Tucked within the 23 million records at the Cook County Clerk’s office is a treasure of names. Birth certificates for people such as Harrison Ford, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ernest Hemingway, Herbie Hancock, and Raquel Welch are kept on file in the Clerk’s Vital Records Division.
The range of notable figures is so impressive that Cook County Clerk David Orr wanted to share it with the public. That’s why his office has put together “Sweet Home Cook County,” a display featuring county natives celebrated for their wit, athleticism, brains or talent.
Orr will unveil the display Thursday in the Cook County Building lobby at 118 N. Clark Street.
“This exhibit includes more than 130 people,” Orr said. “But it just scratches the surface. There are thousands of deserving candidates for this type of celebrity status. This is just a sampling, and shows what a talent-filled county we live in.”
“Sweet Home Cook County” will be in the lobby for several weeks, and will be a permanent installation in the Vital Records Division when it moves to its new office on the concourse level of Daley Plaza in 2008, Orr said.
“People may be surprised at who was born right here in Cook County,” Orr said. “They might also be amazed to find out which Chicagoans weren’t born here.”
While Studs Terkel, Joan Cusack, Kanye West, Jeremy Piven and others may seem synonymous with Chicagoland, they were not born in Cook County, Orr said.
Orr noted that in addition to running elections in the county’s suburbs, his office is the official record keeper for births, marriages and deaths that occur in Chicago and suburban Cook County. The office’s 23 million records stretch back to 1871. In a massive preservation effort, Orr’s office recently digitized all of these records, helping to preserve old documents and making them more accessible.