Local History Collection: Genealogy Resources

Biography Files

Interfiled obituaries, wedding announcements, letters, and general news items clipped from the local paper in one alphabetic sequence in notebooks under the heading BIOGRAPHY. These notebooks are the first place to check for information on a family.


Check these files if the ancestor had a business in Wilmette. The files are organized under the heading BUSINESS, and then by name of business. The Local History files also contain WILMETTE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE business directories for 1968-69, 1987-89, 1999-current year. Older directories contain name and address of owner as well as information about the business.


Photocopy of the New Trier Township Federal Census of 1880 is filed under CENSUS.


Information on Churches is listed under the heading of CHURCHES, and then by denomination and name. Information on individuals is sketchy in these files, but it can be worth while to check them. The file for St. Joseph Catholic Church, for example, includes an annual statement from 1903 with a list of members.

Clubs and Associations

The family historian might be interested to know what organizations his ancestor belonged to. These materials are organized under the heading GROUPS in file cabinets in the local history room. The library owns some directories published by local clubs and associations.

The Woman’s Club of Wilmette directories, for example, date from 1913-1915, 1922-1965, 1972. The Wilmette Garden Club directories date from the 1940s.

Death Dates

The State of Illinois Death Index covers the years 1916-1950. More contemporary records are found in the Social Security Death Index. An online version of SSDI is available in the library on the AncestryPlus database.  The Wilmette Historical Museum has a collection of death records for early local residents.


Published histories of the village and the county sometimes include names of individuals, especially if they were prominent in some way. These books have largely been cataloged and can be located by using the library’s online catalog to search under “Wilmette–History” or “Cook County–History.”  "Wilmette and the suburban whirl," by Herbert Mulford, is also available on the Library's local history website.

New Residents

Chamber of Commerce newsletters publish lists of new residents from time to time. Current newsletters are filed under WILMETTE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE in the Local History files. The Wilmette Historical Society has the newsletters from1998 to the present. New residents who purchased a house in the village October 1997 to 2009 may be found in the library’s index to the Wilmette Life.


The Library has microfilm of historic local newspapers including Evanston Press (1890-1902), The Local News (1891-1916), Lake Shore News (1912-1923) and Wilmette Life (1923-current year).  The oldest newspapers are rarely complete runs.  The surviving issues of The Local News and Lake Shore News have been digitized, and can be searched and viewed on the Library's local history website.  News articles about Wilmette published in Wilmette Life have been indexed from 1991-current year.  The index is available on the website, but because of copyright restrictions, most of the articles can only be viewed in the Library on microfilm.  The library owns a digitial microfilm reader which can convert microfilm images to digital files. Wilmette Life issues from 2008-2011 have also been digitized in color.  The digital issues can be searched full-text, printed, or downloaded to a flash drive from a work station in the Library.

 Obituary Index

Obituaries from the local newspapers are indexed for the years 1912-1923 and 1971-2012 in the library’s local history site.


All identified photographs of people have been indexed. The index and photographs, filed by topic, are in binders in the cabinet opposite the work counter. Photographs may not be Xeroxed, but arrangements can be made to digitize a photograph for you. Some of the photographs in the library's local history collection have already been digitized, and can be viewed on our local history website.


The library has a few city directories for the years 1893, 1927-28, 1933, 1935, 1937 and 1939. These directories can be used to confirm the residence of the family in Wilmette, to get street addresses, and in some cases, obtain information on occupation.  The Wilmette Historical Museum has an online index to Wilmette directories for 1890, 1898, and 1908.


New Trier High School has published a directory of alumni, 1901-1992. Copies are cataloged and shelved in the Reference Room and in the Local History Room [R920.73 NE]. The Local History Room also contains two slim volumes on the history of New Trier Township High School 1901-1981, and New Trier West 1965-1981, and a few yearbooks. An extensive collection of yearbooks and other information about the school can be found in the New Trier Township High School Archives.

Taxpayers Lists

Published lists for 1909, 1913, 1924, 1931-1936, organized in rough alphabetical order by name with address. Filed in Local History Room under TAXPAYERS.

Telephone Books

The library has telephone books for Wilmette and Kenilworth for the following years: 1909-1912, 1924-1942, 1945, 1960-68, 1982.  Several of them are available online.

Voters Registration

An issue of the Wilmette Life dated September 4, 1952 contains a list of all registered voters in the Village by precinct. A precinct map is included in the issue. This paper is kept in the local history files under VOTERS. An earlier list also exists, the Men Voters Poll Book for the election held at the Village Hall of Gross Point, 15 April 1919.

This second list is filed under ELECTIONS 1873-1929.

War Memorial

Information on Wilmette residents who died in war, and whose names are on the Village War Memorial, can be found in the Local History Room. Notebooks with biographies of the soldiers is kept in glass fronted cabinets [Local History R920.7731/ WI] These volumes have been digitized and are available on the library's local history website

Wilmette Life Index

Newspaper is indexed from 1991 to the present. Scattered issues from earlier years have also been indexed. The index can be found online.  Wilmette Life from 2008-2011 has been digitized in color, and is available for use within the Library.  Because of copyright restrictions, these digital issues cannot be displayed online.  Microfilm for earlier years is also available in the library.  The library owns a digitial microfilm reader which can convert microfilm images to digital files.

Revised April 2012


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