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Friday, June 4, 2010

1837 McHenry County Ledger

An important book was recently returned to its rightful home in McHenry. The 563-page ledger book holds the minutes of the McHenry County board from 1837 to 1848. It had been missing for years, and somehow ended up in a Sangamon County antique shop.

(Photo of McHenry ledger by Catalin Abagiu for the Northwest Herald).

The find is significant for Lake County as well. In 1836, McHenry County was created out of today's Lake and McHenry Counties. This super-sized county existed from 1836 to 1839, covering part of the period of the book. In March 1839, an Act of the Illinois Legislature separated Lake County from McHenry County.

The newly returned ledger includes the earliest known government records for Lake County, including the creation of roads, which had to be approved by the County Commissioners Court.

Though the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County is not a repository for Lake County government records, the museum does hold records for other organizations. These entities range from the 96th Illinois Regiment (1861-1865), school trustee boards (1841-1959), Waukegan fire department, general store customer ledgers, and the Royal Neighbors of America, to name a few.

Pages from the Ela Township school board ledger for 1861-1869.

Ledger book for Civil War enlisted, 1907. This book from the museum's collections, documents the enlistees name, regiment, and date deceased.

Among the museum's collections, Civil War records are one of the most frequently used by researchers.

Keeping records in ledger books was a common practice into the early-20th century. The book (above) lists the location of fire hydrants in the City of Waukegan for 1897.

The records in the museum's collections are often the only documentation remaining of an organization. Without them, there would be no primary evidence of their existence and function. The ledgers contain a wealth of information for genealogists and researchers, listing names, places, and events that would otherwise be forgotten.

For McHenry, and researchers of early Lake County history, the return of the McHenry County minute book is cause for celebration. McHenry County is digitizing the book and will be making it available online. Read more about the discovery of the McHenry County book and view a selection of scanned pages online.

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