Illinois, Cook County Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Cook, Illinois, United States
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Flag of Illinois
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Location of Cook County, Illinois
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Location of Illinois
Record Description
Record Type Death Index
Collection years 1878-1994
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites


What is in the Collection?

This collection consists of a name index to deaths for Chicago and Cook County, Illinois. It covers the years 1878 to 1939 and 1955 to 1994. Early records were kept in register books beginning in 1877. By the early 1900s most events were recorded on pre-printed forms.

Legislation in 1819 required physicians to record births and deaths for their practices. Then, the physicians transmitted the information to their medical society which published the information in the newspapers. In 1843, a law was passed where relatives of a deceased person could appear before the clerk of the county commissioner’s court and report information regarding the death. The recording of vital records was voluntary until 1877 so few births and deaths were recorded. A fire in 1871 destroyed the Cook County Courthouse and nearly all previous records housed there. The few existing originals that were created by the county clerk may be found in the county clerk’s office or in one of the Illinois Regional Archives Depositories (IRAD).

In 1877, the State Board of Health was created to supervise registration of births and deaths. All births and deaths were to be reported to the county clerk by physicians. However, many were still not registered because the penalties for non-compliance were weak. In 1915, the state of Illinois gave the responsibility of recording births and deaths to local registrars who reported the information to the county clerk and the State Board of Health (now known as the Illinois Department of Public Health). By 1919, it is estimated that 95% of the population was recorded in the vital records.


For copies of the certificate for this time period please contact Cook County.


Image Visibility

Due to the provisions and guidelines of a revised contract with Cook County, FamilySearch has removed all images for Illinois, Cook County vital records from its historical records collections online; free indexes to the collections will remain. The images are available at Cook County Genealogy, a third party affiliate, for a fee. The images can be downloaded from the site.

Microfilm and microfiche from the Family History Library are available via Online Film Ordering in most parts of the world. The film number is included in the source information found on the index of the record. https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Ordering_Microfilm_or_Microfiche


What Can These Records Tell Me?

Illinois death records may contain the following information:

  • Name of deceased
  • Gender and race of deceased
  • Age of death in years, months and days
  • Date and place of death
  • Cause of death and duration of illness
  • Occupation of deceased
  • Marital status
  • Nationality and place of birth
  • Place of burial
  • Name and address of reporting doctor

After 1916 the following information was added:

  • Names of parents
  • Birth place of parents
  • Date of burial
  • Name of informant
  • Employer

How Do I Search the Collection?

You can search the index or view the images or both. Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • Name of the person
  • The location or date of the event

Search the Index

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images.

For more tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

What Do I Do Next?

Indexes and transcriptions may not include all the data found in the original records. Look at the actual image of the record, if you can, to verify the information and to find additional information.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Copy the citation below, in case you need to find this record again later.
  • Use the age or estimated birth date to determine an approximate birth date to find other church and vital records such as birth, baptism, and marriage records.
  • Use the information found in the record to find land, probate and immigration records.
  • Use the information found in the record to find additional family members in censuses.
  • Repeat this process with additional family members found, to find more generations of the family.
  • Church Records were kept years before counties began keeping records. They are a good source for finding ancestors before 1900.


I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?

  • If your ancestor does not have a common name, collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you find possible relatives.
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby town or county.
  • Try different spellings of your ancestor’s name.
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names. Try searching for these names as well.
  • Check the info box above for additional FamilySearch websites and related websites that may assist you in finding similar records.
  • One possibility why a person might not be found in the death records database is because there are missing certificates in this collection. The absent certificates are identified throughout the microfilm with a card stating the missing numbers. Since the actual certificates are absent from the microfilm they could not be indexed. Alternative indexes created by the Illinois State Archives could be helpful: 1916 and after www.ilsos.gov/isavital/idphdeathsrch.jsp or pre-1916 www.ilsos.gov/isavital/deathsrch.jsp. The pre-1916 index is a work in progress. Any certificate listed on these two sites can be ordered directly from Illinois Vital Records www.idph.state.il.us/vitalrecords/deathinfo.htm.
  • Contact the Cook County Clerk's Office www.cookcountyclerk.com/vitalrecords/deathcertificates/Pages/default.aspx.

Citing This Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.


Collection Citation:

"Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2017. Citing Cook County Clerk. Cook County Courthouse, Chicago.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994.

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