Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cook County Images Disappear From

Dear Ancestry Insider;

I was using FamilySearch Saturday afternoon [26 January].  I was searching within the Cook County Illinois birth certificate images when suddenly I received a message to try back later.  Well, an hour later I tried again only to discover that all the Cook County databases where images were previously available were now ALL only showing indexes.  Having them all disappear does not look like normal maintenance downtime although that may be the case.

It is now Sunday morning and nothing has changed.  This is a huge and valuable collection and I hate to see it disappear, the reason being ??????

Maybe all will be restored by Monday . . . maybe not.  Maybe you have covered this previously and I missed it, for which I apologize.  If none of this is the case would you please be able to call upon your Family Search contacts and find out if this is temporary or permanent.  And possibly WHY.  I so hate to think this may be another local government money grab at work.

Thank you,

Dear Lori,

I poked a little bit and found this message posted in the FamilySearch Wiki article, “Illinois, Cook County Death Records (FamilySearch Historical Records).”

Image Visibility

Due to the provisions and guidelines of a newly 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.

As part of our new agreement, FamilySearch will receive an additional 4.7 million records for FamilySearch patrons from the over 9 million free indexed records in the Cook County collection. The following collections are affected by the change:

  • Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922
  • Illinois, Cook County Birth Registers, 1871-1915
  • Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922
  • Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920

Original images can be ordered or viewed through the following mediums.

1.  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.

2.  Illinois, Cook County web site  (pay site)

3.  Request a digital copy of items found in the Family History Library  catalog services from the Family History Library (photoduplication). Include source information found on the index of the record in your request.

It sounds like you are correct, Lori. However, I wouldn’t think too harshly of the Cook County government. The recession has hit everyone hard, particularly record custodians and archives.

Thanks for alerting all of us to this disappearance.

--The Insider

It sounds like this is a lose-win situation. (Not as good as a win-win, but hey, sometimes you have to take your wins where you can find them.) While the images have disappeared, we are gaining access to an additional 4.7 million records.

I was also glad to learn about the FamilySearch photo-duplication service. That’s pretty handy stuff. There are lots of records on that don’t include images but do mention a microfilm number. I’ll probably use it myself rather than walking across the street to the library.

You may call it laziness, I prefer efficiency.


  1. As originally reported on Jan. 24, there is another option to get these records. You can request a digital copy of the records by clicking the "Request Research or a Lookup!" button at

    If you don't use FB, submit requests at:

    Records will be digitally downloaded and sent via email within a few days.

  2. It's a loss. No doubt about it. But we're still farther ahead then we were before the indexes and images went online.

    The public indexes used to end at 1915 for births and at 1916 for marriages. This meant that even though records to 1922 and 1920 respectively were available on microfilm, they weren't easily accessible. In most cases it made more sense to just send in a request to the county clerk's office to see what they could find.

    The indexes that remain on FamilySearch give us much more accessibility and independence than we had before. Two steps forward plus one step back still equals one step forward and I'm grateful for that!

    For anyone in the Chicago area, the Wilmette Family History Center has complete collections of Chicago births to 1915, marriages to 1916,and deaths to 1947.

  3. Morris County, New Jersey, surrogate records were also removed.

  4. > I wouldn’t think too harshly of the Cook County government.

    I would. Records held by the government are the property of the people, so what Cook County is doing is wrong. It is perfectly appropriate for the government to recover the costs of providing the records, but what they are trying to charge for the records themselves.

  5. Lori said:
    "I so hate to think this may be another local government money grab at work."

    Yep, that's it. I will post a comment like I posted on the Crook County message board. If Crook County thinks that charging $15 or $17 plus one of more fees to get a poor quality, ridiculously over-contrasted, black and white only (without greyscale) document photo, so we can see if that document might contain information about our person, is going to be a cash cow for the crooks, they are sadly mistaken. Any money fools or desperate people might pay will amount to a cash cheeseburger, not a cash cow. Crook County can go to where it's really, really, really hot. I'm so happy I no longer live in Crook County.

  6. Because I helped to index thousands of those Cook County records, I'm feeling just a tad ill used...

    1. Lise,

      Because you helped to index thousands of those Cook County records, the genealogy community has a look into those records that would otherwise cost a lot of money. I hope that FamilySearch will index--no, transcribe--a lot more records for which the record custodian refuses to give public access.

      --The Inisder

  7. FamilySearch is beyond and far and away the best thing to ever happen to genealogy - there is no equal - so why am I having such a hard time swallowing this...

    For the life of me - I cannot understand why familysearch didn't send out a notice (at least a press release) letting us know that Cook County's record images were to be pulled. How many people had found a record and for what ever reason didn't print it out? Raise your hands...

    1. I agree! A little heads up would have been nice. I had just added a bunch of links to my Sourcebox and was getting ready to print the images. Unfortunately they are now gone.

  8. I found 7 records on Family Search cook county birth records that the "custodians" at the county could not find and actually charged me for. This is a great loss.


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