Frequently Asked Reference Questions

Record Searching: Birth, Marriage, Death, Divorce, Land

Example Questions That Can Be Answered Using This FAQ

  • Can you tell me what babies were born in Chicago in June of 1965?
  • I’m trying to find my grandfather’s death certificate. I know that he died in 1972 in New York, but I don’t know what month or where.

IPL patrons are interested in getting access to various public or vital records using the Internet. However, these sorts of records are one of the types of information that isn’t really available on the Internet. One of the problems with putting information onto the Internet is dealing with all the historical types of information (like land, birth, death records etc.) that weren’t originated in digital form. It is too expensive to retro-convert many types of information, and so the information stays in paper format.

However, there are some online guides to obtaining public or vital records that can help you find out where these records are located and how to access or obtain copies of them:

Adoptees may find that the kind of searches they would like to do of public records (e.g. get a list of names of all the male babies born in Chicago in June of 1965) will be virtually impossible not only because the information is not available in an online database, but because of restrictions many states place on the type of lookups they will let you do of their recent and/or historical birth records. For other methods of finding adoptive parents, try the web sites in the IPL’s Adoption Resources section or on the Cyndi’s List – Adoption web page.

If you do a search for "birth records", or "death records", or "marriage records", using a search engine, you will find that various services offer for-fee searching of records databases for particular regions. View these services with caution. You are almost always better off going to the office or library that holds the records you need and searching them there, with the help of a librarian or county clerk, than by using one of the services.