3 simple steps to unearthing your home’s history

“3 simple steps to unearthing your home’s history in the County Building 118 N. Clark Street, Chicago”
The information below is from a trifold-brochure the BHS published in 1992.
The brochure was written and originally printed courtesy of House Researcher, Liz McManmon

To start out locally you may skip to the end of this document about references/research tools available in the Berwyn Library.

Room 112 Office of the Country Treasurer – 118 N. Clark Street, Chicago (http://www.cookcountytreasurer.com/)

In room 112, you want to find the legal description of your property, which basically is a very precise way of describing it. All you need is your address, which might translate into…Lot 4 of August Smith Add. of Lot 20 of Sub of N1/2 of the SW 1/4. For a small fee, a clerk will copy the legal description as it appears on the upper corner of the page in the Sidwell book.

Tract Department – The stairwell in room 120 leads to this room in the basement.

Give your legal description to the clerk, who will in turn give you ta tract book number. This allows you to find your lot(s). Most of Berwyn is covered in the books numbered 176,177, and 178. Each volume has a contents page listing the legal descriptions contained in that book. In our example, Augusta Smith’s Additionl is on page 131 of book 79N. Page 131 will have a map with each block and lot numbered. On the page opposite the map, under the legal description and in the red ink., will be the date the section was originally subdivided. After the map, the pages will be numbered first block by block and then by lots. If you are the current owner, your name should be the last transaction listed for that lot number. How long it will take to copy this information depends on how many people have called your house home. Property transactions in the last couple of years will have to be searched on the computer first, and then continued in the tract books.

Microfilm Library – next to the Tract department in the basement.
So far, so good. If you want to look at the actual documents your lot has produced over the years, go over to the microfilm room. You may need two things — a cushion and a magnifying glass. Some of the earlier documents look like they were recorded in hieroglyphics. Be prepared to take notes, unless you want to pay copying charges – the fees in 1992 were $20 for the first two pages of each document and $1 for additional pages (fees may have changed so please inquire with the staff)
Each transaction listed in the tract book has a document number associated with it in the far left hand column. If your document numbers are higher than 175/84/895, give them to the clerk as is.

If your document numbers are lower than 175/84/895, you need to find the book and page numbers in the paging books located on the west wall of the Tract Department. This is a cross-reference process. E.g. the document number is counted from the right to the left three-digits – two digits – whatever is left. Document number 65/02/388 becomes document 388, page 2, book 65. (In book 65, page 02 is numbered 6502.) Next to document 388 you will find book #15201 page #624. Jot these numbers down on a scrap of paper (one listing per paper). The clerk will return to you the microfilm sheets containing these page numbers. Sit down and learn all there is to know about how your property was purchased, divided and changed hands over the years. Note: the selling price can be computed from the amount of revenue stampls, and the name of the notary public may have lead back to the name of the real estate firm.

The Berwyn Library has copies of the 1896-97 Annual Directory of Berwyn and LaVergne. It includes an alphabetical listing of the people residing in both suburbs, the addresses and any other family members. The Library also has directories for 1903, 1915, 1927-28, and 1940. The 1928 directory has reverse indexes (address to name)

One other source for information is the tax assessment records. With the index number from your tax bill, you can go to the assessor’s vailt on floor 31/2 of the County Building to see the complete history of the asessments of a property (Since this brochure was written I believe information is now also available online: http://cookcountyassessor.com/Property_Search/Property_Search.aspx) A substatnial increase in the asessment general reflects consturction of a building.

In additional to yout trip to the County Building, you may want to search through some early newspapers and periodicals for building permits issues. Likely cantidates for information include the Chicago Tribune, The Economist (1888-1946; available at the library of the Chicago Historical Society), Inland Architect (available at the library of the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Newberry Libray), Western Architect and the Brick Building (both available at the library of the art Institute).

Street Names have changed in some cases, see reference below
Harlem – same
Maple – same
Wisconsin – Ivison
Wenonah – Berkeley
Home – same
Clinton – Harold
Keniworth – Irving
Grove – Elliot
Oak Park – same
Euclid – Carol
Wesley – Baldwin
Clarence – Winfield
East – Hiawatha
Scoville – Wood or Pilsen
Elmwood – Linden Place or Prague
Gunderson – Union of Greenwood
Ridgeland – same
Cuyler – Sheldon or 63rd Street
Highland – 63rd or Morton
Harvey – 62nd or Aurora
Lombard – same

Listed below are some of the first people who purchase homes from Andrew and Piper. If you find that any of these names are associated with your home, please let the BHS know your address.
W.W, Hartman
Gen. Jas MCartney
W.W. Anthony and I.W. Haring
Perry Bates
Dr. E.I. Lyman
Dr. W.S. Hall
J.I. Moore
J. W. Suddanor
W.B. Carter
E.M. Cole
J.D. Hallingshead
Capt. C. N. Gray and P.J. Redmond
B.M. Cooledge
Erick Simpson
C.W. Ostrander

Good Luck!
We would love to find out what you unearthed, send us a note at info@berwynhistoricalsociety.org

Also of interest:

House research in Chicago: Your house has a history

Antique home styles in the US

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