Genealogy Resources

Genealogy Resources graphic image
Genealogy Resources graphic image


Please click the link below to view our calendar with all the Genealogy Club meetings for the month.

OLPL Calendar – Genealogy

Kathy O'Leary, Genealogy LibrarianWelcome to OLPL’s Genealogy resources page. I’m Kathy O’Leary, and I have worked as a reference Librarian at OLPL for over 40 years. It has been my great pleasure and personal passion to build a wonderful genealogy collection at OLPL, acquire hundreds of genealogy resources, and give many talks and presentations throughout the Chicago area about genealogy and family history. I can help you too! I’m happy to offer you my expertise and the resources on this page as you embark upon your own genealogical search.

Beginning Your Search

Genealogy is a wonderful hobby that you pursue for bursts of time, then put on hold, then return to. Like a good mystery novel, you’ll put together a puzzle and learn all about history. In the beginning the hunt is for names, places and dates, but soon you will want to know why family members made decisions — Why did my family leave their country of origin? Why did so many children die in the family? Did my family have a victory garden during WWII? Where should you begin? Listed below are possible starting points to begin exploring. The column on the right lists these resources and provides you with links to find out more:

Getting Started

  • Start with yourself.
  • Start with the known.
  • Work backwards in time.
  • Don’t wait too long.

What’s at home?

Look through your own family records, such as:

  • Family Bible….Go through the Bible page by page.
  • Newspaper clippings.
  • Military papers/discharges
  • Birth and death certificates, memorial cards
  • Scrapbooks / baby books
  • Old address books.
  • Deeds, wills, home purchases.

Where did they live?

  • Locate the places where your ancestors lived.
  • Find out major migration routes to nearby cities Learn county boundaries and other geographical features
  • Look for government jurisdictions and ecclesiastical jurisdictions.

Contact Your Library

Many libraries do not have genealogy librarians but still have many genealogy resources. Call your library and ask if there is a librarian who is dedicated to genealogy or knowledgeable in the field, then set up an appointment if possible.

Religion & Churches

Pay attention to the religion of your ancestors and contact the churches they may have attended

Fill out a Pedigree Chart or Family Tree

There are several online sites where you can obtain many forms. They are copyright free. You can obtain family groups sheets, pedigree charts, research logs and blank census forms. Check the following sites:

Read some basic genealogy books

Most libraries will have at least a few general handbooks which can be checked out.

Join a Genealogy Society

Most genealogists suggest joining your local genealogy society and a society which covers a geographic or ethnic area of interest.

Organizing Your Files

  • Use different color notebooks for your father’s line and mother’s line
  • Use dividers for different family surnames.
  • Make a duplicate of the most important materials. You can easily misplace papers or even lose them in a flood or fire or even theft.
  • Keep a file and copies of all correspondence
  • Buy archival paper and copy originals. Preserve originals in archives sleeves so they are protected.
  • Keep e-mail copies
  • Book recommendation: Organize your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher by Drew Smith   /  2016 929.1/Smith



African American Genealogy

AfriGeneas is the essential resource for anyone conducting African American or African Ancestored genealogical research. Launched in 1996 and staffed entirely by volunteers, the site provides forums, chats, mailing lists, and searchable access to thousands of slave, census, death, and other records loaded by staffers and site visitors. Expert advice is always just an email or chat away. ProQuest is proud to partner with AfriGeneas.

Ancestry, Library Edition

Ancestry provides access to over 10,000 databases with several billion family names. It provides digitized images and an every-name index for every U.S. census. Ancestry has also digitized the images and indexed the World War I Draft Registration Records. New York ship passenger ships are also available as well as those for Boston and other ports of entry. Ancestry is a wonderful product. In-library use only is required.

To download Kathy’s September 2021 presentation about Ancestry at Moraine Valley Community College, click HERE

Chicago Sun-Times Historical Archive

Research Chicago history through the Chicago Sun-Times Historical Archive Collection with coverage from 1929 through current. Study trends, issues, events, advertisements, companies and more through historical and current full newspaper pages, full-text articles and content only published online. Available remotely 24/7 on any device.

