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One-stop shopping for Illinois laws

If you’re going to research in Illinois, you need to know that the Territory of Illinois came into being in 1809.

It had been part of the Northwest Territory created in 1787, then part of the Territory of Indiana created in 1800, then the Territory of Illinois was created by Act of Congress 3 February 1809.1

Which means that there is legal history — statutes and laws — unique to Illinois dating back 209 years.

That’s a lot of statutes and laws.

Even for The Legal Genealogist, who was poking around in those laws last night before jetting off to Illinois for tomorrow’s McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society (MCIGS) 2018 Conference in Crystal Lake, that’s a lot of statutes and laws.

Illinois law

So I’m delighted to be able to share with you that we don’t need to go hunting for 209 years of Illinois legal history. My friend and colleague Debbie Mieszala, an Illinois genealogist and fellow trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, has done it for us.

On her blog The Advancing Genealogist, Debbie has put together a list of all the published Illinois laws from 1809 to the present — the territorial laws from 1809 to 1818, and the statehood laws from 1818 to today.2

And she’s given us links to where we can find those laws online, except for a 50-year period in the 20th century when copyright laws have kept the information from being digitized.

Starting with The Laws of the Territory of Illinois, 1809-1811, republished in 1906 and available on Google Books to the laws passed at the last session of the Territorial Legislature in 1817-1818, also available on Google Books, and through almost all of the state laws including today’s, Debbie’s “Historic Illinois Statutes” is a fabulous resource for Prairie State researchers.

Need the code published as the Revised Laws in 1833? No problem. It’s on Google Books. The private laws passed in 1836? On Internet Archive. A digest of criminal laws from 1818 to 1868? No problem: it’s on Google Books.

This resource is so complete and so much fun, I’d even go so far as to say it doesn’t get any better than this… except that it does.

You see, in 1989, the Illinois Secretary of State published a six-volume Index to the Laws of Illinois, 1812-1968.3

And yep… they’ve been digitized too, and Debbie has all six volumes — and another index for 1818-1869 too — on her “Indexes to Illinois Statutory Law” page.4

Want to know if your ancestor Alexander Wilson is mentioned? (He is, in the laws of 1814.) Your ancestor Samuel Whiteside? (Yep, in 1829.) Nathan Lowe? (In 1841.)

For Illinois research, head over to The Advancing Genealogist… and drop Debbie Mieszala a note of thanks.

It really doesn’t get any better than this.


  1. See generally Janice A. Petterchak, “Chronology of Illinois History: Timeline of Illinois History,” Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division ( : accessed 6 July 2018). For the act creating the Territory of Illinois, see “An act for dividing the Indiana territory into two separate governments,” 2 Stat. 514 (3 Feb. 1809).
  2. Debbie Mieszala, “Historic Illinois Statutes,” The Advancing Genealogist ( : accessed 6 July 2018).
  3. Index to the Laws of Illinois, 1812 – 1968, 6 vols. Springfield, Illinois: Secretary of State, 1989.
  4. Debbie Mieszala, “Indexes to Illinois Statutory Law,” The Advancing Genealogist ( : accessed 6 July 2018).
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