to Journey to the Past, I'm Brenda (Glover) Leyndyke and I believe researching your family history is a fascinating journey.

Pure Michigan Genealogy: Living History

23 March 2018

Pure Michigan Genealogy
Are you looking for information that goes beyond dates and facts?  You can "put the flesh on the bones" of your ancestors through social and living history information.  Michigan has wonderful historic places and sources that will help you understand what different times in Michigan History was like. 

  • Michigan Historical Museum-You can take an online gallery tour of exhibits on First People, Settling a State, Civil War, Farm and Factory, Lumbering, Mining, and Growing up in Michigan.  Each one of these categories takes you to a wealth of information on Michigan History.
  • Downward Bound-photographs and articles about the Great Lakes Shipping industry are featured here.
  • Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association-did you know that Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state?  Michigan has over 100 lighthouses along it 3200 miles of shoreline.  This website has historical pictures, articles, and information on lighthouse keepers.
  • Museums-Michigan has many wonderful, historical museums from blacksmith shops, to railway, to civilian conservation corps, and mining museums.  Check out the hundreds of museums that Michigan offers by clicking on the museum name, if the museum has a website it will provide a link that will take you to that museum for photos and more information.
  • Detroit Historical Museum- a Detroit Historical Society museum has a variety of exhibits on display.  It is the premiere museum for the Detroit region history. 
  • Fort Mackinac-has the oldest building in Michigan on it.  It takes you back to the days when the British controlled the fort.
  • Colonial Michilimackinac-view pictures of this outpost pretty much as it was in the 1700's.
  • Henry Ford Museum-a wonderful museum filled with historical automobiles, from JFK's limousine, to Rosa Parks bus to the Weinermobile.  You will find more than cars here, though.  Check out the interactive map on its' website.  
  • Greenfield Village-on the grounds of the Henry Ford Museum.  Go back in time to seven historical villages depicting the life and times of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and more. 
  • Michigan Heritage Park-in Northern Muskegon county, near Whitehall, takes the visitor through 10,000 years of Michigan history.
Many local museums and historical societies have living history areas in their smaller museums, be sure to check the area you are visiting for some of these gems.

You have your ancestor's birth, marriage and death information, now take a little time to put your ancestor in context to how they were living.  Living History can give you a picture of what it was like for your ancestors to go about their daily home and work life and have a little fun while doing it.

Pure Michigan Genealogy is a series of posts on researching in Michigan. Living History is number eight in the series.  Other posts in this series are below:

  1. Michigan History
  2. Migration and Immigration
  3. Records  
  4. Church Records and Cemeteries
  5. Archives, Libraries, Societies and Organizations
  6. What Else is There?  10 More Resources
  7. Maps

Pure Michigan Genealogy: Maps

21 March 2018

Pure Michigan Genealogy
Maps are an important tool in your genealogy research.  Maps have a treasure trove of information ready for you to decipher.  Once you have accumulated a few facts, you will want to turn to maps to to truly understand your ancestors.  You will want to learn how they lived and where they lived.  You will want to look at old and new maps, online and paper maps.  Maps are a good resource because they will give you clues for where to look for more information.  If your grandparents owned a farm in Dickson Township, Manistee, Michigan, as mine did, you can look at the map and see what the nearest town was and where the county seat was located.  Maps can show towns, cemeteries, railroads, streets and roads, rivers and so much more.  There are many types of maps available for your Michigan research.

1.  Plat Maps are usually found on a county by county format.  They show land ownership at a certain place in a certain time.  They can be found in local county equalization offices, local libraries, or at local Michigan State University (MSU) Extension offices

2.  Topographic Maps offer an opportunity to locate farmsteads using selected cultural and physical features of the landscape.  Roads, fence lines, barns, orchards, gravel pits  cemeteries, railroad tracks and schools are cultural features.  Rivers, creeks, hills, valleys, lakes and swamps are physical features.      The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has articles on Using Maps in Genealogy.  The USGS website has topographical maps for Michigan and other states.

3.  Political Maps are the maps we usually use.  They show cities, towns, counties, etc. These are available at various places throughout Michigan.

4.  Fire Insurance maps will include businesses, schools, and churches.  Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are online at the Library of Congress.

One can find various Michigan maps online:

Pure Michigan Genealogy is a series of posts on researching in Michigan. Maps is number seven in the series.  Other posts in the series are below.

  1. Michigan History
  2. Migration and Immigration
  3. Records  
  4. Church Records and Cemeteries
  5. Archives, Libraries, Societies and Organizations
  6. What Else is There?  10 More Resources


Pure Michigan Genealogy: What Else is There? 10 More Resources

19 March 2018

Pure Michigan Genealogy

Do you still need to find more information about your Michigan ancestors?  There are a few more resources that will help you with your research.

