Friday, April 18, 2014

Research Q & A - Rum Runner Gets Busted

Here at the Chicago Genealogical Society we occasionally receive questions from our members and others reaching out to us. If you can help answer this question or have information to add, leave a comment below.

Here is a recent question received:


I recently found a newspaper article about a relative in August 1924 who was arrested in Illinois for rum running during Prohibition and (according to the article) states that “the prisoners were taken to Chicago Monday [Aug 11] afternoon”.  I would really like to find any arrest record and potential mug shot. Do you know if Chicago maintains an archive of such documents and who or what entity that would be?

Craig Pfannkuche, Corresponding Secretary of Chicago Genealogical Society replied:

In response to your question about where prohibition arrest data might be found in Chicago relating to your relatives, I would first need to know both who made the arrests and where the arrests were made.  If the arrest was federal, and it seems like it might have been since your relative was "brought to Chicago" for processing, then, if the arrest was enough of a "big deal," the record might be found in the northern district Federal court records. Those court records are archived at the Great Lakes Region - National Archives found on South Pulaski Avenue in Chicago.  If the "bust" was made in Cook County/Chicago, then the record would be in the Court Clerk Archives, Room 1113, Daley Building in downtown Chicago.

A note about court records.  Arrest records from that time no longer exist.  What does exist are only the court dockets (calendars for the trial) and final outcomes if, in fact, there actually was a trial (not very usual).  The only really complete records with "testimony" which still exist can be found in the Civil court records (Circuit and Superior).  Prohibition arrests were not civil actions so you would not be able to find data there.  Civil court case records (divorces, suits, etc.) are also indexed and archived at the Clerk of the Cook County Court Archive.

In sum, you need to know at what level (Federal or county/state) the arrests were made and just WHERE the arrests were made to be able to figure out where the records might be found.  You also need to know if there actually was a court appearance.  Many "arrests" in prohibition days were "arrests", confiscation, a trip to the station followed by a release with no trial action.  Your "best bet" for data is still the newspapers where the "bust" took place - unless it was in Chicago where most small level arrests were never reported and were hardly ever heard in a court.
Suburban Star, Morgan Park News, August 7, 1924.

In fact, I am told that violations of Volstead act were not violations of local law since the Volstead act was a Federal law.

The poster replied with this message:

Thank you for your very informative response and clues where to look.  I attached the newspaper article from 1924 (see far right column story "Burr Oak Booze Joint...".  They were arrested in Burr Oak(?) and/or Morgan Park near Chicago, but the article states (as you pointed out) the case was turned over to the federal authorities since it was a violation of federal law, and then they were transported to Chicago.  This portion is detailed in the paragraph second from the bottom.  Due to the enormity of the operation, I would think it was a fairly big deal.  So, probably the first place to look is the National Archives on South Pulaski Ave in Chicago?  I take it that any records or mug shots would be open to the public, especially that it has been 90 years.

I will start there.

Again, thank you for your help and if you think of any other clues, I would be interested in them!  


Have research questions? Have a mystery photo? Send it along with what you know about it to, or post it to our CGS Facebook Page.  We may not be able to answer every question, but we may post your question on the blog or in our newsletter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

CGS Program: Speed Dating with Genealogists

The brick wall. Everyone has one in their family tree. Questions that only lead to more questions.

On Saturday, April 5th the Chicago Genealogical Society hosted four experts:
Jeanne Larzalere Bloom- Full-time professional researcher specializing in Chicago and Cook County research.
Craig Pfannkuche- Independent research professional and President of Memory Trail Research, Inc.
Julius Machnikowski- Clerk at the Circuit Court of Cook County Archives.
Matt Rutherford- Curator of Genealogy and Local History at the Newberry Library.

Everyone brought their toughest research questions to the Newberry Library. The room vibrated with the sharing of research tips and family history telling. The panel gave research tips, switching participants every 4 minutes. It was such fun! The expertise of the panel was astounding.

Every participant seemed to gain some tip about their research. It is always wonderful to gather together with those who have a passion for learning their genealogy.

Check out our video taken at the event! Thank you to all that participated.  Subscribe to our brand new YouTube channel!