Cook County Genealogy Online was presented Monday evening at the Chicago conference.
The website of the Cook County Clerk's office makes available more than 6 million historical Cook County vital records, with free index searches. Researchers, for a fee, can download high-resolution scans of the original documents.
Cook County Clerk David Orr said he wanted to make genealogy research more convenient and accessible to genealogists in many places. Some 100,000 people in 45 countries have already registered.
According to conference attendee Hilary Henkin (Los Angeles) who found and downloaded death records for possible cousins, "When I first downloaded the images, they looked like 'fuzzy dots.' However, when enlarged, they were very clear and easy to read."
These were new records for Hilary, who was looking for her father's missing "mystery" cousins. Based on information on the death certificates, she now has to visit the Mogilev (Belarus) section of Chicago's Waldheim Cemetery. Her grandfather was, like these possible cousins, from Mogilev.
She will also visit the Cook County Circuit Court later this week - with regional naturalization records - and attempt to get documents for these possible cousins.
Her father's uncle Abraham Henkin was born 1875 in Mogilev, and listed on JewishGen's "Birth Index for Boys" (Belarus SIG) born in that city. She has found a death certificate for Abraham born 1886 - the son of Moishe - but she's looking for an Abraham born 1875 - the grandson of Yuval-Moishe.
Hilary is hoping the naturalization records will reveal more details. She's a happy camper hot on the trail of a link.
The new online resource will help the Vital Records department as more online users will be able to do for themselves what staff used to do.
Illinois law states that genealogy records include birth certificates 75 years or older; marriage licenses 50 years or older; and death certificates 20 years or older.