Research Help

Archival Research

If you are new to the Regional History Center, this tutorial video provides an introduction to the types of materials available and how to begin your research.

How to use Archon

Archon provides access to all finding aids at Northern Illinois University. To access finding aids for collections held in the Regional History Center and University Archives, use the search box on the homepage or go to Archon. Resources for researchers who need help using the database are available online.

How to use the Regional History Center's website

It is important to understand what type of research you are conducting before browsing the collections at the Regional History Center.

Collections are divided into 3 categories:

  1. University Archives - historic material about the people and functions of Northern Illinois University 
  2. Regional Collections - town and county history from the northern Illinois region. These collections include personal papers, documents from local organizations or businesses, labor union records, and other cultural references from the following counties: Boone, Bureau, Carroll, DeKalb, DuPage, JoDaviess, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago 
  3. IRAD (Illinois Regional Archives Depository) - county court-house records (birth, marriage, and death certificates, etc) that are especially helpful for genealogy research. The region also consists of the 18 northern counties of Illinois: the same counties covered in the Regional Collection. These historical records are generally over 72 years old. 

Use the following tutorials to navigate the website for your research.

University Archives or Regional Collections

  1. Using the left-hand bar on this page, click on the button appropriate for your research (University Archives or Regional Collections).
  2. If you're just starting and aren't exactly sure on a topic, use the "Index" to browse by subjects or keyword (Ctrl+F, then entering keywords in the box at the top of the page makes the document searchable). If you already know your collection name or number, skip to step 4.
  3. Once you find a keyword of interest, note the collection number (UA # or RC #) and hit the back button on your browser.
  4. From the "University Archives" or "Regional Collections" page use Ctrl+F again and type in the collection number (UA #or RC #) to locate the collection's title.
  5. Clicking on the title of the collection will bring up a .pdf of the inventory, which is an explanation of the collection that also gives a descriptive title for each box and folder. Keep track of the collection numbers and box numbers that are of interest for your research. Bring these numbers into the Regional History Center when you're ready to see the materials.


  1. Using the left-hand bar on this page, click on the "IRAD" button for more specific information regarding research policies. 
  2. The Illinois State Archives keeps databases of the available records.
    • Click on "ILLINOIS REGIONAL ARCHIVES DEPOSITORY SYSTEM (IRAD)", located in the center of the page
    • Click "IRAD Local Governmental Records Database" on the left-hand side of the screen
    • Click the first link on the page, "Search the Local Governmental Records Holdings Database"
    • Search the database for records in our IRAD holdings. Be sure the county of interest falls within the northern Illinois region. (see list above)
Back to top