North Central

North Central

Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan

Let Chicago’s big shoulders carry you to new finds about your ancestry and you’ll come away thinking it’s Second City to none.

You’ll be blown away by the Windy City’s family research opportunities. Chicago today remains a city of neighborhoods, and a number of them have places just steps from public transportation where you can find out what your ancestors in the old country wore, ate and did.

Any genealogist’s trip to Chicago has to start at the Newberry Library (60 W. Walton St., 312-943-9090, <>) and when you get there, you’ll never want to leave. Its local history collection includes works from across this country as well as Canada and the British Isles. Copies of every federal census nationwide from 1790 to 1850 and every state census through 1850 are available; for Midwest states, federal census holdings are complete through 1880. You’ll also find more than 17,000 genealogies. The amazing thing is that access to all this information is free; all you need for a reader’s card is a photo ID and proof of current address. The Newberry does encourage donations — $50 for an adult to become an associate for a year. The library offers free tours on Thursdays and Saturday. Take the Red Line subway to the Chicago Avenue stop; the Newberry is just a short walk away, and parking is rare and expensive here.

It’s just a short cab or bus ride north to the Chicago Historical Society (Clark Street at North Avenue, 312-642-4600, <>). The society has some 20 million photos, drawings, diaries, letters and costumes representing Chicago’s history.

Just a few miles away from the Newberry (you could take the Chicago Avenue bus west if you’re comfortable with big-city environments) but in an entirely different world is the Polish Museum of America (984 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-284-3352, <>). While many Eastern Europeans lived in the area at the turn of the century, it’s now primarily a Latino community. Nonetheless, you’ll find the museum a paean to all things Polish, from costumes and uniforms to a painting of Casimir Pulaski, the Pole who’s known as the father of the American cavalry. (Chicago has the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw, and celebrates Pulaski Day each March). Around the corner in the same building you’ll find the Polish Genealogical Society of America <>.

Not to worry if your roots aren’t Polish. There’s plenty more digging to be done in Chicago:

• The DuSable Museum of African-American History (740 E. 56th Place, 773-947-0600, <>) is the nation’s oldest nonprofit institution devoted to African-American history. The permanent collection of photographs, art objects and memorabilia has more than 13,000 items. You won’t be far from Chicago’s terrific Museum of Science and Industry (57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, 773-684-3323, <>) and the prestigious University of Chicago, but if you choose to visit these fine attractions, rent a car rather than relying on public transportation.

• The Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture (6500 S. Pulaski Road, 773-582-6500) focuses on the period from 1918 to World War II when Lithuania was independent and also documents the 1990s’ successful independence movement. You’ll find armor and other objects collected by the founder and learn about the process of carving those beautiful eggs. Balzekas also has a Children’s Museum of Immigrant History that gives the kids an idea of what their ancestors would have worn when they came from Lithuania and elsewhere. The museum also serves as the postal address for the Lithuanian American Genealogy Society.

• Speaking of Easter eggs, you can find out more about the colored variety at the Ukrainian National Museum (312-421-8020, 721 N. Oakley Blvd., <>. There’s also information about folk arts, musical instruments and other artifacts and a collection of more than 16,000 books.

• The Irish found a comfy home in Chicago and still have a major impact in city politics. (Hizzoner Rich Daley and his father who was mayor practically forever both have Irish roots.) So it’s no surprise that the city is i home to the Irish American Heritage Center on the Northwest Side (2626 N. Knox, 773-282-7035, <>). There’s a small museum with a nice collection of Irish lace and maps that show Ireland’s contributions to the world back to the sixth century.

Don’t let the Minnesotans tell you they’re the only ones who know about Swedish immigration. The Swedish American Museum Center (5211 N. Clark St., 773-728-8111, <>) celebrates the history and culture of these immigrants, especially those who came to Chicago. The museum is located in the heavily Swedish pocket of Andersonville; be sure to check out the marzipan princess torte at the nearby Swedish Bakery (5348 N. Clark St., 773-561-8919, <>) and the famous cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather (5207 N. Clark St., 773-271-6677, <>).

Much of Chicago’s Greek community had to relocate with the University of Illinois-Chicago expansion decades ago, though you’ll still find some excellent Greek restaurants in the area if you take the Blue Line train to Halsted or exit the Eisenhower Expressway at Halsted and head north. But if it’s Greek history you seek, you don’t need to leave downtown. The Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center (168 N. Michigan Ave., Fourth Floor, 312-726-1234, <>) is a short walk from the Art Institute of Chicago <> and aims to preserve the Greek immigration experience.

