Chicago Genealogical Society meetings are on the first Saturday of each month. They are free and open to our members and visitors.

All of our programs are at The Newberry Library, at 1:30pm and are free unless noted. Visitors are always welcome and we look forward to seeing you there!

Programs at a Glance 2017 – 2018

Saturday, August 26

Funeral by the cars to Forest Home Cemetery: A modern-day Field Trip with Chicago Historian Craig Pfannkuche.

CGS invites you to four hours on Saturday, August 26 for the recreation of a funeral trip “by the cars” to the famous Forest Home Cemetery.  In the era before the automobile, caskets bearing the deceased were often transported to Chicago’s outlying cemeteries by special funeral cars along the Chicago Street Railways. Meet the group at Union Station Great Hall 9:15 a.m. for this fun event.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Family History Day at Harold Washington Library. 

Chicago Genealogical Society partners with Chicago Public Library for a full day (10-4).  There will be three to four lectures in the auditorium and the multi-purpose rooms will be staffed with genealogists and librarians to answer your research questions.  Cost:  Free. Please join us at 400 South State Street!

Saturday, November 4, 2017 

 Author David L Keller will detail “The Story of Camp Douglas”


Built in 1861 Chicago, Camp Douglas was the largest Union Army prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers taken prisoner during the American Civil War.  It was described as “80 acres of hell”.  Don’t miss this compelling story. Join us at the Newberry Library at 1:30. Cost Free

December 2, 2017

Chicago Stock Yard and Transit Co

Chicago Stock Yard and Transit Co was the meatpacking district in Chicago for more than a century.  It was started in 1865 and was operated by a group of railroad companies.  Join us at the Newberry Library at 1:30 for an information talk about its history by Dominic A Pacyga the author of “Slaughter House”.  Cost Free

February 3, 2018

DNA: A Power Tool in the Genealogist’s Tool Box

Our speaker will be Karen Stanbary, CG. DNA test results are so much more than ethnicity pie charts. Using real-life case examples, Karen will explore the practical applicability of DNA tests to everyday genealogical problems. 

Karen Stanbary, CG, holds the Certified Genealogist credential. She lectures locally and nationally on the use of DNA test results in genealogical problem-solving, always within the framework of the Genealogical Proof Standard. She is a Trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists and chairs that organization’s Genetic Genealogy Standards committee.

Join us at the Swedish American Museum, 5211 North Clark, Chicago at 1:30pm for this program. Our program is free and there is complimentary parking at Foster and Ashland museum parking lot, Pay to Park on both Foster and Clark or CTA Foster Bus 92 and Clark bus 22. Check out the museum’s website for more details on the location and transportation

You may wish to come early and visit their outstanding exhibit “The Dream of America: Swedish Immigration” which follows immigrants from the journey to the new world to building a life and community in Chicago. Note: exhibit fee is Adults $4; Children/students/seniors $3. The museum is open 11:00am to 4:00pm on February 3.

March 3, 2018

The Chicago Genealogical Society Meets South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society

We are visiting SSGHS at the Hazel Crest Municipal Center, 3000 West 170th Place, Hazel Crest, IL, and having a joint program. The meeting will be held in the SSGHS Library which is on the west end of the building (plenty of free parking). Presentation, tour and research time are all free. Check out the Society’s website for directions and library holdings.

10:00am – Presentation and tour of the Society’s non-circulating library with many regional sources and learn about the Pullman Collection. The SSGHS was organized in 1968 and focuses on south Cook and east Will Counties. 

11:30am – Stay and research in the library. Open until 4:00pm.

April 7 , 2018

The Newberry Library:  Genealogy Collections and Tools

The Newberry acquires and preserves a broad array of books, manuscripts, maps, and other materials relating to the civilizations of Europe and the Americas. They focus on collecting original or primary source materials – such as manuscripts and early editions of printed books and maps – that will be preserved and made available for generations. In doing so, they aspire to enhance the great collection strengths that have been built by curators, librarians, other scholars, and donors throughout the library’s history.