Chicago Tribune Historical Archive

It is an excellent source for death notices. However, not every death is included. Remote access is available for Oak Lawn residents with card.

Chicago Tribune

The coverage begins in 1985 and is always up-to-date. Remote access is available for Oak Lawn residents with card.


FamilySearch is accessible at OLPL, but only if you first set up your own FamilySearch account. FamilySearch is an affiliate library resource only. To learn more about setting up your own account, click HERE.


Great source for military records. Remote Access


U.S. obituaries and death notices, 1704-today. There are 6765 sources in this database. The years of coverage vary greatly.


HeritageQuest is now owned by Ancestry. HeritageQuest includes all the U.S. censuses along with all the Canadian censuses. There are city directories, 28,000 family and local history books online and much more.

MyHeritage Library Edition

The MyHeritage Library Edition features over 8 billion primary historical records from the United States, Europe, and other regions, with coverage starting from the 16th century. Often accompanied by true document images, these records illuminate historical realities across a wide variety of regions. is the largest online newspaper archive consisting of 666 million+ pages of historical newspapers from 21,000+ newspapers from around the United States and selected countries. The countries are Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Panama.

Proquest Historical Newspapers

Chicago Tribune is one of the newspapers included in this collection. The coverage is from 1849 through 1997. Remote Access Also included in this category are the following newspapers: Chicago Defender: 1909-1975; Indianapolis Star: 1903-1922; New York Times: 1851-2017; Wall Street Journal: 1889-2003




Newberry Library
60 West Walton, Chicago, IL 60610-3305 / 312-943-9090
Newberry Library is private library in Chicago founded in 1887. It specializes in Colonial America, has a robust Midwestern U.S. collection, and is currently explanding it’s holdings in the South. Visitors must be 16 years old, and register to obtain a research card.

Allen County Public Library
900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne, IN 46802 / 260-421-1200
Allen County Public Library (ACPL) has the second largest genealogy collection in the U.S. ACPL subscribes to thousands of U.S. and houses extensive census records

The Wisconsin State Historical Library
816 State Street / Madison, WI 53706 / 608-264-6535
Located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Also functions as the North American History Library for the university. Large collection of over three million volumes of U.S. and Canadian history, and thousands of family histories, and the second largest collection of newspapers.

C.E. Brehm Memorial Public Library District
101 S. 7th Street, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864 / 618-242-6322
The collection tracks the migration patterns of people in Southern Illinois with focus on the states of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Collection has 14,750 volumes and 3900 microforms.

Mid-Continent Public Library
3440 S. Lee’s Summit Road, Independence, MO 64055 / 816-252-7228
The library owns over 5000 genealogy and local history books.

St. Louis County Public Library
1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63131-3598 / 314-994-3300
Houses Tmaterials from the National Genealogical Society. Books from this collection are loaned to anyone in the country.


The National Archives – Great Lakes Region
7358 South Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60629-5898
Has all U.S. censuses (including 1940), military and pension records, selected passenger arrival records and indexes for immigration ships, naturalization records from U.S. District Courts in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin and a naturalization Index which covering municipal and county courts in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Archives of the Circuit Court of Cook County
This website is currently down. We will post the link when it is active again.
Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington, Room 1113, Chicago, IL 60602 / 312-603-6601
Has naturalization records of the Superior, Circuit, County and criminal courts of Cook County (1871 to 1929); Wills index (1850 to 1993); Probate index (1871 to 1975); Divorces cases (1871 to 1986)




Red Book: American State, County, & Town Sources by Alice Eichholz  /  2004 929.1/Red

Chicago and Cook County: A Guide to Research by Loretto Dennis Szucs  /  1996 929.1072077311/Szucs

Finding Your Chicago Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide to Family History in the City and Cook County by Grace DuMelle   /  2005 929.110207/DuMelle and 929.107207731/DuMelle