We’re just scratching the surface of the Second City’s ethnic resources. Within an-hour’s drive or train ride of downtown, you’ll find even more resource centers for Assyrians to Slovenes and practically everyone in between. For more information on Chicago’s ethnic museums and special events, see the Convention and Tourism Bureau’s Web site (<>; the office doesn’t help individual travelers with trips). Of course, you’ll also find resources at the National Archives and Records Administration Great Lakes Region (7358 S. Pulaski Road, 773-581-7816, <>), which maintains retired records from federal agencies and courts in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. And don’t miss the main public library, the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State St., 312-723-4340, <>).

Because driving in downtown Chicago and nearby areas isn’t for the faint-hearted, you’ll probably want to stay downtown. We especially like the Embassy Suites Chicago (600 N. State St., 312-943-3800, <>) because it’s close to the Red Line subway’s Grand Avenue stop, which can then take you to a White Sox or Chicago Cubs game easily or at least connect you with most other areas you want to go in the city. Papagus Creek Taverna, located in the hotel (312-642-8450), is an excellent Greek restaurant, owned by Chicago’s biggest restaurant company, Lettuce Entertain You. Lettuce has more than two dozen restaurants in the metro area with themes from Italian to seafood to fine and casual dining; check out <> for more information.

If you’d like to do some power shopping on North Michigan Avenue while you’re in town, soak up 80-plus years of history at the Drake Hotel (140 E. Walton Place, 312-787-2200); be sure to take time out for high tea at its Palm Court. For something smaller and a little less pricey, consider the Raphael Hotel (201 E. Delaware, 312-943-500), a block off Boul Mich and near the Museum of Contemporary Art (312-280-2660).

Many of us are familiar with the poet Carl Sandburg’s characterization of Chicago as “hog butcher for the world … city of the big shoulders.” But in that same poem, Sandburg challenged Chicago’s detractors to “show me another city with lifted head singing/so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.” It’s a fitting tribute for a city that’s grown to greatness through its immigrants.

– Melanie Rigney

Records in the Illinois State Archives

<>: Searchable databases of public land sales, military records and emancipation records.

Vital Records Information

<>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.


• Fulton

Dutch Days

MAY 3-5

Dance in wooden shoes, lend a hand with street scrubbing and sample Dutch cuisine.

(815) 589-2691 <>

• St. Charles

Flavors of Greece

MAY 24-26

Greek food, dancing, music and crafts, at Kane County Fairgrounds.

(630) 851-6106



Indiana Genealogical Society

Box 10507 Fort Wayne, IN 46852 <>: Links to special society projects and publications.

Indiana Historical Society

450 W. Ohio St. Indianapolis, IN 46202 <>: Offers genealogy and family history programs.


“Genealogical Research in Indiana”

lecture by John Newman (, $8.50)

Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Indiana by Alfred T. Andreas (Heritage Quest, $19.95)

Indiana Genealogical Research by George K. Schweitzer (Genealogical Sources Unlimited, $11.95)

“Overview of Indiana Research” lecture by Curt Witcher (, $8.50)


Allen County Public Library

<>: Publishers of the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), and home to one of the nation’s largest genealogical collections.

Indiana Genealogy

<>: Collection of Indiana resources on the Internet.

Indiana Genealogy

<>: Searchable database of Indiana marriages through 1850.

Indiana Genealogy Books

<>: Purchase books about birth records, cemetery records and settlers in Indiana counties.

Indiana GenWeb

<>: State and county resources, queries, surname researchers.

Indiana Mailing Lists

<>: State, county and special-interest lists.

Indiana Pioneers

<>: Read 650 names from Year Book of the Society of Indiana Pioneers. The book itself contains information on the place and year of birth and place of settlement in Indiana prior to 1850 for the pioneers.

Indiana Resources at RootsWeb

<>: Searchable databases, surname searches, personal Web pages.

Indiana State Library Genealogy Division

<>: Searchable marriage, cemetery and mortality databases.

Vital Records Information

<>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.


• Fort Wayne

Johnny Appleseed Festival

SEPT. 21-22

Celebrate the early 1800s, when John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”) roamed the frontier planting apple orchards, at the park where his grave is located.

