Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law Friday making it easier for family members and researchers to look at military discharge papers.
It's meant to close a gap in state law, which only allows a veteran or their direct descendant — a son or daughter — to see those military papers kept by a county recorder of deeds.
No one else, including a veteran's grandchildren, had been allowed to see the files.
The idea came along after a deputy clerk's discovery that the county had produced a Civil War soldier who received the Medal of Honor. She noted the difficulty in members of the public being able to search the records.
"This all started with an employee, Deputy Clerk Sharon Sciortino, bringing an idea forward that would benefit our customers, the citizens of Tazewell County," Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman said Friday afternoon. "Passage of this law today stands as an example for all Tazewell County employees that your recommendations for improvements are welcomed, can be implemented, and can even change state law for the betterment of not only Tazewell County residents but all residents of the state of Illinois."
It was turned into legislation by state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, and state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield. Other members of the Peoria legislative delegation, including Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, and Reps. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria; Mike Unes, R-East Peoria; and Keith Sommer, R-Morton co-sponsored the measure.
It also doesn't release the information right away. They'd be opened up for viewing 62 years after being filed, and personal information like Social Security numbers would be redacted.
“This is a genealogist’s treasure trove,” Ackerman said of the legislation when it was proposed. His office has more than 1,000 records from Civil War era veterans, for instance, that were "stuck in a closet and not being utilized" because anybody with legal access to those documents has long since died.
Ackerman has suggested some of the record books might be put on display or loaned out to the Tazewell County Museum after the law goes into effect.
The measure, Senate Bill 1007, passed the Legislature unanimously and goes into effect immediately.