The Newberry has been collecting genealogy and local history materials since 1887. Staff at the Genealogy and Local History desk can help you explore the Newberry’s rich collections of family histories; local histories; censuses, probate, deed, court, tax, and cemetery records; military rosters; periodicals; genealogical guides; and reference works.

Our Speaker, Matt Rutherford, MLIS, is Curator of Genealogy and Local History at the Newberry. In addition to managing the Newberry’s renowned genealogy collection, Matt has also answered thousands of questions on a wide range of genealogy topics. He has spoken at the Illinois State Genealogical Society and the Conference on Illinois History, as well as several local genealogy societies, including the North Suburban Genealogical Society, the Genealogical Forum of Elmhurst, and the Illinois St. Andrew Society. In addition, Matt teaches seminars on a variety of genealogy topics, including beginning genealogy, researching at the Newberry, researching pre-fire Chicago, adoption searches, non-population census schedules, the history of the federal census, and the Social Security Death Index. He is the co-author of A Bibliography of African American History at the Newberry Library (2005). This FREE program will be held at the Newberry Library at 60 West Walton, Chicago, and begin at 1:30 p.m.

May 5, 2018

Using Railroad Records in Family History Research

As the Age of Canals absorbed huge numbers of Irish and other laborers in that time, such was also true to an even greater extent in the “Age of Railroads.” Rights of way, cuts and fills, and ditches and tunnels were excavated most often by sheer muscle power. Ties were hand laid and spikes to hold the rails in place were manually hammered home. A massive infrastructure of stations, water and coaling towers, round houses, section houses and a vast array of other supporting structures were built and maintained by hand.  Rail cars were hand built of wood. Miles of wooden trestles were erected and maintained. Armies of section hands inspected and maintained many thousands of miles of track. Agents, telegraphers and signal maintainers worked to keep trains running on time. Swarms of crossing guards kept watch over street and road crossings. An almost uncountable number of clerks and office workers filled out bills of lading and handled ticket finances.  Engine wipers, oilers, hostlers, coalers, ash pan dumpers, water tenders, wick trimmers, carpenters, painters, wheel knockers, and a wide variety of blacksmiths and other metal specialists worked behind a train’s engineer, fireman, conductor, and two or three brakemen to get it over the line. Switchmen in huge numbers aligned switches to get trains to the correct destinations.  Clearly, railroads were the largest employer in the nation of workers, both male and female, of any industry outside of agriculture in the 1850 – 1930 period.

Railroad companies were meticulous record keepers. Large amounts of family history data were collected by the numerous railroad companies which spun their web of rails across the nation.  These records cover work done by millions of working men and women even up to the present day. Much of this material survives and is a potential treasure of family history data to researchers.  Our speaker, Craig Pfannkuche, Genealogical Archivist for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Historical Society will discuss the type of such records which exist, how they meet genealogical research needs and how to access them by using the archives of the Chicago and North Western Historical Society as an example. This FREE program will be held at the Newberry Library at 60 West Walton, Chicago, and begin at 1:30 p.m.

June 2, 2018

Chicago in 1893 and the Columbian Exposition

People came from all over the world to explore the wondrous Columbian Exposition in Chicago in the summer of 1893, but what else might visitors’ take the time to see or do during their visit? Like Paul Harvey, Donna Primas will tell you “the rest of the story” about city life and the most popular and amazing attractions that vied for tourist dollars (or quarters) circa 1893 Chicago.

Our speaker, Donna Primas, has been giving tours of Chicago in Spanish and English since 1983. In recent years she has been combining tour commentary with fantastic visuals to produce intriguing presentations that give a feel of time and place while revealing little-known stories of Chicago history. She will help us genealogists better visualize life just before the turn of the past century in Chicago! This FREE program will be held at the Newberry Library at 60 West Walton, Chicago, and begin at 1:30 p.m.

Please note: We will begin the June program with the Society’s Annual General Membership Meeting with the Election of Officers.

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