Chicago Genealogical Society


  • 14 Aug 2019 10:09 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Eastland Disaster Historical Society announces gift of

    invaluable archival collection to Newberry Library, other iconic organizations

    The Eastland Disaster Historical Society (EDHS), now in its 21st year of honoring those affected by Chicago’s deadliest disaster, announces that it will transition from a family-run, not-for-profit organization to a key asset within several iconic Chicago area institutions including the Newberry Library, Chicago Genealogical Society, and the Chicago Maritime Museum.

    Agreements with these institutions will ensure ongoing archival access to the comprehensive collection of EDHS family records, historical documents, and artifacts. Together, these materials tell a vivid story about the Eastland Disaster, the 844 people who tragically died in the event, and the impact it had on their families and the city of Chicago at large.

    The invaluable collection of materials related to the Eastland Disaster is a one-of-a-kind collection, having been compiled over the course of more than two decades by EDHS research efforts. It includes information that historically has never been available to the public: family histories and photos provided by thousands of generous families across the country;  plus unknown, forgotten, or inaccessible historical documents from various entities including the  Cook County Coroner’s Office, the Red Cross, and the Western Electric Company. Six other museums throughout the Great Lakes region will also receive important pieces from the collection.

    “We are thrilled about this fantastic collection of historical records coming to the Newberry,” declared Matthew Rutherford, Curator of Genealogy and Local History at the Newberry Library. “We are well-situated to provide access, assist researchers as they use the collection, and make it visible to audiences across Chicago and the rest of the country. The records in the Eastland Disaster collection are vital to family and local history, and to the national record as well.”

    “The Eastland Disaster was Chicago’s greatest loss-of-life tragedy, taking the lives of 844 people. The iconic institutions with whom we are working are committed to protecting and honoring the work that EDHS started 21 years ago, ensuring that the stories of Chicago’s greatest tragedy will always be preserved and shared for generations in the future,” explains Ted Wachholz, EDHS Executive Director and Chief Historian.

    Agreements have been reached for the gifts of the EDHS collection. The accompanying transition of EDHS becoming a key asset within these organizations will begin this month.

    Chicago’s Greatest Loss-of-Life Tragedy

    The S.S. Eastland, known as the "Speed Queen of the Great Lakes," was part of a fleet of five excursion boats assigned to take Western Electric employees, families, and friends across Lake Michigan to Michigan City, Indiana, for a day of fun and fellowship. But the festivities were short-lived and quickly turned tragic.

    On July 24, 1915, the Eastland, docked at the Clark Street Bridge, never left the Chicago River. Tragedy struck as the ship rolled into the river at the wharf's edge. More than 2,500 passengers and crew members were on board that day; 844 people lost their lives, including 22 entire families, far surpassing the lives lost in the Chicago fire of 1871. This year commemorates the 104th anniversary of the sinking of the S.S. Eastland.

    About EDHS

    The Eastland Disaster Historical Society (EDHS) is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization co-founded by Susan Decker and Barbara Decker Wachholz, the granddaughters (and only grandchildren) of brave Eastland Disaster survivor Borghild Amelia Aanstad. The Eastland Disaster Historical Society was founded to preserve and share the names, faces, and stories of thousands of ordinary people who were affected by the tragedy, connecting people today to the history of the tragedy and its victims, survivors, and heroes. More information can be found at

  • 4 Aug 2019 3:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you are not having any luck finding your Chicago Ancestor’s obituary, try the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Obituary Index. This index includes many newspapers around the state but also includes the Chicago Daily News which has not been digitized and many suburbs of Chicago (Aurora, Joliet, Elmhurst, Evanston, Harvard, Oak Park, St. Charles) to name a few.

    This is NOT a complete index. Per Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum website: The Obituary Index was created from the work of researchers who have researched at their library using the Newspaper Collection. When a researcher found an obituary, they would fill out an obituary form so the staff could print off the obituary. These obituary forms were collected and developed into this obituary index.

    Chicago example – You are searching for an obituary for Kathryn Noesen who possibly died in Chicago. No obituary was found searching the Chicago Tribune online. A search of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Obituary Index found an entry “Noesen, Kathryn, Obit Source - Chicago Daily News, Jan. 19, 1916, p. 21, c. 3.” Now you know there is an obituary. You can locate the obituary yourself or you can submit a request for a copy to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

    The obituary index and details on how to order an obituary can be found on their website

    Again, this is not a complete index of all the obituaries from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Newspaper Collection but it sure is worth checking. Happy researching!

  • 16 Jul 2019 3:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    So you learned the Chicago Catholic Church Records from 1833 – 1925 are online at Family Search Some of the collection has been indexed but many records are still only viewed by browsing the collection. There are over 295,000 images available. The records are listed by parish.

    These are great sources but what if you don’t know which parish your ancestors attended.  The Archdiocese of Chicago website under genealogy resources  provides a copy in pdf format of the book by Jack Bochar Locations of Chicago Roman Catholic Churches, 1850-1900. The book has detailed maps of parish locations in Chicago by date. To use this book, locate your ancestors first using city directories and then plot their address(es) on the map based on the time period. (Reminder - Chicago street numbering changes were in 1909 and 1911 and street name changes occured). It is recommended to trace their location over a period of time recording each address in case they moved around a lot. You will be able to see which parishes were in the neighborhood.  Then you can browse those parish records. If you don’t have luck with the closest parish, then expand your area and look at the next several parishes. Happy researching!

  • 1 Jul 2019 11:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CGS Members - The Latest Chicago Genealogist is Here!

