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Overheard in GenForum: Monmouth, IL
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

November 15, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Does any one know where I would write to get copies of my Grandfather's birth certificate? He was born in Monmouth in 1899,or 1898. Would like to find out more about his parents. Thank you for your time. — Cathy

A: Vital records are a relatively modern resource. Since most states did not begin recording vital events until the 1900s, a lot of people think that this means that there are no birth, marriage, or death records available before this time period. This would be a mistake.

Vital records are one of the few records that may be found at different levels. Those guides that talk about the records beginning in the 1900s are often referring to a state's recording of vital records at a state vital statistics office. There may be alternatives at regional legislative levels.

Look to more than the state for vital records.

Illinois Vital Records — State Level

On the state level, vital records for Illinois began in 1916. This meant the clerks in the county offices sent copies to the state for filing at the state's vital statistics office. It would be another six years before total compliance was established across the state and all vital records were sent to the state vital records office.

You may find that the state office of vital statistics has limitations as to what records are available when you request copies. Some states, such as Illinois, have privacy laws that control access to records.

You can contact the Illinois State Vital Statistics office by writing to them at:

Illinois Department of Public Health
Division of Vital Records
605 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, IL 62702-5097

The Family History Library has microfilmed death certificates beginning in 1916 and going up through 1947. These death certificates are organized by year, then month and finally by county. There is a miscellaneous batch at the end of each year for those not filed in the appropriate date and county section. There is an index on microfiche to these records. You can find out more about these records by looking at the entry in the Family History Library Catalog.

Illinois Vital Records — County Level

While the state records were not begun until 1916, the counties began to record vital records much earlier. In a few counties, the vital records begin as early as 1838. It was not until 1877 though that Illinois state law required the recording of vital records within each county.

If a county recorded vital records before 1877, you may notice a change in the registers and the manner in which the vital records are recorded. The amount of information included in the records after 1877 may be more thorough than those recorded before.

In general marriage records were kept from the inception of the county. Marriages prior to 1877, though, are usually just going to list the name of the groom, the name of the bride, and the date of the marriage. It was not until 1877 that the marriage registers begin to record additional information about the parties in the marriage.

The county vital records may be available on microfilm. The vital records for many of the counties in Illinois have been microfilmed by the Family History Library. You can borrow these films through your local Family History Center.

Vital Records for Monmouth

Monmouth is in the county of Warren. A search of the Family History Library Catalog reveals that Warren County, Illinois vital records have been microfilmed. For births, there is an index of births beginning in 1878 and going through 1983. Also available on microfilm are the birth records for the years 1877 to 1900.

Once you locate your grandfather's birth record, you can use the index to locate entries for other children. You will want to get all of these vital records. Often the information found from one to the next will vary. By gathering all of the birth records for the children you will be sure to have the best picture as to the parents.

Also, once you have found the birth of your grandfather, you may want to search the marriage records for Warren County for the marriage of your great-grandparents. The Family History Library has microfilmed marriages from 1831 to 1900. There is also an index to these records that covers the years 1831 to 1983.

If you find entries in the indexes, for which there are no microfilmed records available, you will want to write to the county courthouse in Monmouth to request copies of the records you are in need of. You can contact the court house at the following address:

Warren County Clerk's Office
100 West Broadway
Monmouth, IL 61462

In Conclusion

With the county vital records and the death records found at the state level, it is probable that you will find a great deal of information about your great-grandparents.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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