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DeKALB – DeKalb County Clerk John Acardo has reached into the county’s past in an attempt to help its future.
Acardo’s office is set to launch a genealogy website by early to mid-November that will allow anyone to search and download birth, marriage and death records that date back to the county’s inception in 1837. The search is free, but a $10 fee – the same price it costs to pick up documents at the clerk’s office – will be charged to print or save a copy of an original document.
Acardo said the website should increase the revenue generated from the genealogical records fee by 40 percent because of the global reach. He said the county already receives requests from people around the world, and the
ease and accessibility the website will deliver along with a partnership with ancestry.com should increase the demand.
“People are excited to see their history come alive,” Acardo said. “I think it’s not only going to be a great resource for the county but for genealogists and just people who want to know more about their own history.”
The project has been in development for three months while Acardo’s staff digitizes the county’s vital records. The total cost will be roughly $20,000, all paid for from service fees the office collects and not tax money, Acardo said.
If the project is as successful as Cook County’s genealogical website, it should pay for itself within Acardo’s goal of 18 months.
Gail Siegel, spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr, said the county’s genealogy site paid for itself within five or six months after its launch date from the high demand. The website has allowed staff to dedicate more time to other responsibilities and projects.
“It’s great because our staff can be home at night sleeping and someone from Paris can still be downloading these vital records,” Siegel said.
DeKalb County’s genealogical website will offer birth certificates starting from 75 years ago, marriage certificates from 50 years ago and death records from 20 years ago – in line with many counties’ genealogical records. Acardo hopes to expand the site in the future to include military and land records.
Some local historical organizations are excited for the launch, including Regional History Center in Founders Memorial Library at Northern Illinois University.
Cindy Ditzler, university archivist and director for Regional History Center, said the more accessible the information becomes, the better chance vital records are preserved for generations.
“It’s becoming more interesting for younger generations because of the computer aspect,” Ditzler said. “Younger people want that information instantaneously.”
The genealogy site is the latest technological project Acardo has undertaken in his first year as county clerk. The office also has a new external website that has information about elections, county board and committee meetings and property tax records.
Acardo said putting government online is the No. 1 goal.
“Moving government online is the wave of the future,” he said. “People are demanding their government 24/7, 365 days a year, so we have to do what we can to make it as accessible as possible.”