Illinois Biography

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Ronald Reagan with family - 1916-1917

Online resources[edit | edit source]


Biographies provide useful genealogical information such as a person’s birth date and place; names of family members, including maiden names; education; occupation; and social, political, and religious affiliation. They may also contain a physical description of the person, previous residences, and immigration information. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research about early settlers and prominent citizens of a state, county, or town. Local histories may contain biographical sketches of lesser-known people.

Biographies in Local Histories[edit | edit source]

  • Biographical information is often found in state, county, and town histories.
  • Towards the end of the 19th century, began publishers soliciting short biographical/family histories from local founding families, offering to publish them in an upcoming local history. This then became an incentive for family members to buy a copy of the book.
  • Families represented were not necessarily prominent. Practically everyone living there, especially in the Midwest, counted as an early settler.
  • These biographies often start with the first member of the family to settle in the area, and detail their descendants at the time of publishing. They may tell where the family moved in from. Children's marriages often are given, with maiden names included.

Finding Biographies[edit | edit source]

  • The county Wiki page lists several county histories. It also lists local libraries, and societies which probably have copies of local histories.
  • Many histories are no longer under copyright and can be found in the following online, digitized book collections. Search with keywords "History" and "the name of your locality" (state, county, or town).
  • The FamilySearch library has extensive collections of these local histories. Many are digitized. Search the FamilySearch Catalog under your locality for the topics "Biography" and "History".

Major Biographical Collections[edit | edit source]

Two major archives and libraries in Illinois have biographical indexes to local histories and other sources in their collections. The Illinois State Archives has card indexes to biographies (not every name) found in selected local histories. The archives also have most of the collection of county biographical volumes edited by Newton Bateman, titled Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (subtitles, places, and dates of publication vary by county). Many of these are also at the Family History Library. See Illinois History for more information about this source. Listing of available counties and where to access the respective volumes.


The Illinois State Historical Library, a division of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, has an extensive collection of local histories. It has a biographical card index to about 10,000 Illinoians featured in local histories and other sources. The library also has every-name indexes to some of the histories. Many of its printed sources are available through interlibrary loan, and the library will do limited searches for a fee. Excellent collections are also at the Newberry Library. See Illinois Archives and Libraries for addresses.

Biographical Encyclopedias[edit | edit source]

Examples of statewide biographical encyclopedias are:

Statewide Collections[edit | edit source]

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

See theUnited States Biography for information on nationwide biographical collections. See also the "History" and "Genealogy" sections for additional sources. You may wish to explore biography, history and genealogy sections in the wiki at county levels also.

Biographies can be found on state, county and local levels. The Family History Library has many collected biographies and local or county histories with biographical sketches on residents. Links to county pages appear below. Additional resources for Illinois biographies may be found in the Illinois-Biography keyword search in the FamilySearch Catalog . Copies of records on FHL microfilm and microfiche can be ordered for viewing at Introduction to Family History Centers. Also find Illinois Biography resources available at other libraries (WorldCat). Explore how to search WorldCat and the Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog.

To find biographies and published family histories on specific surnames in the FamilySearch Catalog , use a surname search.