CONFUSION: I need help

Are there any Americans out there who have applied for dual-citizenship via a recovery of nationality law?

Please, let me know. As an American applying for dual-citizenship in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, I need to put together a packet of birth, marriage and death certificates that shows the Ministre de la Justice that I am in fact a descendant of a Luxembourger.

Finding my Great-great-grandpa Susanna Eischen née Schmitz birth certificate proved a difficult task that accomplished only after many hours of online research, invaluable information from relatives and my bilingual girlfriend who is crazy enough to call government agencies in small European countries at 2 a.m. CST.

However, an even greater obstacle looms on the horizon: dealing with Illinois state and county bureaucracies.

Why do I need to interact with these Illinois bureaucracies in which happiness, creativity, efficiency and commonsense all go to die? Well, I need those certified copies of birth, marriage and death certificates for my relatives. The earliest record I must obtain was issued for November 24, 1897, when my great-great-grandparents were married in Chicago.

However, the websites I’ve perused have only confused me further about how I’m supposed to obtain these documents.

For starters, Illinois statute allows for the obtainment of familial birth certificates under these conditions:

Birth records are not public records and only the following are eligible to receive certified copies:

  • The person named on the record if 18 years or older;
  • The parent(s) shown on the record; or
  • A legal guardian or legal representative of the child. Written evidence of guardianship or legal representation is required.

Uncertified copies of birth records for genealogical purposes are available to individuals who may not otherwise be entitled to receive a certified copy, if the person’s date of birth precedes the current date by 75 years or more. Birth certificates filed before 1916 must be obtained from the county clerk. (List of county vital records Web sites or county clerk addresses)

A CERTIFIED copy of a birth record of a deceased individual, which occurred less than 75 years ago, may be available to eligible parties upon completion of a special application form and showing proof of death. A GENEALOGICAL copy of a birth record of a deceased individual, which occurred more than 75 years ago, may be available to eligible parties upon completion of a special application form and showing of proof of death. Eligibility will be determined upon receipt and review of the documentation submitted. You may request this special application form at or by writing to …

Blah blah blah.

OK, this isn’t too bad. Those younger than 75 are my parents, who can get their own documents. Everyone else is dead and older than 75. I’m not sure about it, but I don’t think I can use genealogical records for my application (unless anyone can refute this). I believe I must have certified copies.

As for marriage certificates:

Certified copies of marriage records are available from the county clerk in the county where the marriage occurred. (List of county vital records Web sites or county clerk addresses.) The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Division of Vital Records does not issue certified copies of marriage records.

For a $5 fee, IDPH, Division of Vital Records can verify the facts of a marriage that has taken place from 1962 through the current index date available. Verifications can be obtained by mail, by fax or in person.

For death certificates:

Contacting the appropriate County Clerk — Copies of death certificates may also be obtained from the county clerk’s office in the county where the death occurred.

Most of the documents are stored at the county level. Luckily, most of the births, marriages and deaths in the Eischen family were issued in one central location, Cook County. Those that didn’t — my mom’s birth certificate and mom and dad’s marriage certificate —  can be found in Winnebago County, which is a 30-minute drive north to Rockford.

As for the Cook County records, that could be a 30 minute drive sans traffic, a two-hour drive with traffic or an hour-and-twenty-minute train ride. After mistakenly purchasing $120 in train passes via a Metra ticket machine, I should probably chew up some of the remaining rides.

So, what exactly does David Orr’s Cook County say about obtaining the certificates?

Genealogy Records

The Cook County Clerk’s office provides non-certified copies of vital records for the purpose of genealogical research.

To order online, visit the Clerk’s website Genealogy Online.

Please note, the Chicago Fire of October 8, 1871 destroyed all county vital records prior to that date.

Under Illinois law, genealogical records are defined as:

  • Birth certificates older than 75 years.
  • Marriage certificates older than 50 years.
  • Death certificates older than 20 years.

All genealogical records issued by the Clerk’s office are considered non-certified documents and stamped “For Genealogical Purposes Only.”

Document Cost
Birth $15; and $4 for each additional copy
Marriage $15; and $4 for each additional copy
Death $17*; and $6* for each additional copy
*Effective July 1, 2012 per PA 97-0679

If you are uncertain of the exact date of birth, marriage or death and want us to search more than one year, include $1.00 for each additional year you want searched, up to a maximum of 10 years.

Other sources you can contact directly may be helpful in your search and locating state file numbers:

Requesting a record

ORDER ONLINE and download immediately at

To obtain a genealogical record, you must:

  • Fill out and sign a Genealogical Request Form*.
  • Pay the required fee (see above).
  • Mail or deliver the form to the Cook County Clerk’s office:

Mail your request to:
Cook County Clerk David Orr
Bureau of Vital Statistics
Attn: Genealogy
P.O. Box 641070
Chicago, IL 60664-2570

Include the following items:

  • a completed Genealogy Request Form*
  • a check or money order payable to the Cook County Clerk
  • a self-addressed stamped envelope

For more information


Essentially, if they can’t find want I need, the charge is nonrefundable. I don’t care so much about the price to acquire this genealogical proof, but it’s the principle of having to fork over that much money for pieces of paper that prove my family existed when I’m pretty damn sure I know they exist. It’s even worse knowing that this money goes directly to the office in charge of elections in Chicago. That’s unsettling.

I am also confused by the “certified” versus “genealogical” differentiation in certificate copies. The State of Illinois and Cook County consider documents older than 75 years to be genealogical. I’m assuming these are easier to obtain than certified documents. But, as stated on the County’s website, “All genealogical records issued by the Clerk’s office are considered non-certified documents and stamped ‘For Genealogical Purposes Only.'”

OK, but I need birth certificates older than 75 years, marriage certificates older than 50 years and death certificates older than 20 years . So is there a way to get certified versions of these certificates? Or do I get the certificates and then find someone in the County or State to notarize all the documents to make them official? Or will the genealogical records acceptable for my application?

Who the hell knows.

Even if I obtain the right documents, it will slow down my application process excruciatingly. Once I put together all these birth, marriage and death certificates, I need to hire a professional translator to translate all of the documents into either German or French, the languages used for official government paperwork in Luxembourg (this actually should take about a week or two, which isn’t too long). But before I can do that, I need to find 21 birth, marriage and death certificates.

I thought this would’ve been easier.

It’s not so much the wait that perturbs me. It’s the fact that the parliament in Luxembourg might vote on a bill or present a referendum to the citizenry that could potentially alter the law to include stricter provisions on language requirements. This would complicate the process.

Does anyone out there have advice?

For the weekend, I’m taking a break on the project. I should mull over how to approach this next step. I also need to write a list of agencies and departments to call. Hopefully someone can provide clarification on the matter.

But if anyone out there, perhaps an Illinoisan who has applied for dual-citizenship in any country, could assist, I would appreciate the help tremendously.



2 thoughts on “CONFUSION: I need help

  1. Hi, not sure if you’re keeping an eye on this anymore, but I’m curious if you ever figured this out. I’m trying to apply for Hungarian citizenship and similarly most of the vital records I need are in Cook County.

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