Probate Court Files
In 2013, the Madison County Circuit Clerk’s office donated its onsite archive of pre-1960 probate court records to the Madison County Historical Society (MCHS). The estimated 34,000 records are housed in archival document storage boxes in a climate-controlled storage facility adjacent to the Weir House museum.
The file organization system implemented by the Circuit Clerk’s office has been retained. The files are stored in boxes numbered 1 through 1615. The MCHS collection includes boxes 250 through 1615. Each file is wrapped in a cover and labeled with the box number and a name or names. From looking at the files, Archival Library staff conclude that files from a common time span were loosely ordered alphabetically and stored together in a box.
Organization of Files
The Circuit Clerk’s office created an alphabetical index to the files according to the last name on the file cover. The index was scanned made available on the Madison County Illinois Circuit Clerk CONTENTdm Website. The index is also available at the Archival Library. Contact the Archival Library to arrange to view a specific file. (Note that the files stored in boxes 1 through 249, dating 1813-1900, are located at the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Files of interest from the IRAD collection can be identified via a searchable online index on the Illinois Secretary of State website.)
Cases involving the guardianship of minors are concentrated in a subset of the collection – boxes 496 through 695.
In the probate context, a “guardian” is defined as a person of legal age responsible in the eyes of the court to manage the property and/or the wellbeing of a minor. In some cases, the minor may have a surviving parent who was excluded from the deceased parent’s will. The surviving parent may even be appointed guardian of their minor child. Some of the guardianship files predate Illinois’s statehood in 1818.
Volunteers and staff created an index to the guardianship files. They identified minors, guardians, and other relevant individuals in the case when applicable (for example, deceased). Volunteers who participated in this long project include Betty Byrd, Susan Coffey, Lynn Engelman, Gary Forshaw, Derik Hefferly, Marty Lane, JoAnn Nabe, Don Reaka, Marilyn Sulc, Joan Wentz, and Janet Zuehlke.
Using the Guardianship Index
Step 1: Consult the Index to Minors links (below) to identify a minor of interest. The minors are listed alphabetically by last name. When you find the minor, note the File Location.
Step 2: Using the File Location from step 1, consult the Case Files Index links (below) to identify other relevant individuals in the case involving the minor of interest. The cases are listed in order by File Location.
Step 3: Contact the Archival Library to arrange to view the file. Tell the staff the File Location(s) of the file(s) you want to see.
Index to Minors: A–B C–E F–H I–L M–O P–R S T–Z