Nicknamed the Windy City, Second City and City of the Big Shoulders, Chicago also has been called the "most American of American cities." Find your Chicago, Illinois, ancestors with our guide to genealogy research in the city.
Nicknamed the Windy City, Second City and City of the Big Shoulders, Chicago also has been called the "most American of American cities." Indeed, it has come to represent many things that are truly American: jazz, the skyscraper, and most important, a can-do spirit in the face of hardship. One unfortunate event in particular, the Great Fire of 1871, often presents an obstacle to family historians. But there's still a vast array of genealogy resources at your disposal, so let's channel your indomitable Chicago ancestors and uncover their uniquely American stories.
Bright lights, big city
In 1673, French-Canadians Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette explored the area. Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the earliest nonindigenous settler, arrived in the 1780s; by 1833, Chicago was incorporated with 350 residents. In 1840, with a population topping 4,000, Chicago was becoming a transportation hub linking the eastern and western United States. Its expanding infrastructure also fed the explosive growth: Not only did the city raise its grade several feet, it also reversed the flow of the Chicago River in 1900.