How to Find Cook County Probate Records

Because of the Chicago Fire, probate records begin in 1871, however some wills dating back to 1850, are available. Check the Wills Index, 1850-1975, available at the Cook County Circuit Court Archives, Room 1113 in the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street in Chicago.
The first step in finding a probate file is to check the Probate Deceased Index available on microfilm at the Cook County Circuit Court Archives, Room 1113 in the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street in Chicago.

If a case number is found, the file can be ordered in from the warehouse (no charge) and once it arrives (2-10 days) it will be available for viewing and/or copying for about 30 days.

If you live in the Chicago area, you can search the index and order in the file youself. Then, when you return to view it, you can make copies using a cell phone camera (no digital cameras allowed) or a small flatbed scanner.

If you aren't close enough to visit the Archives in person, you can request a search by mail and have paper copies sent to you, but hiring a local researcher is another good option. It will likely save you time and money and, as a bonus, digital images will make it look like you're looking at the actual records. For more information, see Kim's Chicago, Cook County, Illinois Probate and Wills Look Up offering on Genlighten.com.

Probate records from 1976 to the present are held by the Circuit Court's Probate Division, Room 1202 in the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street in Chicago.

You can search a probate index online on Probate Case Search page. You can search for wills on the Probate Wills Search page.

If you need a local researcher to make copies, Kim makes regular trips to the Daley Center and has experience retrieving probate records.

FAQ

What's the size of a typical probate file?

Probate files vary in size from a small folder to a number of letter-legal boxes. Most early cases seem to be a stack of trifold pages, ranging from an inch to four or five inches thick.

What kind of information is found in a Cook County probate file?

Along with routine forms such as those appointing an executor, the files usually include a Proof of Heirship document which gives information about potential heirs. Also of potential interest are invoices for claims against the estate which may include bills related to household management, business dealings, illness, and funeral arrangements.

How can I learn more about the Circuit Court Archives?

Visit their website to learn more about their research policies and holdings.