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Illinois: Local History & Genealogy Resource Guide

Compiled by reference specialists at the Library of Congress, this guide identifies key print and online resources for pursuing family history, as well as state, county and municipal historical research, for the state of Illinois.


J. M. Peck, cartographer. New sectional map of the State of Illinois. 1836. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Once inhabited by Cahokia mound builders and Illini Indians, the Illinois Country was settled by French Canadians and governed by Louisiana until 1763. England then ruled the land east of the Mississippi, and American forces took it in 1778. Settlers came from Kentucky, and Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and as part of the Northwest Territory, slavery was prohibited. All these changes prompted some people to move westward, across the Mississippi. It became part of the Indiana Territory from 1800 to 1809, and was then Illinois Territory until statehood in 1818.

Connected by rivers, lakes, canals, the National Road, and eventually railways, Illinois became a hub of national travel and commerce. Trapping, farming, mining and production of all types contributed to the growth of the new state.

This guide offers a selection of resources and strategies for Illinois local history and genealogy research. These include the print and digital collections of the Library of Congress, as well as external repositories and web sites key to finding forebears in the Prairie state, also known as the Land of Lincoln.

About Local History & Genealogy Reference Services

The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, numbering more than 50,000 compiled family histories and over 100,000 U.S. local histories. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's library.