Located in the Sycamore Public Library
103 E. State Street
Sycamore, IL 60178

Tuesday and Thursday

Our Mission:

In May of 1989 the DeKalb County Board of Supervisors and the DeKalb County Finance office established the Joiner History Room to safeguard the historical raw materials of DeKalb County.  Today the Joiner History Room systematically collects, preserves, maintains, promotes, and makes available archived records of enduring historical value to the public.

The Half-Shire Bill  

In 1867 Sandwich was the largest town in the southern part of the county, second only to Sycamore.  As one of the largest towns in the county, Sandwich felt underserved by the county government.  Sycamore, they argued, was not in a good geographic location to be a suitable point for the County Seat for people to transact their business.  So, they sent Senator William Patten, a resident of Sandwich, to Springfield to introduce a bill in the legislature known as the Half-Shire bill.  The bill, approved Feb. 12, 1867 was titled: “An Act to Relocate the County Seat of DeKalb Illinois.”  This bill provided for dual county seats at Sycamore and Sandwich.  Sandwich was to be the seat of justice for the six southern towns and Sycamore the twelve northern towns. An exciting election followed as the bill was put to a vote in DeKalb County. 


What was not well publicized was a change in the bill three days before its passage.  Section 14 was placed in the bill, taxing the township of Somonauk for the expense to build a courthouse.


Threats from promoters of the bill were intended to frighten people into voting for the Half Shire bill by telling them that if they didn’t vote for it, some day they will be taxed to build a courthouse at DeKalb.  It was also pointed out that if they built a new courthouse at the expense of the County, they would lose the present one, which would revert back to the donors of the land, the County losing all interest therein. 


Extra expenses to the county for two courthouses included the initial expense of buildings for the courthouse and jail, along with maintenance of the buildings; a double set of books to be kept, mileage for jurors, etc.


In an effort to settle things down, a group of businessmen and entrepreneurs from Sandwich, promised to come up with $20,000 to build the courthouse, without charge or any expense to the township of Somonauk or the county of DeKalb.  With estimated costs of $80,000 to build the new courthouse and jail, people were reluctant to vote in favor of the bill.


The people voted on April 2, 1867, and the Half-Shire bill was defeated.  The vote against the bill was 2,662 and the vote for the bill was 1,598.


Once again, Sycamore won the popular vote as the county seat.  But is this the end of the story?  Stay tuned.

Historical Photos Available on Flickr

Over 700 photos from the Floyd Ritzman Collection which are part of the Northern Illinois University Digital Library are now available on Flickr at https://flic.kr/s/aHskqwXroS.  This collection of photos, taken in and around DeKalb County, was formerly part of the Taming the Wild Prairie website. Thanks to Matthew Short at NIU for making these historical photos available.

Illinois Adoption Law Passed By Illinois Legislature

Under this law, original birth certificates cannot be issued in person by state or county vital statistics offices.    This law allows adult adopted persons born in Illinois to request non-certified copies of their original birth certificates through the Illinois Department of Public Health.  In most cases, the original birth certificate will list the first and last names of one or both birth parents.    Birth parents of adopted persons born after January 1, 1946, may request that their names be deleted from this non-certified copy. All birth parents may indicate their preferences regarding contact with their adult birth child. The options available under this new law are different for adopted persons, birth parents and their family members. The options available also change depending on the date of birth of the adult adopted person.  For more information see www.newillinoisadoptionlaw.com.

Birth, Marriage, Death and Naturalization Records

The DeKalb County Clerk's office has birth, marriage, death and naturalization indexes online.These records meet genealogical guidelines.  Their website is www.dekalbgenealogy.com.

Copying/Scanning/Mailing Pricing

$ .25/page......Photocopy by patron at JHR
   .50/page......Photocopies by JHR staff
 2.00/scan......By JHR researcher
 2.00/each......Photo quality prints
Scans will be emailed. To keep your costs down, we will try to get as much on one scan as possible. Photocopies by JHR staff and photo quality prints are sent U.S. mail only. Postage is also charged.
Sycamore True Republican, 1893

How to Donate to the Joiner History Room

Joiner History Room is honored to be part of The DeKalb County Community Foundation.  The Joiner History Room Endowment Fund was established in 2008 to honor Ralph Joiner and the first appointed DeKalb County historian, Phyllis Kelley.  If you wish to donate to our Endowment Fund, please click here or send your donation addressed directly to the Joiner History Room, 103 East State Street, Sycamore, IL.  Your donations provide operating funds to maintain the Joiner History Room. 


DeKalb County Hall of Fame Application

Join the Illinois Bicentennial celebration by nominating a individual, family, or organization for the 2018 DeKalb County Hall of Fame.  Purpose of the DeKalb County Hall of Fame is to identify and recognize outstanding examples of community leaders. Annual awards to the Hall of Fame will honor men, women, families, and organizations, past and present, who have made outstanding contributions to the betterment of DeKalb County. The program will be a yearly opportunity to highlight the best in our county, present and past, and to recognize those accomplishments for future generations.

Click Here for nomination form and information.

Shabbona-Lee-Rollo Historical Museum Digitizes Newspapers

The SLR Museum recently announced the following newspapers from the southern part of DeKalb County and Lee County have been digitized and are available online through their website at http://slrhistoricalmuseum.advantage-preservation.com/
The Paw Paw News, 1874-1876
The Lee County Times, 7 Apr 1882-6 Apr 1883 and 1 Jan 1886-13 Aug 1959
The Shabbona Express, 13 Dec 1917-26 Mar 1925
The DeKalb County Express, 31 Jan 1929-27 Oct 1960
There are a few issues of The Compton Record, scattered issues from  1887-1895 and the Evening Times, September 1887. 

DeKalb Daily Chronicle Available Online

Due to the generosity of the Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Foundation, a large selection of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle is available free online.  The issues are searchable.  Issues available cover the period January 2, 1918 through December 31, 1930.  Issues dated between June 1, 1930 and November 30, 1930 are missing. You can access this database at http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/cgi-bin/illinois?a=q&l=en.

Newspapers.com has made available past issues of the DeKalb Chronicle (1879-1895) and the Daily Chronicle (1895-1963).  These issues are searchable. Newspapers.com requires a paid subscription.

Obituary Database Reaches Milestone

We now have over 38,800 obituaries in our online, searchable database.  The link to the database is above.  Joiner History Room volunteers have worked for five years inputing obituaries. Because this is an ongoing project, we have many more obituaries to input and you may not find what you are looking for. Please contact us via email if this is the case.  

Burial Permit and Removal Permit List Available

A Burial Permit was initiated by the funeral home to report to the Department of Public Health where a deceased person was buried.  The information includes name, identifying information, date and place of death, cause of death and where buried.  A Removal Permit had to be completed if a buried body was to be moved to a different cemetery.  The Joiner History Room has a limited list of names, dates of death, and cemetery where buried.  This is not a complete listAccess list here.

Looking Back Index Available

The Midweek, a current DeKalb County area publication, has a column called "Looking Back" that has small snipits of local news dating back to the late 1800's.  Most items are one or two lines long, just enough to give you a flavor of what was happening at the time.  This index covers publication dates from the start of the column, mid-2010, through December 2014.  If you find an item of interest, e-mail the Joiner History Room with date of publication and page number.
Access Index

Burkhart Funeral Home Records

Funeral home records are often overlooked as a source of genealogical information.  Joiner History Room volunteer Fran Besserman diligently compared a hand-written list of Burkhart burials with obits available from other sources in our collection.  This may be the only record of a death.
View list here.