The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors by Marsha Hoffman Rising  /  2019 929.107207/Rising

The Handybook for Genealogists: The United States of America by George B. Everton  /  2006 929.1/Handybook

Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records by Kory L. Meyerink  /  1998 929.1/Printed

The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking  /  2006 929.1/Source



Chicago Genealogical Society

P.O. Box 1160 / Chicago, IL 60690-1160

  • Meetings: first Saturday of the month at the Newberry Library at 1:30 60 West Walton, Chicago, Illinois except for July & August
  • 11 newsletters and quarterlies
  • October tour of selected Chicago neighborhoods

DuPage Genealogical Society

P.O. Box 3 / Wheaton, Illinois 60187

  • Meetings: Check website for meeting locations.
  • Bi-monthly newsletter
  • Excellent conference each Feb/March in Wheaton, Illinois

Illinois State Genealogical Society

P.O. Box 10195 / Springfield, IL 62791-0195

  • Dues: $25.00
  • Monthly newsletter and quarterlies
  • Fall and Spring Conferences

South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society

3000 West 170th Place / Hazel Crest, Illinois 60429-1174 / 708-335-3340

  • Physical library building
  • Meetings: the second Saturday from September-June at 10 a.m.
  • Monthly newsletter and quarterlies

Tinley Moraine Genealogists

P.O. Box 521 / Tinley Park, IL 60447-0521

  • Meetings: the first Thursday, September-June at Tinley Park Public Library, 7851 Timber Drive, Tinley Park, IL
  • Meetings begin at 6:45
  • The Society’s collection is housed in the Tinley Park Public Library and is accessible all the hours the library is open.
  • Annual workshop
  • Monthly newsletter
  • The society sponsors many trips.



Illinois State Genealogical Society
Bi-monthly Newsletter and Quarterly publication, included in ISGS membership

Chicago Genealogical Society
Newsletter (11 issues annually) and quarterly publication (Chicago Genealogist), included in membership

Relatively Speaking
Newsletter (10 issues annually), published by the Tinley Moraine Genealogists

South Suburban Genealogical and Historic Society (SSGHS) News 
Monthly Newsletter and Quarterly publication (Where the Trails Cross), included in membership

Family Tree
Check website for information about subscribing

Internet Genealogy
Links below to current issues – available online only

Feb/Mar 2023     Apr/May 2023     June/July 2023     Aug/Sept 2023



Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
The SSDI includes names of individuals for whom a death benefit was requested. The record shows SSN, birth/death dates, place of residence, and last benefit issued.
What is the value of the SSDI? If someone is listed, so is the person’s Social Security number. With this number you can write to Social Security Administration, Office of Earnings Operations, FOIA Workgroup, 300 N. Greene Street, P.O. Box 33022, Baltimore, MD 21290 for a copy of the application form which will include the full name at birth, current mailing address, age, date and place of birth, father and mother’s full names, sex and race. Fee with SSN is $27; without, $29.

Railroad Retirement Board
If your ancestor worked for the railroad consider looking for retirement records.

Vital Records
Vital records are state, county or city records not kept by the U.S. government. As a result, searching and locating these records can be difficult.  If you plan request copies of vital records for counties outside of Cook County, Illinois there are many ways to locate names, addresses, phone numbers and cost of records. The simplest way is to locate the city or county’s government website and look for the category of vital records. The most up-do-date information should be available on these websites. Cook County Vital Records are available by applying in person at the Cook County Bureau of Vital Statistics, 118 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60602, 312-603-7790. You may also print out a copy of the request forms for all vital records. There are also many online indexes for the State of Illinois.  Indexes allow genealogists to learn which county to contact for records. Death indexes are constantly updated. These indexing projects are done by volunteers.

Land Sale Records
Illinois State Archives has a database entitled lllinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales. This database contains information about nearly 550,000 land sales. Each purchase entry includes the purchaser’s name, purchase date and more. To find more information about this area of genealogical research check out Land and Property Research in the United States by E. Wade Hone. (929.1072073/HONE)

Medical Information
Find the cause of death of your ancestors and possible hereditary links.

