Cook County Illinois Vital Records Has Turned The Genealogical World Upside Down!; You Can NO LONGER SEARCH THE SITE For Ancestral Connections On Vital Records

Hi Everyone,

Sorry to have to share this news with you, but the earth is still quaking on what Cook County Illinois Vital Records group has just done to the genealogical community.

As of now, if you visit the website to search for Cook County Illinois Vital Records (, you will discover that YOU CAN NO LONGER SEARCH THE SITE FOR BIRTH, MARRIAGE OR DEATH CERTIFICATES related to your ancestral search.

As of now, you will have to provide Cook County Vital Records, via a series of online forms,  the information related to who you are looking for, providing details you might not even know such as exact date of the event in question.  There are some parts of these forms that are optional to fill but without YOU being able to search and determine which vital record you are interested in, the entire selection process is left up to them!  Imagine if you are looking for a SMITH or JONES or some other common name for which there are 35 SMITHs with the same first name and you do not know much else to exactly supply!  You sort of like to be able to see these for yourself with their death dates or birth dates and maybe narrow down who you think is your ancestor that you want to pursue further.

I basically stepped my way through each form inputting information for the “requester” information and for the “requested” information just to see how it was stepping through each form with required and optional information.  Ultimately, I got to the end of the input information and would have been at the stage to then submit the request after having supplied billing information for them to bill me.

Here is the part of the Cook County Vital Records website focusing on information to obtain genealogical copies of birth, marriage and death certificates:

These are the fees you can expect to pay up front for non-certified genealogical copies:

Birth – $15; and $4 for each additional copy

Marriage – $15; and $4 for each additional copy

Death – $17*; and $6* for each additional copy
  *Effective July 1, 2012 per PA 97-0679

Also, Cook County notes the following when you do not have an exact date/year:

If you are uncertain of the exact date of birth, marriage or death and want us to search more than one year, include $1.00 for each additional year you want searched, up to a maximum of 10 years.

Many of us just liked to search the former site for our surname or the surnames we are researching just to get a feeling of what all exists.  Then with some background information we might have, we then could make an educated guess that person “X” is maybe our ancestor and that we are willing to then submit a request to them with payment to get a copy of the vital record back to us.


I have sent an email to Cook County Vital Records asking them to respond to me with the logic they used to create such a system that becomes pure guesswork for the researcher to input a request without knowing what is out there.

If anyone reading this wants to contact Cook County Vital Records to offer your own opinions on the new system you can do so with the following email address:

I will see if they respond in any fashion.

Our librarians group just got wind of this just after our most recent quarterly group meeting.  The email messages we exchanged were buzzing about this among us to say the least!

Again, the lesson to gather from this is that nothing is forever.  So do the most you can with what is out there assuming it can disappear in a blink of an eye.  Capture whatever you can in whatever manner you can.  If you see a list of names of interest to you, download the webpage, copy the names and put them in an Excel spreadsheet, take a photo of the page from your screen.  Assume something that is helpful to your research will disappear.

Crossing my fingers that feedback to Cook County Vital Records may cause them to reverse the decision we now see they made.  Not holding out much hope this will happen.

Oh well!  Sorry for the bad news.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

8 responses to “Cook County Illinois Vital Records Has Turned The Genealogical World Upside Down!; You Can NO LONGER SEARCH THE SITE For Ancestral Connections On Vital Records

  1. If you go to it is possible to search an index of deaths or marriages for certain timeframes.

  2. Don’t even bother with Crook County’s website. You can get a lot of FREE BMD docs at a Family History Center;

    Bring your log-in information. Bring a USB drive, if you have one. Once there and logged-in, go to Type in chicago, set the availability to “online”, then click on Search.

    Then, near the bottom, click on Vital records. Then click on the database you want. You can do all of that from home, but unless you are an LDS member, from home you will see a camera symbol (meaning the database includes photos) with a key symbol above it (meaning the photos are “locked” unless you are LDS or you are accessing that database from a Family History Center.)

    If you don’t have a USB drive, you can download document images to Downloads, Documents, or Photos, then email them to yourself, so you can access them from home, later.

    I have downloaded roughly 200 Crook County BMD docs that way. (I do 12 ancestry charts besides my own.) That would have cost close to $4,000 including credit card fees if I had bought them from Crook County.

    And NONE of the FHC-obtained doc images have the dreaded FOR GENEALOGICAL PURPOSES ONLY plastered all over them, which is what you get from Crook County’s site.

  3. Cary Stone-Greenstein

    There is still a way to get at many of the Cook County records on family search directly and avoid cook county altogether.
    1. Mark down the film from the index record. (Click the down arrow on the right of the index to find it). Also write down the image number if it is given, or the entry number if it is not.
    2. Go to Search, Catalogue, click search by film number and enter that number.
    3. If you have the image number, go to it. If not you may have to search a bit to find the record by entry number. (Most records are in rough date order, but exact by date entered.) Easy Peasy, and free.. Most films will require you be in a FHC or affiliate library to see these.

    Also, be aware that the Wilmette Family History Center has in its possession ALL the Cook County vital record microfilms and a volunteer there can help you access them. They are filed by film number, and it is faster if you bring those numbers with you.

  4. This may be helpful for finding Cook County and Chicago death indexes:

  5. Now you know why the Wilmette Family History Center purchased ALL the microfilms available for Cook County last summer. We have more than 6,000 films and access to many of the digital-only records as well.

  6. That’s crazy. Hard to believe that the folks that decided on these new rules ever did a bit of research.

  7. Kathryn Schultz

    Makes me very glad that my husband and I have no Cook Co., IL ancestors to try to research.

  8. I am on the Board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society, and we can provide a discounted lookup service for death certificates from the 1916-1947 IL State Archives Database. Members $6, non-members still only $10, much cheaper than Cook.

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