c ChicagoGenealogy | How to Find Chicago Marriage Records

How to Find Chicago Marriage Records

Pre-Fire Chicago Marriage Licenses

Because of Chicago Fire losses, only a few civil marriage records exist before 1871. Sources for these licenses include:

Cook County, Illinois Marriage License Records, 1870-1880 by Leona Hopper Newbill

Some Cook County Marriages Prior to Fire abstracted by Joan L. Alguire

Alternate Sources for Pre-Fire Marriages

Newspaper Notices

Cook County, Illinois, Marriage and Death Indexes, 1833-1889.
This index, also called "Sam Fink's Index," indexes marriage and death notices from Chicago newspapers including Chicago Tribune (indicated in the index with *), Chicago Evening Journal ($), Chicago Democrat (#), Chicago Times (%), Chicago Evening Post (?), Chicago Record-Herald ("), Chicago Daily News (@), Chicago Examiner (¢), and the Inter-Ocean (:). The marriages cover 1833-1871.

For more information about this index, please see the Sam Fink's Marriage-Death Index Available on Ancestry blog post.

The marriage entries from this index are included in the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900 with "FINK" in the license number field.

Some of the matching records can be found in Ancestry's Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 which includes the Chicago Tribune, 1850-1985.

Church Marriage Records

Check Research Tutorial > Church Records for availability.

Cook County has marriage licenses from 1871 forward and they are available for genealogical purposes if they are fifty years or older. Marriage licenses through 1920 (previously available on microfilm) are available on FamilySearch. Some marriage licenses after 1920 are also available there. Coverage dates change as new record images are added to the database, so check the website for current availability.

Check An Index

Begin your search for Cook County Marriage licenses using the Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1968 index at FamilySearch.

Locate the Record

If you find an index match, click on the name to view additional information.

If you are at a family history center or an affiliate library, you may see a link which will allow you to view/save the corresponding record image. If so, good news!

If you are at home, you may see an "Image Unavailable" message. This means the image should be available if you visit a family history center or an affiliate library. If you're not able to make the trip, you can request a copy of the image using the Family History Library Record Lookup Service form.

If the FamilySearch index doesn't include an image link, you can request a copy of the record from the Cook County Clerk's Office for a fee. Use the Cook County Genealogical Request Form.

No Match? Check Another Index

If you check the FamilySearch index mentioned above and don't find a match, check another index:

Illinois Statewide Marriage Index (Secretary of State)
Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index, 1871-1920 (Ancestry)
Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1912-1942 (Ancestry)
Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 (Ancestry)

Still No Luck?

Check for the marriage in Lake County, Indiana (subscription index at Ancestry.com) and in St. Joseph, Michigan ( 1832-1887 at Michigan GenWeb; 1889-1925 at RootsWeb)

Alternate sources of information include:

In a Nutshell

Check the Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1968 index on FamilySearch. Many Chicago marriage licenses can be obtained for free on FamilySearch. If they're not available there, they can be obtained from the Cook County Clerk's Office for a fee.

FAQ

What information is on a marriage license?

Information generally found on these records

  • groom's name, age and residence
  • bride's name, age and residence
  • date the license was issued
  • marriage date and place
  • name of the person who performed the ceremony
Sometimes a church name is given and occasionally witness names are recorded in the bottom margin of a license. Some licenses provide a space for a parent to sign if one of the individuals is underage.

Although the early Cook County marriage licenses do not provide parent names, they can provide valuable clues for further research. For example, many times a church name is given, or if not, a priest's or pastor's name can often be matched to a particular church for a particular time period using city directories.

How can I get the marriage application with parent names?

You may be able to get a copy of the marriage application by submitting a mail-in request to the Cook County Clerk's office, but unfortunately, the early Cook County applications have little or no genealogical information. For example, a 1920s application might only include the name and address of the person who applied for the license. That said, if you are turning over every research stone, it would be worthwhile to to try to get the application.

How can I match a pastor/priest to a church?

If the marriage license gives you the name of a pastor or priest but doesn't mention a church, try checking a city directory for the year of the marriage. If the church name isn't mentioned under the name in the alphabetical section, check the church section in the front of the directory.

Marriage Records Available on FamilySearch Microfilms

While it's no longer necessary to use the microfilms, this information below is still relevant to the many records digitized from those reels.

Cook County Marriage Licenses, 1871-1920

About these records
Marriage licenses were issued to a couple by the county clerk, completed and signed by the person who performed the ceremony, and then returned to the county. Occasionally there is a microfilmed note that says a license wasn't returned. This could indicate that the marriage never took place or that the document was never returned to the county. Neither the licenses nor the applications from this time period include parent names.

Indexing
Check FamilySearch's Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920 index. If you don't find a match there, follow up with the indexes listed under the tab at the left.

FHL Catalog
View Entry

Arrangement
Licenses are arranged by license number which means that they are in chronological order according to when they were issued. After 1893, Chicago and Cook County (outside the city) licenses are separate within each 100 numbers on the films. The Cook County licenses come first, followed by the Chicago licenses.

Example:
234300 Cook
234301 Cook
234305 Cook
234307 Cook
(Note how the 234300s begin again)
234302 Chicago
234303 Chicago
234304 Chicago
234306 Chicago
234308 Chicago

Information generally found on these records

  • groom's name, age and residence
  • bride's name, age and residence
  • date the license was issued
  • marriage date and place
  • name of the person who performed the ceremony
Sometimes a church name is given and occasionally witness names are recorded in the bottom margin of a license. Some licenses provide a space for a parent to sign if one of the individuals was underage.

Search tips
Although the early Cook County marriage licenses do not provide parent names, they can provide valuable clues for further research. For example, many times a church name is given, or if not, a priest's or pastor's name can often be matched to a particular church for a particular time period using city directories.