Genealogy Resources in the Local History Collection

These items are held in the Local History Room on the first floor unless otherwise noted. See the librarian at the Recent Arrivals desk for access. Click here for a list of the indexed vertical files. Our online genealogy resources include remote access to, and the Wilmette Library Local History Collection. We provide in-house access to Ancestry Library Edition and FindMyPast.


Interfiled obituaries, wedding announcements, letters, and general news item clippings are filed alphabetically in a series of notebooks. Many of these clippings are included in the online index to the Wilmette Life.


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 worthwhile 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. These are stored in the metal cabinet.
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 Illinois State Death Archives has Illinois Death Certificates covering the years 1916-1950. The Archives also has the Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre-1916. Death dates may also be found in the Social Security Death Index. An online version of this index is available in the Library through the Ancestry Database.  The Wilmette Historical Museum has a collection of death records for early local residents.  Also see the Obituary section below.


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 catalog to search under “Wilmette-History”, or “Cook County-History”. The 1956 book Wilmette and the Suburban Whirl : a Series of Historical Sketches of Life in the Suburb from the Turn of the Century by Herbert Mulford is also available digitally through the Library’s local history website.

Local Newspapers

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. Many news articles and obituaries published in the Wilmette Life have been indexed 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 digital microfilm reader which can convert microfilm images to digital files. Wilmette Life issues from 2008 to the present 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 1969-present on the library’s local history site. In addition, obituaries can also be searched in the digitally scanned newspapers noted above.

Online Genealogy Resources

Our online genealogy resources include remote access to,, and the Wilmette Library Local History Collection. We provide in-house access to FindMyPast.

Oral Histories

The Library has a collection of Oral Histories recorded around 1976. Print copies are available in the Local History Room and on the website. Audio copies are available on the website.


All identified photographs of people have been indexed. The index and photographs, filed by topic, are in binders. Photographs may not be copied, 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.

Polk City Directories

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, 1908 and 1946.


New Trier High School has published a directory of alumni, 1901-2004. It is cataloged and shelved in the Reference Room [R920.73 NE]. The Local History Room contains two slim volumes on the history of New Trier Township High School 1901-1981, and New Trier West 1965-1981, and scattered issues of the 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 these 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 notebooks in the Local History Room. These volumes have been digitized and are available on the library's local history website

Wilmette Life Index

The newspaper is indexed from 1991 to 2012. Scattered issues from earlier years have also been indexed. The index can be found online. Wilmette Life from 1923 to 1939 has been digitized and is searchable through the Local History site. Wilmette Life from 2008-present has been digitized in color, and is fully searchable and 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 digital microfilm reader which can convert microfilm images to digital files.


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