(219) 471-8941 <>

• West Lafayette

Feast of the Hunters’ Moon

OCT. 5-6

Relive the 18th-century gatherings by Native Americans and French settlers at Fort Ouiatenon, a fur-trading outpost. See the nearby Tippecanoe Battleground, too.

(888) 841-3244 <>



French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

9513 Whipple Shores Drive Clarkston, MI 48348 <>: Join the society to celebrate French Canadian heritage. And if you have proof of descent from a settler living in Detroit between 1701 and 1710, you’re eligible to receive a Detroit Settler Descendant Certificate.

The Historical Society of Michigan

2117 Washtenaw Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48104 <>: Established in 1828 to preserve Michigan history.

Michigan Genealogical Council

Box 80953 Lansing, MI 48908


Index to Michigan Research in Genealogical Periodicals by M. Quigley (Western Michigan Genealogical Society, $4)

Michigan: Atlas of Historical County Boundaries by John Long (Charles Scribners Sons, $162.50)

Michigan History

<>: Michigan History contains feature articles, and departments that highlight history-related books and events.

“An Overview of Michigan Genealogy”

lecture by Geneva Kebler Wiskemann (, $8.50)


Michigan Family History Network

<>: More than 187,000 Michigan birth, death and other records online.

Michigan in the Civil War

<>: Regimental rosters and photos of Michigan monuments at Gettysburg.

Michigan Genealogy Sites on the Internet

<>: Links to archives, cemeteries, census and military records.

Michigan GenWeb Project

<>: Lookups, research exchange, county resources.

Michigan Historical Center

<>: Photographs, research services, teacher resources.

Michigan Mailing Lists

<>: State- and county-level mailing lists.

Michigan Resources at RootsWeb

<>: Surname and archive searches.

Jump-start your Detroit family history with our guide to resources and research.

As much as Detroit seems a city of the modern age, pistoning at the pace of the automobile, it actually celebrated its 300th birthday in 2001.

The city was founded as D’étroit by Antoine Cadillac in 1701. Ruled by the French until 1760, Detroit was then under British control before becoming part of the United States in 1796. When the Michigan Territory was created in 1805, Detroit was still mostly a French-speaking community.

You can immerse yourself in the city’s past at the Detroit Historical Museum (5401 Woodward Ave., 313-833-1805, <>; adults $4.50). There you can walk the Streets of Old Detroit, from log to cobblestone to brick, and visit shops and businesses from past eras.

Neighbors of the museum in the city’s Cultural Center include Wayne State University, The Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Library (5201 Woodward Ave., 313-833-1000, <>; open Tuesday-Saturday). For the genealogist, the “DPL” will be your headquarters in Detroit.

The DPL’s Burton Historical Collection (313-833-1480, <>) is a treasury of primary and secondary source materials for family researchers. Among its holdings are US and Canadian county and local histories, federal censuses for all states and some Canadian provinces, land and military records, genealogies and photographs. The 38-volume set of American State Papers is here as are many city directories. Church holdings include microfilmed records of St. Anne de Detroit (1000 Ste. Anne, 313-496-1701), founded in 1701 and the only area church until after the War of 1812; Protestants also used its services for baptism, marriage and burial.

Manuscripts make up a significant share of Burton’s holdings, including family papers, correspondence, ledgers, scrapbooks, voyageur licenses and Detroit’s earliest colonial records. Many individuals prominent in Michigan history moved here from other places, so it’s not unusual for family papers to include documents originating elsewhere, such as wills, marriage registers and slaveholders’ inventories. City archives and those of Wayne County and Michigan Territory provide probate, tax and other early records. Children’s Aid Society and Children’s Home of Detroit records may also provide information on an orphaned ancestor.

Unfortunately, most of Burton’s collection is not included in DPL’s online catalog, except for material acquired since 1987. You’ll need to rely on published guides. Burton is a reference library, so material must be used on site. If you can’t get there, a list of researchers is available.

Public hours at Burton are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Three other library departments hold material of interest. Old newspapers are on microfilm in the General Information Department. The Great Lakes Patent & Trademark Center is useful for inventive ancestors. And the Map Collection contains wonderful old maps. If your forebears owned property in Wayne County outside of Detroit in 1855, look for their names on John Farmer’s Map of Wayne County Michigan. Some maps from the 1700s name earlier property owners in Detroit and Macomb County.