City Directories
City directories are an underutilized source. Most include a business directory, change of street names, advertisement, listings of churches, societies, banks and much more. Perhaps your ancestor owned a company which advertised in the city directory. Many local institutions have searchable city directories, including the Newberry Library, the Chicago History Museum and the South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society.

Federal Census
The U.S. government has taken a census every 10 years, beginning in the year 1790. The most recently released census is for1940, made available to the public in April 2012. The 1950 census will be released on April 1, 2022.
In the 1930s, as part of FDR’s WPA project, the government created the Soundex Index. Soundex is an index in which lists U.S. heads of households and persons of different surnames in the household, listed by a letter and number code. To learn more about the Soundex Index and try it, visit

State Censuses
U.S. States often published censuses halfway between federal census years. These censuses are a valuable and often overlooked source. One of the reasons is that they are rarely indexed. Ancestry, Library Edition, has a database entitled Illinois State Census Collection, 1825-1865. Coverage varies from place to place. The census years are 1825, 1830, 1835, 1845, 1855 and 1865.  Ancestry also has dozens of state censuses for other states.


There are several outstanding books written about military records and accessing them. The following titles will be helpful to genealogists.
Locating Union & Confederate Records: A Guide to the Most Commonly Used Civil War Records of the National Archives and Family History Library by Nancy Justus Morebeck  /   2001 929.1072073/Morebeck

Revolutionary War Records
Civil War records are more plentiful than Revolutionary War records. HeritageQuest is a good source for researching the Revolutionary War, and includes a database entitled Selected Records from Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant Applications Files. This database includes reproduced selected genealogical records from an estimated 80,000 pension and bounty-land-warrant applications. Most of the records are dated between 1800-1900.

Civil War Records
The Confederate Veteran is an online magazine and one of the best publications about soldiers from the South. It was published monthly in Nashville, Tennessee from 1893 to 1932. This magazine contains on the largest collections of Confederate memoirs, anecdotes, incidents and personal stores in existence. There are forty volumes and each one is indexed. Another good source for Civil War records is Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System.This computerized database contains basic facts about soldiers who served on both sides during the Civil War. Information about 6.3 million servicemen had been completed to date. Eventually, basic information about both Union and Confederate Naval personnel will be included. Regimental histories are also being uploaded.

World War I
Between 1917-1918, more than 24 million men registered for the draft in three separate registrations. All men, whether native born, naturalized, or alien, between the age of 18 and 45 were required to register. Each registration asked some different questions.  Generally, the registration cards contain the following information: full name, date and place of birth, race, citizenship, occupation, personal description and signature. The draft registration may be the only source for determining the town of origin of someone who was never naturalized or who became citizen based on his father’s naturalized citizenship.

World War II
World War II Military Records: A Family Historian’s Guide by Debra Johnson Knox  /   2003 929.1072073/Knox

Military Pension Records
Military pension records are a wonderful source of information. In these files will be information about when and where a soldier entered the service, where he served, battles he fought and more. Often, information is available on towns or cities a soldier lived in before or after the service. One of the best sources for federal pension information for service in the American Revolution is book titled Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications, by The National Genealogical Society / 929.107207/Index.


Illinois Military History
The Illinois State Archives has an excellent pamphlet entitled Genealogical Research Series Pamphlet 3: Military Records. All the military records available at the State Archives are listed in the pamphlet.

Illinois Records from All Wars
1929 Illinois Roll of Honor has more than 72,000 names and burial places of soldiers, sailors, marines, and army nurses who served in any wars of the U.S. and are buried in Illinois.

Illinois War of 1812 Veterans
Approximately 1500 names appearing in 24 rosters of officer, companies or united are listed.

Illinois Black Hawk War Veterans
This database indexes the first volume of Ellen M. Whitney’s The Black Hawk War 1831-1832. It includes the muster rolls for all of the 1831 and 1832 companies including 2 Indian companies. Approximately 1800 men served in the 1831 campaign and 9000 in the 1832 one.

