical Society recently sent out and posted alerts regarding Illinois House Bill 4210 (HB 4210) which addresses excessive fees for documents in Illinois coroners’ offices. The bill passed out of committee 13-1. Thank you to everyone who were able to submit witness slips in support.

    We now need your support to contact your Illinois representative to support and cosponsor the bill. The bill is now at 3rd reading and can be called anytime for a House floor vote.

    Attached is a sample letter you can use and / or format in your own words.  If your representative is the sponsor or cosponsor, please write that rep and thank him / her for the support.  You can find your Illinois representative and contact information as well as bill information at If the link does not work, copy and paste it into a new window.   

    If you currently do not live in Illinois, please share this information with your genealogy and family history family/friends/associates who can help support this House Bill. Every person can make a difference. A successful outcome will benefit ALL researchers.

    Your support is greatly needed and appreciated. Feel free to contact CGS if you have any questions at

    sample letter to Ill reps - HB 4210 - support and cosponsorship.docx

  • 15 Feb 2020 7:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Chicago Genealogical Society Advocacy Committee has been working with legislators relating to excessive research related fees in Illinois coroner offices which impact researchers greatly.

    Since 1979 Illinois has been taxing the dead.  Counties charge fees for coroner reports.  These documents contain verdicts and transcripts, and the fees to obtain copies of them are mandated by Illinois statute.  The fees as they stand are excessive, ranging upward from $5.00 per page. For historians, researchers, genealogists doing primary research, or anyone who likes their public information more - not less – public, the fees run counter to the ideals of open records and free access to information.

    This new House Bill 4210 (HB 4210) of the Illinois 101st General Assembly recently introduced by La Shawn Ford, represents working together with the coroners' association and their lobbyist Brian Duffy over the past year where we have found common ground.  The new language of HB 4210 provides for a $15 flat rate for research documents over 20 years (modeled after the Vital Records Act) and gives the coroner the right to waive the fees.

    Your help is needed because HB 4210 is scheduled for a hearing this Thursday Feb 20th.  Illinois residents are needed to support this bill in the form of witness slips.

    Your support as an Illinois resident is needed.  HB 4210 is scheduled for a committee hearing this week on February 20th.  Following is a link to the bill status and bill text as well as a link to the witness slips.  We are asking everyone possible to file a witness slip in favor of HB 4210.  Check as a Proponent and at the end of the witness slip, you can check "Record of Appearance Only."  THIS MUST BE DONE BY FEBRUARY 20th

    Additionally, please contact your state representative to support the HB 4210.

    The research related coroner fees are relatively recent; the fee language was added to the law in 1979, instituting fees for copies in the coroner’s office. The legislative debates on SB 1157 1979 provide little insight as to why these fees were added.  SB 1157 passed the Senate with one no vote and the House placed the bill on the consent calendar where it passed 127-1-27.  What began at $2.00 per page, eventually with subsequent legislation, became a whopping $5.00 per page.  This coroner fee structure became an exception to the Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act which provides that an agency can charge fees reasonably calculated to reimburse its actual cost for reproducing, that the first 50 pages of a public record have no fees charged, and that fees when charged not exceed 15 cents per page.

    For example, in the course of researching a historic 1956 Chicago murder, a researcher became acquainted with the family of the victims.  He learned that they had never received a copy of the coroner’s inquest records.  After the family was given a daunting and unnecessary runaround from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office concerning the availability of the documents, they sought to obtain copies.  Upon being told they would have to pay $1,200 for a copy of the inquest transcript concerning their own family members, they asked for an explanation.  The staff indicated that there was nothing they could do and that the family should hold a fundraiser.  Similar experiences abound.  Another researcher requested a photocopy of an inquest transcript related to a 1918 murder.  He received a reply stating that the record consisted of 161 pages and that the total charge would be $805, an amount not typically in the budget for the average researcher or family member.

    The coroner transcript for the investigation of the sinking of the Eastland in 1915 is available at the Chicago Public Library and can be scanned at no cost, but the 157- page document would cost $785 at the current rate mandated by Illinois statute.

    These are public records, not the private stash of a public office or office holder.

    Too many government agencies and archives have long treated historians, genealogists and other researchers as if we were asking them for a favor when we ask to see their records — our records — rather than recognizing their responsibilities to the public under the law.  Having excessive fees in place taxes the dead and is a deterrent to public access and open records.  HB 4210 will address this problem and bring the fees to a reasonable level.

