Illinois Probate Records (Images Only), 1819 to 1970, Now Available at the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Series of Databases

Hi Everyone,

A recent “revisit” to the LDS Record Search Pilot series of databases accessible through the FamilySearch web site at www.familysearch.org web site indicated there is now another “new” Illinois oriented database available to view.

This new database is the Illinois Probate Records 1819-1979.  At this time it is only available as an “image browseable” database.  You cannot yet enter in a surname and have the hits provided back to you.  You can look at the material considering it as an “online microfilm”.

Get to this information with the following clicks:

  • Go to http://pilot.familysearch.org/
  • Click on “Search or Browse Our Record Collections”
  • Click on map for Canada, USA, Mexico
  • Scroll down USA databases looking for “Illinois, Probate Records, 1819-1970″

You can browse through the images on a county-by-county basis. 

Not all counties are yet in this database.  In fact you will only find the following Illinois counties in this database. 

  • Alexander
  • Coles
  • Effingham
  • Gallatin
  • Hamilton
  • Hancock
  • LaSalle
  • Logan
  • Madison
  • Massac
  • Piatt
  • Pope
  • Rock Island
  • Shelby
  • White
  • Whiteside
  • Williamson

 Even for the counties included, the time span of the data itself varies tremendously.  You may only discover a few years worth of information within one county while more data exists for another county with the overall time span indicated by the title of the county.

Do you notice a “big” omission for us Chicago urban researchers??

Yes, Cook county and the “collar” counties are not yet in this database.

If you have rural Illinois roots, perhaps one of the counties included is one that will be for your research.  If not, just be patient as this database grows with new additions that may be for you.

When you see the database and select it, you will see the list of counties.  You can then select any county and you will then see the time span of records included for the county as well as the types of files for the counties that are included in the data.  You may see indexes or full ledgers. 

Consider this material as an online series of microfilms.  You may see that one of the pieces of the database is an Index.  It is not an electronic index that you can enter a name to search.  It is however, an online image index that you can browse through looking for an ancestor of choice.  The index image information can then lead you to another file for which you can use the page number of the index to find the full amount of information of a probate contained in this other full-fledged file of probate data.

Some files may appear to be alphabetically oriented, such as A-H, I-R, S-Z.  You may just have to browse through as best as possible based on the surname of the ancestor you seek.  You can enter in page numbers once the images are there so you can get to your location quicker than just going image by image.

Make sure you click on the link in the upper right hand corner of the main page of this full Illinois Probate database that says “About This Collection”.  You will see a very detailed description of what is all included in this database.  This is very helpful to know so you become familiar with the concept of probate records.  Actually, visiting this “About” section should be considered a must so you can pick up tips here as to how to best use the database.

There is much that can be discovered in this database even if it is not an electronic index search at this time.  Check out some of the material.  Click open some of the files.  Meander around.  If one of the counties included and the timeframe matches that of an ancestor, you will be more motivated to really learn the material and how to best use it to find what you seek.

Revisiting this LDS data site is critical.  New files appear frequently.  You need to be aware of what is there that can help your research.

Give this new database a try even if you were hoping to see Cook county data that is obviously not there yet!

Be patient viewing the material.  It can be hard and tedious.  But just think, you do not need to order this material as a microfilm plus you have 24 hours a day to experiment and use the material rather than traveling to a FHC to view a microfilm with a time limit.

Take a visit to this new piece of information and get yourself in the habit of revisiting this material frequently to see what new things have been added for a state of your ancestral research.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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