Kitty-corner from DPL is the Walter Reuther Library at Wayne State University (5401 Cass Ave., 313-577-4024, <>). Its focus is the development of labor unions and related social, economic and political reform movements. Besides union archives, you’ll find personal papers, family correspondence and audiovisual, such as photographic collections from Detroit newspapers back to the early 1900s. Oral history projects include Women and Work, minorities and Depression-era artists and writers.

If your ancestors owned property in Detroit or Wayne County, visit the Wayne County Register of Deeds Office (International Center Building, 400 Monroe St., Sixth Floor, 313-224-5854). Its index of land transactions goes back to 1703; the office is working on an online database you can search at home. Ribbon farms of early Detroit settlers extended up the shoreline into what became Macomb County, so some records may be at the Macomb County Clerk’s Office (40 N. Main St., First Floor, Mount Clemens, 810-469-5120, <>). Macomb separated from Detroit in 1818; the clerk’s office has vital records since 1867, marriage records since 1819.

If research reveals ancestors who died in Detroit, check out Mount Elliott Cemetery (1701 Mount Elliott Road, 313-567-0048) or Elmwood Cemetery (1200 Elmwood Ave., 313-567-3453). Elmwood also offers black heritage tours highlighting historic grave sites.

If you’re coming to Detroit for research, staying at Hotel St. Regis (3071 W. Grand Blvd., 313-873-3000), within a mile of the libraries, is particularly convenient. The downtown and riverfront areas offer accommodation options, but are a bit farther away. The closest dining, if you’re at the Detroit Public Library, is across the street in The Detroit Institute of Arts (5200 Woodward Ave., 313-833-7900, <>), or the Small World Cafe in the International Institute (111 E. Kirby St., 313-874-2233).

Other recommended restaurant options:

Twingo’s Cafe (4710 Cass Ave., 313-832-3832) — French inspired

Traffic Jam & Snug Restaurant (511 W. Canfield, 313-831-9470) — always interesting

Deli Unique (3663 Woodward Ave., 313-833-8810) — cafeteria-style

Duet (3663 Woodward Ave., 313-831-3838) — expensive but worth the splurge

JaDa (546 E. Lamed St., 313-965-1700) — upscale BBQ and southern

Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant (508 Monroe St., 313-964-6699) — try something a little different

• Any Greektown restaurant

Unfortunately for out-of-towners, Detroit’s Motor City appellation prevented development of rapid transit. The Detroit People Mover, a monorail system circling the downtown and riverfront area, is the only useful public transportation for visitors. (See a handy unofficial transit map at <>.) If you stay at a downtown hotel, the People Mover is a great way to get to restaurants and the Register of Deeds, but it doesn’t extend up Woodward Avenue to the library. To really get around, you’ll need one of the things Detroit is most famous for — an automobile.

– Candace L. Doriott

Vital Records Information

<>: Get copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.


• Frankenmuth

Bavarian Festival

JUNE 6-9

Costumes, maypole, polka and more at this German heritage fest.

(800) FUN-TOWN <>

• Mackinac Island

Lilac Festival

JUNE 7-16

This Victorian-era community hosts several events when the trees bloom. Cars have never been allowed here, so there’s a horse-drawn parade. (800) 4-LILACS <>



Ohio Genealogical Society

713 South Main St. Mansfield, OH 44907 <>: Searchable databases for members.

Ohio Historical Society

1982 Velma Ave. Columbus, OH 43211 <>: Death certificate index, Civil War documents, military rosters.


Early Ohio Settlers, 1700s-1900s CD-ROM (, $29.99)

Early Ohio Settlers, Purchasers of Land in East and East Central Ohio, 1800-1840 by Ellen Berry (Genealogical Publishing Co., $30)

Ohio Guide to Genealogical Sources by Carol W. Bell (Genealogical Publishing Co., $30)

Genealogical Research in Ohio

by Kip Sperry (Genealogical Publishing Co., temporarily out of print)

Ohio Genealogical Research by George K. Schweitzer (Genealogical Sources Unlimited, $11.95)

Ohio, 1787-1840, Land and Tax Records

CD-ROM (, $29.99)


Cleveland Necrology File

<>: The Cleveland Public Library hosts a database of local obituaries dating from the mid-1800s to 1975.