  • 4 Feb 2020 1:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For years the Archdiocese of Chicago Cemeteries has been a user-friendly place for people visiting a grave. They have computer kiosks in the cemetery office lobbies where visitors can look up a grave location and print out a map to help them find the grave. The office staff is always happy to produce the same printout, if that is desirable.

    The best thing about their printout, though, is the inclusion of a Quick Response Code (QR Code) in the lower right corner, which provides the exact GPS coordinates to the grave. This feature has been in place for years, but was often considered not worth the effort required to find, install and then learn how to use an app to read the QR Code on a smartphone. Recently, though, both Android and Apple have incorporated a QR Code reader directly into the phone's Camera function in the most recent versions of their operating systems, and made it as close to automatic as possible. So, if you have purchased a phone in the past year or two, or updated the operating system software to the latest versions, this will work for you.

    What follows will show exactly how to use this feature using an Android phone running Android version 9. The procedures for an iPhone are similar.

    The image below is an example of the printout from the cemetery computer kiosk. Note the QR Code in the lower right corner.

    Initiate the phone's camera and aim it in the general direction of the QR Code. As shown below, the phone recognizes a QR Code is present with the yellow QR icon, highlighted by the red arrow.

    By tapping the yellow QR icon on the phone, above, the phone displays the URL to the web page associated with the QR Code.

    By tapping on the URL, above, the phone will automatically connect to Google Maps and open the map showing the location of the grave with a red drop marker, as shown below.

    Of course, the map view can be changed to Satellite View and zoomed in as below.

    If you are not familiar with the cemetery layout, and unsure how to get from the office to the grave, you can tap the blue Directions button on the bottom portion of the phone screen and it will generate a route from the office to the road location nearest the grave you want to visit. As in this case, below:

    Once you have followed the route to your parking spot, the phone will even show the (in this case) 161 foot walk to the grave.

    As genealogists and family historians, you may want to add your family's graves to Find A Grave, and you can use the same GPS coordinates from the kiosk printout to enter the exact grave location. Here is the link to the Find A Grave memorial for the example we have just covered: 

    Note the “Show Map” link on the memorial, which will open the same map as above.

    And, finally, here is an image of the QR Code we have used. If you are viewing this on something other than your smartphone, and you have a recent operating system on your phone, you can aim your phone's camera at this QR Code and give it a try.




  • 1 Feb 2020 8:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Registration is now open for our Upcoming Tours:

    March 20 (Friday) - Chicago & North Western Historical Society Archives Tour

    Tour Guide - Craig Pfannkuche

    Location – C&NWHS Archives, Clarence Ave and Stanley Ave, Berwyn, at 9:30am. Free for members. Registration required.

    The tour of the C&NWHS archives includes viewing the types of maps available for research, seeing photo files including many communities in the upper Midwest, viewing community railroad related maps, obituary filled company magazines, many different types of correspondence concerning the development of Chicago, old Chicago deeds, and a new personnel file among other things.

    CGS will be given a special tour of the archives. Online registration on the CGS website will be required, under events . Registration opens February 1, 2020. Free for CGS members. Group size is limited to 10, waitlist option is available. If we have a big waitlist, we will schedule an additional tour for another day. Note - the Archives is in a warehouse so dress based on the weather outside.

    Transportation options:

    Car – Park on the streets around the Archives.

    Train – Metra BNSF line, from Chicago Union Station to Berwyn stop arrives 9:09am.  Return train inbound back to Union Station leaves Berwyn 11:21am. The Archives is on the north side of the tracks and three blocks east of Oak Park Ave.

    May 2 - Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library

    Location - Pritzker Military Museum & Library, 104 S. Michigan Ave. 2nd Floor, Chicago, at 10:15am. Free for members. Fee for non-members. Registration required.

    The Pritzker Military Museum & Library is a center where citizens and service members come together to learn about military history and affairs. The Museum & Library features an extensive collection of books, programs, artifacts, and rotating exhibits which cover many eras and branches of the military. The tour will focus on military history and research. More information at

    CGS will be given a special in-depth 90-minute tour of the museum and library. Online registration on the CGS website will be required, under events Registration opens February 1, 2020. Free for CGS members and $11.00 for non-members. Registration closes 4/27/20 and no refunds after 4/27/20. Group size is limited, waitlist option is available.

    We will meet at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, 104 S. Michigan Ave. 2nd Floor, Chicago, at 10:15am.

Chicago Genealogical Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  Address: PO Box 1160, Chicago, IL  60690-1160

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