Illinois Mexican War Veterans
This database indexes the names of Illinois Mexican War veterans listed in the ninth volume of the publication, Report of the Adjutant General of the state of Illinois. The names of 6,500 men are listed.

Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls
The names of over 205,000 soldiers from Illinois.

Illinois Spanish-American War Veterans
This database indexes the first eight volumes of the nine volume publication, Illinois Spanish-American War

Report of the Adjutant general of the State of Illinois.
The names of approximately11,000 men are included.


American Naturalization Records, 1790-1990: What They are and How to use Them by John J. Newman   /   929.373/NEW

The National Archives-Great Lakes Region
The National Archives has an index to Naturalization Records from U.S. District Courts in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. For Chicago, the Archives has Petition Indexes 1872-1991, Declaration of Intentions 1872-1991 and Petitions 1872-1991. The Archives also has a Soundex Naturalization Index which includes Municipal and County Courts in part of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Castle Garden Index
Indexes over 10 million immigrants from 1830-1892 is accessible. Not a lot of information about the immigrant is included; name, occupation, age, sex, arrival date, origin and ship are provided. If you do locate an ancestor, be sure to look at the entire ship passenger list; you may find more relatives.

The Family History Library (
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church / Mormons) have created the most outstanding collection of genealogical materials in the world for over 100 years. The materials are available to nearly everyone.  Library records include copies of registers, census & military records, passenger lists, land & probates records, family & local histories in addition to periodicals and other research aids. There are approximately 1500 satellite libraries set up in fifty-five countries. There are several Family History Libraries in the Chicago area (Naperville, Winnetka, Chicago Heights, Schaumburg, Orland Park and Hyde Park in Chicago).
Family Search Guide (written by Kathy O’Leary): Download the guide HERE
New FamilySearch Databases:
New FamilySearch Library Lookup Service:

Ellis Island Ship Passenger List
This database indexes lists of ships which arrived in New York from 1892-1924, one of the highest periods in immigration to the U.S.

  • Registration required to access information. Registration is free. Save username / password for future searches.
  • Only surname / last name is a required search field. Any other information will narrow and refine the search.
  • Try using an Ellis Island search helper developed by Dr. Stephen Morse:

NOTE: Ellis Island was not the only immigration port in the U.S. Other heavily used ports were Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Orleans on the east coast. Located in heart of San Francisco Bay, the Angel Island Immigration Station serviced as an immigration port between 1910 and 1940. Port of Galveston, Texas was also a heavily used port. 

OLPL Collection of Passenger Lists
The Oak Lawn Library owns several sets of ship passenger indexes. Italians to America, Germans to America and the multi-volume set of Passenger and Immigrations Lists Index are a few of our titles. The books are in storage so please ask a librarian about these titles.

European Lists
Ship passenger lists were also compiled in Europe. For example, the Hamburg Ship Passengers Lists is now available on Ancestry, Library Edition.  In addition, there are two databases: 1850-1934 and 1855-1934. For Irish emigrants, there is a source entitled Irish Passenger Lists 1847-1871: lists of passengers sailing from Londonderry to America on ships of the J. & J. Cooke Line and the McCorkell Line. The call number is 929.107204/Irish. In the Source, on pages 492-495, there are tables listing European countries and Australia along with the name of the documents, dates covered, indexed, where the original and copies may be obtained. The library has two copies of the Source: call numbers 929.1/Source.


  • Forensic Genealogy by Colleen Fitzgerald   /  DNA. 2013 929.1/Fitzpatrick
  • The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine Bettinger   /  2019 929.1/Bettinger|
    Bettinger is an expert on DNA and speaks at many genealogy conferences.
  • Things Are Coming Out That Are Questionable, We Never Knew About: DNA and the New Family History by Matthew Stallard and Jerome de Groot.
    Article accessible online at:

Genetics Digest