New Discovery: Chicago Death Registers, 1871-1879

New Discovery: Chicago Death Registers, 1871-1879

New record access! Oh, yeah.

I woke up thinking it would be a good day to work on updating I ate a pink frosting-covered sugar cookie that I got on sale at the grocery store yesterday, went to work on the tutorial page for finding death records, and was like, “Wow. Wow! WOW!”

I don’t know when it happened, and maybe this is old news, but Chicago death registers, 8 October 1871 to 29 February 1879, are now available for viewing on FamilySearch under the title Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, death registers, 1871-1879. It’s big news because these registers were never available on microfilm. It’s the first time we get to see them!

Remember the Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death? Here’s the index entry for James A. Smith who died in 1875. The “D” refers to a death register, the “120” is the page number, and the “13” is the line number.

Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death,” digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 March 2019) > digital folder 4261177 > image 263, entry for James A. Smith, 1875.

Up until now, the only way to get the matching record was to write the Cook County Clerk’s Office. I did that some years ago and this is the document I received:

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, death registration no. D-120-13 (1875), James A. Smith; Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago.

It was great to have the information but it was clearly a derivative record. I knew it had to have been copied from a death register–that was the only logical explanation–and I longed to see the record that it was copied from.

Well, this morning, that dream came true. I discovered the record images are now online and knowing that I could only access them from a Family History Center or an affiliate library, I took a quick shower, dropped my husband at work, and headed to the Orange County FamilySearch Library.

Here’s the matching register entry page:

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, “Deaths 4, Jan. 1, 1875 to May 31, 1876,” p. 120, line 13, James A. Smith (1875); digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 March 2019).

I believe this is actually a derivative record, too–it was likely created by copying information from certificates into the book as that’s the way the Chicago birth registers were created–but it’s one generation closer to whatever original there might have been.

And why is this so exciting? Because it means researchers can now access information about early post-Fire Chicago deaths without needing to rely on the Clerk’s office for help.

If you can’t get to a Family History Center to access the index and the register pages, I can search for you. Just send me a project request through my profile on

And, please post a comment to let me know if this post was of help to you. I’d love to hear about your research success.

Comments are closed.