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Illinois Genealogy Resources

Marriage and
 Divorce Records

Several types of marriage records were kept, such as marriage registers, marriage returns, and marriage applications. Sometimes only one type of marriage record was preserved or filmed.

The marriage registers before 1877 provide little more than the date of marriage, names of the bride and groom, and the person who performed the marriage. Starting in 1877, pre-printed marriage register books in Illinois provided columns for ages, residences, birth places, and sometimes the names of the parents or guardians of the bride and groom.

Marriage returns were reported by the minister or Justice of the Peace who performed the marriage. County histories can be checked to learn which religion and congregation a minister served. Ministers’ returns may reveal that the marriage took place in a private residence, often the home of a parent or relative.

The county clerk usually kept marriage records from the time the county was organized. A few records date from the 1790s, but couples were not required to obtain a marriage license until 1877. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records to approximately 1920 for many counties. IRAD depositories have originals and film copies of marriage records and licenses for many counties.

The counties continue to record marriages to the present day and only county clerks can issue certified copies of the marriage certificate. A statewide register of marriages was started on 1 January 1962 as county clerks forwarded marriage information to the Illinois Department of Health. If you do not know the county where a couple married after 1962, the Division of Vital Records can search their statewide register and provide the marriage date and county.

The Illinois State Archives and the Illinois State Genealogical Society are creating a microfiche index to marriages in many counties of Illinois from the earliest settlement to 1900. This index is not yet completed, though it contains nearly one million marriages.

Some libraries and archives, the Family History Library, and IRAD hold marriage indexes and copies of applications, licenses, registers, and certificates. Also, many individuals and organizations have transcribed, indexed, or published marriage records for many Illinois counties. Kaskaskia Manuscripts and the Perrin collection contain some French-period marriage records. Those in the latter source appear in the Illinois State Archives marriage index.

See also Illinois Vital Records

For Marriage Records

  • County Clerks - Births, Deaths and Marriages (certified copies)
  • Dodd, Jordan R., ed. Illinois Marriages: Early to 1825: A Research Tool. Bountiful, Utah: Precision Indexing, 1990. The names of spouses, the date, and the county are listed. This index was compiled by Liahona Research Inc. from some of the county marriage records on microfilm or in books at the Family History Library. A list of the counties indexed can be found at the beginning of the book.
  • Dudley, Saundra.  Kassell-Cassell Missouri-Illinois : Marriage, Deaths, Tidbits : Research Notes / from Saundra Dudley, Pat Scheele. Wahoo, NE : Dudley, Scheele, 2000. 1 v. (various pagings) : ill., ports., maps ; 28 cm.

  • Illinois, Cook County Marriages 1871-1920 - Name index and images of marriage licenses and returns recorded at Cook County, Illinois - including the City of Chicago - 865,669 records as of 26 April, 2010.

  • Illinois County Marriages, 1810-1934 - Name indexes and images of county marriages from the state of Illinois. Currently this collection is 9% complete. Additional records will be added as they are completed. Counties: Adams, Alexander, Bond, Boone, Brown, Champaign, Christian, Clark and Clay. Note that in a cursory search, I didn't spot any images posted, but this will be a wonderful database as the data and images get up! - 323,712 records as of 15 April 2011.
  • Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763–1900  An Ongoing Project of the Illinois State Archives & the Illinois State Genealogical Society
  • Illinois, 1851-1900 Marriage Index -
  • Illinois, 1790-1850 Marriage Index -
  • Illinois Regional Archives Depositories (IRAD) - Births, Deaths and Marriages

See also Illinois Vital Records

For Divorce Records

In the early 1800s, the legislature, the circuit courts, and city courts granted divorces. Divorce records may indicate the date and place the marriage was dissolved. Circuit or city courts have handled most divorce proceedings. The Superior Court of Cook County in Chicago also has jurisdiction over divorces.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records has a register of divorces statewide and can verify the date and county of a divorce or annulment recorded after 1 January 1962. The Illinois Department of Public Health has an index (by husband's name only) and will verify post-1961 divorces if the county is unknown.

The clerk of the Circuit Court in each county maintains divorce records. The actual records before and after 1962 are available in the county where the divorce occurred, and certified copies may be obtained from the Clerk of the Circuit Court. IRAD depositories have divorce records for many counties in records of the chancery division of the Circuit Court.

During the territorial era and through 1837, the Illinois General Assembly considered some divorce petitions.