Family History Research

Illinois Regional Archives Depository – a wonderful resource

I am preparing to visit the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at Northern IL University on Monday to research for a client. When I visited the IRAD at Northeastern IL University a few weeks ago, my son and I were the only ones there. In the past I have always sent letters requesting record searches as I did not have time to run up for one record, but after experiencing the archives, it is a place I plan to utilize as much as possible.

In Illinois there are several IRAD branches that cover certain counties in the state.  You can view the IRAD Region Map and click on one of the branches (NEIU, NIU, WIU, ISU, UIS, EIU, SIU, to see which county records are held. The map is color coded by region.

To find out what records each repository holds you can click the blue bar on the left that says IRAD Local Government Records Database and click search. You can either search by county or repository or type of record.  The website says, This database provides a listing of the local governmental records held by the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) system. Local governmental records include those from county, city, town, village, and township levels throughout Illinois. Numerous offices are represented from these levels. The record holdings of the IRAD system include over 5,400 different record series.

For each record series the following information is included: depository, accession number, title, county, beginning date and ending date.”

Many of the branches hold early birth, marriage and death records; naturalization records; probate and will records; in addition to local governmental records like court; license and permit registrations.

If you cannot visit an IRAD branch in person, you can write to them requesting up to two names to be researched at a time. They do charge a copy fee, minimum $1, even if they only copy one page. They will bill you when they send your copy(ies). They will also send sheets listing additional resources in the county(ies) you are researching.

IRAD is a wonderful system in the State of Illinois. Check it out if you have Illinois ancestors.

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Be sure to check the entire document

I am writing the life story of my great grand uncle, Michael Kokoska. In the opening paragraphs I added the fact his parents were immigrants, on what ship they sailed in 1880, and what class of passenger they were. His parents were listed as Cabin Class. That fact came as a shock and kind of unbelievable to me because my side of the family is all Bohemian, and immigrated as poorer people, traveling in Steerage. I stumbled upon the Cabin Class while looking at their ship log in greater detail.

Because this fact shocked me, I did a little research on their ship, the Frisia. This further research indicated the capacity for 1st class passengers was 90 passengers, 2nd class was 130 passengers, and 3rd class was 600 passengers. According to the ship log, there were 190 passengers classified as Steerage Passengers. The remaining 610 passengers were classified as Cabin Passengers. With the above numbers in mind, the log should have read Cabin Passengers for the first 190 passengers recorded and Steerage Passengers for the last 610 passengers recorded

What did I learn from this unbelievable fact? If a fact stands out as a bit shocking and unbelievable, it is worth the effort to research more details about it to ensure what you are seeing is either correct or incorrect.

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Follow Up to Background Information Research post

Melissa from Pawprints Guiding Me to the Past posted her background information resources. Take a look when you have time. She covered different resources than I did.

A very helpful post Melissa! Thanks for describing your top resources.

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Using Maps to Visually Make Sense of Family History Research

Maps are a valuable tool in family history.  Maps can be used to search for the place from which you ancestor came and can also be used to illustrate a point you want to make in your research and writings. In my research, maps have helped me in in three specific ways which are explained below.

Visually presenting the migration of a family within a city or state after immigration.

I have used Google Maps to build a map of Chicago in 1900 with the street addresses of my families. I am able to pinpoint a location on the map and add text to a pop up box. Google Maps connects to Google Earth and allows me to see a present day shot of the street and home, if the home still exists.  If I want to publish a map I have created, I can link to it, print it, or send it via email. Google Maps allows me to save maps I have created and either make them public or private. In my research, this has been a very useful tool for me to see where my families lived and where they moved as the families grew.

Illustrating the relationships between families.

At the turn of the century, many of my families lived near one another. As the children of the immigrants began their own families, and down yet another generation, mapping out the addresses has shown me that my families were close-knit. A child grew up, married, and typically moved within a street or few blocks from the parent’s home. The grandchildren could “walk across the alley” to grandma’s house for bakery.  Even as my families began moving out towards the suburbs, this same living proximity emerged. It was definitely a different way to live than most families today. I think many would find if they mapped out their parents addresses and those of the children, there would be a much greater distance than “a walk across the alley” between families.

Illustrating military movements.

As I explained in my post about Family Atlas Software, maps can provide a great visual to accompany text in our family history writings. I am currently writing the life story of Michael Kokoska, my great, great uncle who died in World War I in France.  While I do not have a Statement of Service record to know exactly where he fought, by reading his 32nd Unit history and the World War I Order of Battle books, I am able to plot on a map, places in France where his unit served. The software also allows me to add text to the map which gave me the ability to add a timeline for his military service. This map makes a great addition to his story.

How have you utilized maps in your research?

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