Search Help

Search Types

Home Page Search

  • Address: You search for materials that are at or near an address within the City of Chicago. You enter a modern address in Chicago and can establish a radius around that address using the desired unit of measurement (e.g., miles feet, kilometers) from the pulldown menu in the box.  Then you enter the number of units for example if you want to look at materials within one and a half miles you would put 1.5 and select miles.
  • You must use a modern address. Like most cities, Chicago has had street name changes and you can find help with finding what an old street name has become today with the Street Name Changes guide.  Also in 1909 Chicago renumbered the streets in order to provide a standard numbering system for most of the city.  It can be found at the 1909 Street Renumbering guide.  The Loop area in Chicago however did not get new numbering until 1911, so if you are looking for Loop address prior to 1911 use the 1911 Street Renumbering guide.
  • Keyword: By selecting the Search by Keyword tab, you may enter a word or phrase to search through all of the materials.  Please note that in searching by keyword, the word may appear anywhere in the text.  So if you search for school, you would find a French restaurant that has the phrase school of cookery so that item shows up in the list of results.  If you are getting too many results that are not on topic, you might want to use the Advanced Search described below.
  • Browse by Community: Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods and the Browse by Community tab allows you to learn something about specific neighborhoods.  Chicago has 77 Community Areas that are used by such agencies as the Census Bureau and by others for urban planning among other things. Using the pull down menu on the Browse by Community tab, you can select a community and you will be taken to a page with a map of the community. There will be a number of pins already on the map for the area which you can examine. In addition there will be links to other sources.  Histories of the neighborhood, an article from the Encyclopedia of Chicago online, and neighborhood photographs of people are places can be linked to from this page.

Advanced Search

  • The Advanced Search page allows you to focus a search using a number of categories.  An Advanced Search begins when you click on the blue Apply button below the categories.  Based on your selections, a map will appear that show pins for all of the items that meet your criteria.  Below the map will be a listing of the items found in your search.  You can sort the listing by the Title, the Start Year, the End Year and any of the other column headings that are colored blue.  By clicking on a Title you will open that item which appears in a new page with a map showing its location and information concerning that item.  To return to your search results, use the back arrow on your browser.
  • Topic: Use the pull down menu in the Topics box to find a list of categories of items.  For example you see Public Spaces and Education so you might use the Education category here to look specifically schools rather than the Keyword search on the Home page.
  • Collection: The materials that have been brought together for ChicagoAncestors are from a number of different sources or collections.  If you are interested in Cemeteries or in Synagogues, you call click on one of those collections in the pull down menu in the Collections box.  You will then see all of the items in that collection on a map with pins for each item and a listing of all of the results below the map.
  • Community Area: Using the pull down menu select a Community Area that you would like to examine.  A map will be on the results page with the list below of all items that are associated with that neighborhood.  As you can tell this makes it a bit more informative about specifics in that Community Area.
  • Denominations: If you are intererted in a specific denomination of religion, this is a better choice for searching for items about that group.  The Topic has Religious Institutions and the Collection may have Roman Catholic Churches but the pull down menu here provides you with a more focused listing of the specific denominations.
  • Ethnicity: Chicago has always had a diverse and multiethnic population and if your interests are in a specific ethnicity, we have an extensive listing of choices for you to use.
  • Structure Type: A variety of structure types such as bridges or buildings as well as uses for those building such as Library or Military are listed in the pull down menu.
  • Title: Title consists of two boxes. One has a pull down menu with phrases to describe what operation you would like to do such as "is equal to" if you are looking for an exact match or "starts with" if you only know part of a title.  The second box is where you enter the text that you are searching for in the Title of the items.
  • Start year: Start Year consists of two boxes. One has a pull down menu with phrases to describe what operation you would like to do such as "is equal to" if you are looking for a specific year or "is greater than" if you want to look for items that are only dated after a certain year.  The second box is where you enter the year.
  • End Year: End Year consists of two boxes. One has a pull down menu with phrases to describe what operation you would like to do such as "is equal to" if you are looking for a specific year or "is less than" if you want to look for items that are only dated before a certain year.  The second box is where you enter the year.  For all items for which there is no end year, such as cemeteries that are still open, the number 9999 is the highest year in that field.

 A Few Added Pointers

  • If you have a map on any page where you do not see streets and only have a pin, you need to zoom into the map.  This is done using the scale at the upper left hand side of the map.  Moving the slider up on the scale zoos you in and very soon you will be seeing streets with names, parks and all of the other features of the map.
  • In using Advanced Search, if you select several options in the different boxes, you may well have zero results and no matching items.  Try removing at least on of the selections of categories to see if that helps.  You do not have choose categories in all of the boxes; just use the ones are most closely related to your search.