    See the online 2019 Summer Edition, Vol. 51, No. 4

    To access the electronic version, go to the Chicago Genealogical Society’s new website at  Sign into the website and select Members Only Section button on the upper right side. Select The Chicago Genealogist tab. Scroll down to the newest version “Vol 51, No 4 2019.” 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.

  • 24 Jun 2019 7:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Special Screening

    Sunday, July 14, 2019

    1-2:30 p.m. 

    York Theatre in Elmhurst, IL

    Eastland: Chicago's Deadliest Day Documentary is the dramatic story of how hundreds of immigrant factory workers and their families, setting out for leisurely summer cruise, died aboard a heavily loaded steamship that tipped over while still tied to the dock in downtown Chicago... and how the rich and powerful who were responsible got away with it.

    The Eastland Disaster Historical Society is graciously offering CGS Members an opportunity to attend this Special Screening by registering for FREE tickets before they are available to the general public. This will be your opportunity to see "Eastland" on the big screen in surround sound! Seating is very limited, with tickets available only to current CGS using the following link: then click on “Ticket information here.”

    Note – you do NOT have to obtain a membership to EDHS. The link will let you register for FREE.

    The tickets are available to the general public starting this Friday, June 28th, so reserve your tickets today!

    Thank you to the EDHS for this opportunity. Another great value and benefits for CGS membership!




  • 18 Jun 2019 9:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our next Genealogical Oriented Bus Tour is coming up on August 24: Chicago’s Greatest Waterway - The I & M Canal.

    Using a luxury bus, the Chicago Genealogical Society will be hosting a genealogically oriented tour of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, August 24, 9:30am – 4:00pm (starting from and ending at the Ogilvie Transportation Center), which will included such stops as the Chicago Portage National Historic Site, the St. James of the Sag Cemetery, Lockport, Locks at Channahon, the Seneca Grain Elevator, and the Fox River Aqueduct in Ottawa among many other places in a beautiful summer setting. Chicago Historian and CGS board member, Craig Pfannkuche, will be our guide to learn about this fascinating time in Chicago’s history and how it changed our Chicago ancestor’s lives. See registration details and tour cost under events on our website 

    Suggested material on the topic –

    PASSAGE TO CHICAGO by Tim Wilcox

    PRAIRIE PASSAGE – photographs by Edward Ranney

    University of Illinois Press 1998


    National Heritage Corridor Commission – US Department of Interior, 1993

    Join us on August 24th!

  • 6 Jun 2019 3:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The National Archives at Chicago is looking for volunteers to assist patrons with family history research in our Public Access Computer Room. Primary responsibilities include introducing new genealogists and first time patrons to resources available through the National Archives at Chicago and answering genealogical questions. Using your own experience, teach patrons to navigate family history sources and help them work through “brick walls” in their research. This is an excellent opportunity to network with other genealogists and expand your own research.

    We are seeking individuals with the following traits: patience, research skills, and willingness to share information; basic internet and computer skills; and knowledge of,, and Training on National Archives specific resources will be provided, and we can arrange for a new volunteer to shadow a current volunteer for the first few weeks of volunteer service. 

    The National Archives at Chicago is located at 7358 S. Pulaski in Chicago and is open to the public Monday to Friday from 8AM to 4PM. Ideally, volunteers commit to helping on a weekly basis, but people willing to commit to as little as one day a month will be considered.

    Professional genealogists would not be able to work for pay while volunteering with the National Archives.

    Interested candidates should contact Sarah at 773-948-9001 or


  • 27 May 2019 7:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Join us this Saturday, June 1st for our next program at the Newberry Library at 1:30pm

    Adoption Searches Past and Present. Our speaker will be Matt Rutherford. Having an adopted ancestor can often be one of the most frustrating and challenging aspects of genealogy research. In times past, records of adoptions weren't as well kept as they are today, making searching for the link between birthparents and adoptees difficult.  And, in modern times, adoption searches are often hindered by legal barriers.  We'll discuss techniques & tips for researching American adoptions in all time periods.

    Matt Rutherford, MLIS, is Curator of Genealogy and Local History at the Newberry Library will be our speaker. 

    Note - we will start our program with our annual meeting and voting of the 2019-2020 officers. 

  • 21 May 2019 9:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Did you miss the opportunity to watch the The Eastland Disaster: An Unparalleded Tragedy webinar last Sunday? 

    You are in luck if you are a Chicago Genealogical Society member. The recording has been posted in the members only section for you to watch on your own schedule. Not a Chicago Genealogical Society member? Join today and view this great webinar. 

  • 13 May 2019 12:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Eastland Disaster Historical Society wants to make sure every CGS member has the opportunity to learn more about the Eastland Disaster. So, they have graciously offered to do a webinar to complement the in-person presentation that was done on May 4 for those members that were not able to attend. The webinar is scheduled for May 19, 2019, at 4:00pm CDT. Registration required using link below.

    Early on the morning of Saturday, July 24, 1915, a light rain fell yet the air was filled with anticipation and excitement. Thousands gathered along the Chicago River for Western Electric's fifth annual employee picnic. More than 7,000 tickets had been purchased for the daylong festivities. But the day quickly turned tragic, resulting in Chicago's greatest lossof-life tragedy. Find out what happened during a presentation given by the Eastland Disaster Historical Society.

    Come learn the answers to the following questions: Why was the picnic so highly anticipated? What happened? How did it happen? What was the impact? What was the response? Was it avoidable? Who was held accountable? What damages were awarded? What amount of relief funds were raised? Discover more about the Eastland Disaster Historical Society at   

    Please register for CGS Webinar #4 The Eastland Disaster on May 19, 2019 4:00 PM CDT at:

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

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

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