The easiest way to determine burial locations is to obtain a death record but due to Chicago Fire losses, they aren't available before 1871. Alternate ways of checking include searching for death notices and obituaries, cemetery records, and church burial registers. Another approach is to locate graves for family members who died after the Chicago Fire to see if a lot card is available.
A small group of pre-Fire sexton's records survive. You can view the originals at the Illinois Regional Archives Depository at Northeastern Illinois University but the information is also available in The Chicago Genealogical Society's publication Chicago Cemetery Records 1847-1863: sexton's reports and certificates, treasurer receipts, deeds, and undertakers' reports. To learn more about the book, check out this blog post.
If your ancestor is buried in a cemetery that's still open, the best way to find a record is to contact that cemetery. Below is a list of cemeteries that were included in the 1871 Chicago city directory.1 Contact the current offices to see if records are available.
One mile north of city limits on Green a road
Cemetery of the Congregation of the Sons of Peace
One and a half miles north of city cemtery, near the lake [Polish]
Cemetery of the Hebrew Benevolent Society
Adjoining the Cemetery of the Congregation of the Sons of Peace
Chebra Kadisha Ubikarcholm
Two miles north of city limits, on Green Bay road These four cemeteries are now known as "Jewish Graceland." Records may be available from 1855 forward. (See Development, Decline and Renewal of Old Jewish Cemetery)
On North Side, between Schiller street and North avenue (probably associated with City Cemetery)
German Catholic Cemetery
Three miles from the city limits, on Green Bay road
St Boniface Interment records, 1864-1987 are available on FHL microfilm.
St Henry Interment records, 1864-1987 are available on FHL microfilm.
City Cemetery (also known as "Milliman Tract")
North avenue to Lincoln park, between North Clark and the lake.
The city ordered this cemetery vacated in 1865 and the lot owners who could be contacted were allowed to choose new lots in Rosehill, Oak Woods, Calvary, and Graceland.
Two miles north of city, on Green Bay road
Cemetery records from first record book of Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois, 1860-1866 are available on FHL microfilm.
German Lutheran Cemetery (of the St Paul's and St Emanuel's
South of Graceland
Wunder's Cemetery records, ca. 1867-1930. No circulation to Family History Center. Records also available at the Newberry Library.
Four miles north of the city, on the Chicago and Milwaukee R.R.
If it was a Catholic burial, check the kiosk. (or FS)
Once you have a cemetery name, you'll need to see if the cemetery is still in existence. For a history of Chicago cemeteries, see Cemeteries on the Encyclopedia website.1Edwards' Fourteenth Annual Directory ... of the City of Chicago (Chicago: Richard Edwards, 1871), 45; digital image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org : accessed 30 April 2017).
The simplest way to determine where a person is buried is to look at the death certificate. With rare exceptions, that record will provide a cemetery name or other information about the disposition of the body. Chicago death certificates are available from 1878 forward and information for 1871-1877 deaths can likely be obtained from a death register in the Cook County Clerk's Office.
You may also be able to find burial locations mentioned in death notices or obituaries or in church registers.
Check a city directory for a list of cemeteries that were active during the burial year and see if you can make a match. Or, check one of the list of Cook County cemeteries that's online.
You may "Polish Cemetery" and generally that refers to St. Adalberts. You may also see "Central Plant." [ ] If you're uncertain, post a question on the Chicago Genealogy Facebook page and see if someone there can help you puzzle it out.
Browse Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic parish records online at FamilySearch. Early burial records are available for the following parishes:
Notre Dame, 1865-1883
St Francis of Assisi's Church, 1853-1877
St Joseph's Church, 1856-1915
St Michael's Church, 1866-1915
St Peter's Church, 1860-1900
If you'd rather use the microfilm, check the Family History Library Catalog to see what's available. Do a place search for "Chicago" and then select "Church Records."
For burial records from other denominations, check the Newberry Library's Guide to Chicago Church and Synagogue Records.
About this index
The title for this index is somewhat misleading because it includes entries for deaths that occurred inside and outside of Chicago, including out of state. It also includes some stillbirths.
13 microfilm reels
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