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Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 10/26/1999

Illinois State Marriage Index Hints

As mentioned in an earlier edition of the Ancestry Daily News, the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index is searchable online.

Two warnings about the index and the nature of the records contained within the index:

1) The index is NOT COMPLETE. Some counties are not yet included, and the time span covered varies from county to county. But a list of which counties and what years are available does exist. (Click on list to view it.)

2) The original records in each county generally do not start with the same year as marriage records in Illinois. They usually begin the same year the county was created, but early records might have been lost or destroyed.

The online search interface is different from most. Unfortunately, there is no "standard" online search interface. What follows are some techniques I have used to find names in the index. There are certain to be others.

- It is not necessary to enter the complete name. This can be helpful when you are uncertain about the spelling of the name or a middle initial.
- Putting Smith in the groom's name box will locate every groom with the surname Smith. It will also locate every groom whose surname is Smithton, Smithfield, etc. The name must begin with whatever has been entered in the search box.
- If I'm trying to locate a Julie, Juliana, Julia, Julee, etc. Rucker, as a bride, I can enter "Rucker, J" in the bride's box and every bride with the surname of Rucker whose first names begins with a "J" will be returned.

A little search creativity is sometimes in order when using any type of online index or database.

I wanted to find a marriage for a George Searle and a Lucina Kile in Mercer County. Typing in their names in several variations produced no results. I then searched for just "searl" as a surname for the groom (statewide). This gave me a listing of marriage entries, all of which had a groom whose last name began with "searl." I then used the find feature of my browser and searched for "luc" deciding that Lucina could be spelled many ways, but hopefully the majority would contain the letters "luc." The entry was located as: "George C. Searle and Lucenia Eile married in Mercer County in 1872."

Of course, I could always have printed out the list and looked at it manually. And looking for "luc" would have done no good had her name been listed as "Lusinda." Always keep in mind what your search is not searching for as well as what it is searching for.

A similar approach was used to find an earlier marriage. I was searching for a Sylvester Burnsides who married Catharine Kile in the 1850s. There are two ways I could have conducted this search.

1) Searches of Kile, Kyle, etc. under the bride's name would have eventually located this marriage.

2) A search for burnside as the groom's name would have caught "Burnside" and "Burnsides" as the groom's surname. If I had not known the last name of the bride, my search would have been more difficult. One fast approach would have been to have my browser do a search for the letters "ath" hoping that it would locate Catherine, Katherine, Catharine, Katharine, etc. This approach was successful in this instance and located the couple. Of course if the name did not contain the letters "ath" this approach would not have worked.

The difficulty was that the marriage was listed as: Marsellus Burnside and Ann Catherine Kyle, married in 1853 in Mercer County, Illinois.

Middle names and variations on names again caused the problem. But if everything was spelled correctly genealogists would not face the difficulties they do.

Another marriage I was interested in was that of Samuel Otto Johnson and Hedvig Olson in 1888 in Galesburg, Illinois. Entering the names in that fashion did not produce the marriage entry. I tried another approach. I guessed that the surname Johnson was probably going to be in the index correctly. Olson I had seen spelled many ways and could not think of one "fast and easy" way to search for it. So I opted for trying a search of "Johnson" as the groom and just put "ol" for the bride and focused my search for Knox County. There are alternate spellings of Olson not covered by "Ol" (Ohlson comes readily to mind), but it should catch the majority of them. This search produced nearly ten matches, one of which was:


This search was looking for any groom in Knox County whose name was Johnson that married a bride whose surname began with "Ol."

Three things to keep in mind:

1) Remember, if you find your ancestors in any such index, follow up by obtaining the actual records. At best they might tell you more. At worst they might conflict with the index's information.
2) Remember also that if you don't find someone in the online index the original records used to create the records should be searched. While indexes may be a genealogical godsend, they are not divinely created.
3) These search tips are only suggestions and won't solve every index problem.

Good Luck!

Copyright 1999, Michael John Neill. Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing.
You can visit his Web site,

Used by the author on his website with permission.

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