Cook County Genealogy
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"The past empowers the present, and the sweeping footsteps leading to this present mark the pathways to the future."
– Mary Catherine Bateson

General Questions

Other Useful Genealogy Websites

If you can't find the records you are looking for try visiting the sites below for more information regarding genealogy records.

How Soundex Works

The Soundex Code indexes names by sound as pronounced in English. Soundex can help genealogists by indentifying spelling variations for a given surname (last name). Surnames that sound the same but are spelled differently, such as REED/REID and SMITH/SMITHE, have the same code and are filed together.

Here’s how it works:

  • Each code consists of a letter and three numbers, such as W235.
  • The letter is always the first letter of the surname and the numbers encode the remaining consonants.
  • Zeroes are added at the end if necessary to produce a four-character code. Additional letters are disregarded.

Here are a few examples:

  • Weston is coded W235 (W, followed by 2 for the S, 3 for the T, and 5 for the N. The vowels are ignored.)
  • Dever is coded D160 (D, followed by 1 for the V, 6 for the R, and 0 because there are no other consonants.)

NumberRepresents the Letters
1 B F P V
2 C J G K Q S X Z
3 D T
4 L
5 M N
6 R

Disregard the letters A, E, I, O, U, H, W, and Y.

There are a few exceptions to this code.

  • If a surname has any double letters, such as WiLLiams, only the first should be counted.
  • If a surname has at least two different letters side-by-side that are assigned the same code number, such as JaCKSon, they should be treated as one letter.
  • Surnames with prefixes – Van, De, Con, for example – may be coded with or without the prefix. Try both ways.
  • If a vowel separates two consonants that have the same code number, the consonant to the right of the vowel is coded.

Now that you've figured out your name's Soundex code, simply enter the code into the "Last Name" field on the search page.

Try Using Alternate Spellings

If you are unable to locate a document by the full spelling of a last name, please try using alternate spellings. Because some records were handwritten in cursive, the spelling of a name sometimes could be interpreted several ways. Try switching around the vowels. For example, an "A" may be an "O" or "U". Consonants may also take a different appearances. An "L" could be an "F", "S" or "T". The letters "PH" could be an "F".

What Qualifies a Record to be a Genealogy Record

Under Illinois law, genealogical vital records are defined as:

  • Birth certificates that are 75 years or older (before today's date in 1943);
  • Marriage certificates that are 50 years or older (before today's date in 1968);
  • Death certificates that are 20 years or older (before today's date in 1998).

For more information please complete our email form.
Copyright © 2018 Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough. All Rights Reserved.
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