Footpaths Across Ohio

<>: Early settlers, land records, place names, pioneer routes.

John’s Ohio Genealogy Resources Page

<>: Links to statewide and county resources.

Maggie’s World of Courthouse Dust and Genealogy Fever

<>: Extensive list of Ohio links.

Ohio Genealogy Books

<>: Order books that contain information on Ohio marriages and county records.

Ohio Genealogy Links and Resources

<>: Links to census indexes, burial records, obituaries and marriage records throughout Ohio.

Ohio GenWeb Project

<>: Connect to county pages, lookups, African-American research and migrations. The site’s Early Vital Records section shows when each county was formed, its parent counties, the county seat and the earliest dates for available birth, death, marriage, land, probate and court records.

Ohio’s Guide to Genealogy

<>: Searchable databases of census, tax, death, birth and cemetery records.

Ohio Mailing Lists

<>: Subscribe to free county and state mailing lists.

Ohio Pioneers through 1865

<>: Lookups, surnames, maps.

Ohio Resources at RootsWeb

<>: Queries, archives, personal Web sites.

Pioneer Migration Routes Through Ohio

<>: Major roads and trails, with maps.

Revolutionary War Soldiers Living in the State of Ohio in 1818-1819

<>: Pension list published in 1918.

Vital Records Information

<>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.


• Dublin

Dublin Irish Festival

AUG. 2-4

Visit the genealogy exhibit and enjoy step-dance performances and concerts.

(614) 410-4400 <>

• Cincinnati

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

SEPT. 21-22

Have a beer and a brat at this downtown street festival — the nation’s largest Oktoberfest.

(513) 579-3100 <>

• Middletown


SEPT. 27-29

This international culture festival showcases a different nationality each year.

(513) 425-7707 <>



State Historical Society of Wisconsin

816 State St. Madison, WI 53706 <>: The society owns one of the largest genealogical collections in the country. Online research tips.

Wisconsin State Genealogical Society

2109 20th Ave. Monroe, WI 53566 <>: Online genealogical research service with a bookstore, newsletter and membership information.


“Norwegian and Norwegian-American Genealogical Resources in Wisconsin”

lecture by Blaine Hedberg (,$8.50)

Wisconsin’s Past and Present: A Historical Atlas by Wisconsin Cartographers’ Guild (University of Wisconsin, $39.95)


Finding Your Civil War Ancestor in Wisconsin

<>: Research tips and an interactive computer database of Wisconsin regiments.

Vital Records Information


How to get birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.

Wisconsin Civil War Regimental Histories

<>: History of each Wisconsin regiment.

Wisconsin Genealogy Research Information

<>: Information on obtaining vital records.

Wisconsin GenWeb Project

<>: Tips on starting research, links to county resources.

Wisconsin Land Records

<>: The interactive search is part of an interface to the Pre-1908 Homestead and Cash Entry Patents from the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office (GLO) Automated Records Project.

Wisconsin Lineage Links

<>: Links to Wisconsin’s lineage societies.

Wisconsin Mailing Lists

<>: Subscribe to county and state mailing lists.

Wisconsin Resources at RootsWeb

<>: Search engines, surnames, archives.


• Ephraim

Fyr Bal Fest

JUNE 14-16

Join in this celebration of Swedish and Norwegian heritage with traditional Scandinavian events.

(920) 854-4989 <>

• New Glarus

Heidi Festival

JUNE 14-16

“America’s Little Switzerland” celebrates its heritage with food, street dancing and the 37th annual performance of Johanna Spyri’s play, “Heidi.”

(800) 527-6838 <>

state stats


Statehood: 1818

First mostly extant federal census: 1820

Statewide birth and death records begin: 1916

Statewide marriage records begin: 1962

Public-land state


Statehood: 1816

First mostly extant federal census: 1820

Statewide birth records begin: 1907

Statewide death records begin: 1900

Statewide marriage records begin: 1958

Public-land state


Statehood: 1837

First mostly extant federal census: 1820

Statewide birth, death and marriage records begin: 1867

Public-land state


Statehood: 1803

First mostly extant federal census: 1820

Statewide birth and death records begin: 1908

Statewide marriage records begin: 1949

Public-land state


Statehood: 1848

First mostly extant federal census: 1840

Statewide birth, death and marriage records begin: 1907

Public-land state
From the Winter 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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