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Archives Holdings

The Archives Department of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County was established in 1992 to collect, preserve, and make available to researchers the non-current records created by the Cook County Court system.  This is a great stepping off place for genealogical research since the holdings in the Archives Department date back to the 1871 Chicago Fire.   A brief overview of the holdings is provided below.

Please note that *starred records are stored offsite and transferred to Archives for viewing.  Researchers should allow 2-10 days for these records to be transferred to Archives.  Moreover, researchers should always feel free to contact Archives staff for assistance.

Archives patrons should be aware that the Clerk's office began computerized indexing and docketing of court cases in the early 1980s.  Indexes are located in the Archives Department unless otherwise stated.

Dates: 1871-1929
Courts: Superior, Circuit, County and Criminal Courts of Cook County (Naturalization records produced by other Cook County towns, such as Blue Island and Calumet City, are not included)
Includes:  Case files may include declaration of intent, petition, and/or court order. Declarations of intent filed elsewhere may contain more information.
1904-1906   Name, date of naturalization, possibly address and witnesses
1904-1906   Above, plus generally include town of birth, port of departure, date and port of arrival, occupation, and witnesses
1906-1929   Above, plus wife's name and date of birth, children's names and dates of birth, and physical description of petitioner
Indexes: National Archives Soundex Naturalization Index (Microfilm) 1840-1950 (for Northern Illinois and parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana)
Dates: 1871-1976
(Some wills date from the 1850s)
Courts: County Court 1871-ca. 1880; Probate Court 1880-1963; Probate Division, 1964-present
Includes:  Besides the administration of wills and estates, probate matters can include estates of minors and incompetents. Case files may contain the will, date of death, heirs, property inventories, description of real estate, petitions of claimants.
Indexes: Probate Deceased Indexes (microfilm) 1871-1975; Minors Indexes (microfilm) 1871-1975; Incompetents Indexes (microfilm) 1911-1975; Wills Indexes (microfilm) 1850-1975; Docket Books 1871-present (stored offsite, in Archives Reading Room, or in Room 1813, Daley Center)
Dates: 1871-1963, 1964-1991 (Chancery)
Note: Post-1964 law cases over 21 years old are destroyed, per Illinois statute, but all orders issued by judges in the cases are available on microfilm
Courts: Circuit and Superior Courts, 1871-1963; Law and Chancery Divisions, 1964-present
Includes:  Case files may contain cause of action (complaint), defendant's response, motions and briefs filed, testimony (occasional), verdict (if jury trial), and judge's final order. If the case was appealed, a transcript may be present. 

Civil cases reflect a variety of topics, including local area business and industry, labor issues, medical (and other) professions, sports and entertainment.

Chancery matters also dealt with class actions, arbitrations and injunctions, name changes, and proceedings of corporations.

"Burnt Records" cases filed after the Chicago Fire of 1871 to establish land ownership in lieu of destroyed paperwork are available in Archives on microfilm (1871- ca. 1950).
Indexes: Circuit Court and Superior Court, both plaintiff and defendant indexes (microfilm) 1871-1963; Law and Chancery Division Indexes (microfilm)1964-65; Chancery Division Index (microfiche)1966-1991; Law Division Indexes 1964 forward electronic index. Docket books and clerk's record books 1871-1980; Law 1871-1991; Chancery (majority stored offsite) and Law Oversample database index
Dates: 1871-1986
Courts: Circuit and Superior Courts 1871-1963; various suburban municipal courts ca. 1900-1963; Domestic Relations Division 1964-present
Includes:  Case files may contain the plaintiff's complaint and defendant's response, certificate of evidence (testimony), and the judge's final decree, with the terms of settlement. 

Divorce cases may provide information about grounds for divorce, address, occupation, age and name of children of parties, date and description of the marriage, and provision for care of the children. Cases do not include social security numbers for above dates.
Indexes: Circuit Court and Superior Court, both plaintiff and defendant indexes (microfilm), 1871-1963; Divorce Division index (microfiche)1964-1980; 1981 forward electronic index; Chicago Heights, Calumet City, Blue Island indexes (microfilm), appx.1900-1963. Docket books and clerk's record books, 1871-1985 (majority stored offsite)
Dates: 1871-1900; 1927-1983 (1871-1900 cases stored in Archives)
Please note that 1900-1927 cases have been destroyed, but case activity may be re-created from court docket books and indictment records. Indictment record books (1871-1924) stored offsite, and indictment records (1913-1923, microfilm) are stored in Archives.
Courts: Criminal Court, 1871-1963; Criminal Division, 1964-present
Includes:  Case files may contain the indictment, names of witnesses on subpoenas, instructions to jury and final verdict, sentence, court half sheet, etc. Missing cases may be reconstructed from docket books and indictment records. Criminal felony case files seldom contain direct testimony. However, they may occasionally include: names of jury members or persons involved; evidence such as maps, news clippings, or photographs; or sealed depositions. Files of appealed cases may contain transcripts of the trial proceedings; felony transcripts from 1931-1970s available in Archives on microfilm.
Indexes: Criminal Indictment Indexes (microfiche) 1873-1983; Docket books clerks' record books, and half sheets 1871-1983 (stored offsite); Indictment Record (microfilm) 1913-1923
Dates: 1871-1975
Courts: County Court 1871-1963; County Division 1964-present
Includes:  County Court cases have dealt with a variety of matters. Jurisdiction has included municipal incorporations, land titles, election contests, child support, and tax objections.
Indexes: County Court case file indexes 1871-1963 are closed because of adoption records listed therein. Docket Books and Clerk's Record Books 1871-1980s (stored offsite)
Dates: 1871-present
Courts: County, Circuit, and Superior Courts, 1871-1963; County Division, 1964-present
Includes:  NOTE: All adoption and mental health cases are closed, pending an order by the presiding judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, County Division. The Archives cannot make these cases available. Patrons should direct inquiries to the Chief Deputy Clerk of the County Division.
Dates: 1899-1926 with gaps, 1926-1964 destroyed (only a sample preserved thereafter)
Courts: Juvenile Court, 1899-1963; Family Division 1964-1970; Juvenile Division 1970-present
Includes:  NOTE: All juvenile cases are closed, pending an order by the presiding judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, Juvenile Division. Patrons should direct inquiries to the Chief Deputy Clerk of the Juvenile Division. Once written permission is granted by the presiding judge, patrons may research older non-current case files through the Archives.

Case files contain information of a personal nature, including demographic data such as family background, education, health, etc.