Thursday, April 15, 2021

Spotlight on Carroll County, Illinois

Carroll County is located in northwest Illinois.  It was formed in 1839 from Jo Daviess county. It was named for Charles Carroll, a Marylander who signed the Declaration of Independence.  Although Mr. Carroll never set foot in Illinois, many of the county’s early settlers were from Maryland.  The county itself remains fairly rural and they boast of only one stoplight in the entire county.

Birth and death records have been kept since 1877.  Marriage records, Probate files and Land Records date to the founding of the county.  Unfortunately, few records are accessible on FamilySearch.  There are some early vital records online at, along with some obituaries and cemetery information.

The courthouse is located in the county seat of Mt. Carroll and their website is  Some vital records may also be found at the IRAD depository at Northern Illinois University. Other county records housed at the IRAD are land, probate, and naturalizations records.

The Carroll County Genealogical Society has some church records online as well as records of naturalizations, and county poor farm records. They may be reached at


Note: This was originally published in the "County Spotlight" column in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Newsletter (March 2021).   

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Tip: How can land records help me find my ancestor?

Land records are often overlooked by the beginning genealogist.  This is unfortunate because they may contain clues to family relationships.  Often, a deed will contain language specifying a relationship. For example, “I deed to my son for love and affection”.  Even better is “to my daughter, wife of so and so”.  After a landowner’s death the land is often divided and sold by his heirs, also indicating family relationships.

Unlike birth and death records which have only been kept in Illinois since the 1870s, land records were kept from the date of formation of a County.  Land records are kept with the County clerk or County recorder in the County Courthouse. Many have been digitized and can be found online on sites such as

It is important to know whether that County was formed from another County because there may also be land records at the parent County. The Newberry Library has an interactive map showing County boundaries at

In addition to searching for the actual deed records, it is often helpful to look at maps of our ancestors’ land.  These maps help show the so- called FAN club - that is, the friends, associates and neighbors who may have interacted with our family and potentially be related.  A map may also give clues as to the geographic terrain that may have affected where our ancestors did business or worshipped.  You may find that a town in a neighboring County was closer than their own County seat.  A good online source of maps is at the Library of Congress –


Note: This was originally published in the "Tips from the Genealogy Committee" column in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Newsletter (March 2021).  While these tips were written for those researching Illinois ancestors, many of the principles can be applied to other locations.