Family History Research

A visit to IRAD at NIU

I visited the IRAD at NIU (Northern IL University) in DeKalb yesterday. My experience there was slightly different than my experience at IRAD at NEIU last month. At NIU, IRAD has a policy that you are only allowed to use one roll of microfilm at a time. When you are finished with that one, they will give you another roll. They also only have one microfilm machine in the reading room. The intern I worked with was very helpful and answered all my questions.

I much prefer to be given several rolls of film at a time so when I’m finished with one, I can go directly to another roll without wasting the time of getting up and down and waiting to be given the next roll, or as one case yesterday, waiting while the intern went to the basement to get a Probate book for me to look at. I waited at least 15 minutes for her to return and in that time I could have finished looking up the other records I wanted.

That was my experience yesterday.

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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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Preparing for another research trip

Thursday I am taking my oldest son to Springfield, IL, to do a little research in the State Archives. He is actually excited about going and learning a few new things. We are also going to check out a lot of the Lincoln sites and activities while we are there. This morning I stumbled upon a branch of the family that lived in Montgomery County, IL. The IRAD at University of Illinois-Springfield, has some records I am interested in looking at. Might have to add that to our to-do list. Luckily we will stay over night and so have plenty of time to do what we want. The younger boys are not so thrilled they are staying home with dad, but when they are older, hopefully I can take them on little trips like this.

For Thursday, I have prepared a six page list of death certificates I want to locate for myself and a few other people. For IRAD I have a listing of record types they hold and if we can get over there, plan to search for as much as we have time to. Springfield isn’t that far so if we had to go down again this fall to research more, that would be fine.

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Cemetery and IRAD Research Trip

Yesterday I had the most wonderful day with my 9 year old son Drew. We got up early and hit the road to drive into the city. Our first stop was St. Adalbert’s Cemetery in Niles, IL. That stop was not my most productive cemetery stop ever, but my son learned how to use the Kiosk to look up the graves; use the map to locate a grave; and took some pictures of the grave we found. On our next trip we will get plot layouts to help us locate the few people we did not find.

Our second stop, before it became unbearable outside, was Bohemian National Cemetery. We did not spend much time there as I wanted to get across the street to Northeastern Illinois University to IRAD. We were able to get the location of my grandfather’s niche in the Chapel and Drew saw that. Then we visited the grave of my Uncle Richard Holik. He passed away in 2007 and I guess I have not been up there since then because I did not have a photo of his grave stone.  We then walked from Rich’s grave to the next section to see Michael Kokoska’s grave. Michael died in France in WWI. Drew knows most of his history and thought it was amazing to see his grave. He has seen it before but now he has more of an appreciation of why I visit the cemeteries and research our family’s history.

Our last stop was IRAD. I prepared for this trip so I could teach Drew how to use the microfilm to look things up and follow the record trail. The one thing I forgot to add to my spreadsheet was the Soundex Codes. Not that it was a big deal, but we had to wait a few minutes while the staff person looked up my codes. Next time I will make sure we don’t waste those few minutes. Drew and I looked up Naturalization records for a couple hours and had some success. Then we waded into Probate and Will waters. Not so much success there. The microfilm for the Probate was so fuzzy you could barely make out the numbers. We will have to visit the County Clerk to try their indexes, which will hopefully be better. I think we did find at least two family members who had Probate cases though. That was exciting!

Drew was so great all day, he learned so many new things, and actually WANTS to go on the next research trip! We really bonded yesterday which was nice because he has two younger brothers and sometimes it is difficult to get that one on one time with him.  While I didn’t come home with as much new information as I would have liked, the day was a success and I can’t wait to go with him again.

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