 1.  City Directories
  • Ancestry.com-a number of city directories for Michigan are available here.  You may be able to access ancestry at your local library, otherwise it is a paid site.
  • Michigan Online Historical Directories-clicking on a county takes one to a list of city directories available online.  Not all counties are searchable.  There is a mix of free and paid websites.
  • Bentley Historical Library- Check Mirlyn catalog for a listing of the cities available at this library. 
  • Public libraries, historical or genealogical societies-check with these in the area you are researching.  Many of these institutions have their local directories in their collection.  I can do Battle Creek, Michigan look-ups for you.

 2.  Correctional Facilities
  • Archives of Michigan-a comprehensive card index(eventually will be online at seekingmichigan.org) is available for those who served time at one of Michigan's state prisons.  Michigan inmate records are available for public access.  There are also three circulars available, in pdf. form, to help with your research:
    1. Correctional Facilities, Circular No 3.  This circular contains information on the three main prisons in Michigan:  Jackson, Ionia, and Marquette.
    2. Pardons, Paroles, Warrants and Extraditions, Circular No. 48-is a table of what the Archives has available as well as the record group, a short description, and the date.
    3. Youths, Records Relating To, Circular No. 8- this group of records has restricted access.  Contact information for further information is provided on the circular.
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons-a United States database of federal prison inmates since 1982.
  • Michigan Department of Corrections-a database for individuals who are or were under the management of the Department of Corrections.  This database is for Michigan Prisons only, not city or county jails.  If an individual has been released or paroled and is off supervision for more than three years, he/she will not be in the database.
  • Skeletons in Michigan's Closets-a few early Prison Records.

 3.  Local and County Histories
  • Arcadia Publishing Images of America and Postcard Series Books- You can search by state, "Michigan", you will find over 300 titles on Michigan.  These books have historical images and facts about various areas in Michigan.  I was never so excited as when I was looking at the Marquette book and saw a picture of my grandmother. I had to buy it!  Anytime I am in an area that my ancestors lived, I go to a bookstore and see which Images of America books they have.  I even have a board on Pinterest titled, My Images of America Ancestry.
  • Genealogy, Inc.-First, be sure you are researching in the right county.  Michigan has 83 counties and county boundaries have changed over time.  Check the History and Facts of Michigan Counties for a table of all the counties and what their parent county was.  Clicking on each county will take you to a genealogy page for that county.  Check the Michigan Maps of US website for a maps from 1790-1930.  This is an excellent website for Michigan, and other states, Genealogy.
  • Michigan County Histories and Atlases-over 400 digitized works are available here.  Most of the works were published before 1923.  Click on browse to get an alphabetical listing of what is available or search by keyword on the home page.  I have found this resource useful in learning about the early history of the counties I am researching.  I even found a biographical sketch of an ancestor.
  • Washtenaw County Historical Society-a listing of online county history resources for Washtenaw County and cities.
  • Google Books-search google books to see if a digitized copy of your county history is online. I know that History of Kent County, Michigan and History of Washtenaw County, Michigan are available in full, for free.  There are other counties available through google books.

 4.  Newspapers
  • Library of Michigan-you will find the state's largest collection of newspapers here. Newspapers span over 200 years and are available for all counties in Michigan.  If you live in Michigan, you can request the microfilm through inter-library loan system.  Out of state libraries may request copies of the newspaper with a complete citation.
  • Newspaper Family Histories-scroll down on website page to see if a newspaper was published for the city or town you are researching.  The titles, publishing dates and newspaper history is included by city name.
  • Local Libraries-I cannot stress enough about using the local library in the location you are researching.  Check the local library online card catalog, or email them for information.  I know my local library, Helen Warner Branch of Willard Library, in Battle Creek, Michigan will do newspaper look ups if you ask nicely.
  • Michigan Online Historical Newspapers- a listing of free and paid newspaper sites for Michigan.
  • Michigan Newspaper List-a list of current published newspapers

 5.  Manuscripts

 6.  Periodicals/Publications
 7.  Pioneer and Centennial Farms

 8.  Schools

 9.  Surname Index
  • A two volume set with over 100,000 surnames of Michigan ancestors.  Not all names lived in Michigan, they just were ancestors of Michigan.  Available at Family History Library, Library of Michigan and Amazon.

10.  Websites
There are so many websites that can help you with your research, I am not sure where to begin.  I have selected a few to help you with your research.

The above resources are ones that I have found helpful in my research, it is by no means conclusive. There are many great resources available for your Michigan research.  Do you have a Michigan resource I haven't mentioned?  Please share it with a comment.  I hope you have success with your research.

Pure Michigan Genealogy is a series of posts on researching in Michigan. What Else is There? 10 More Resources is number six in the series.  Previous posts in this series are below:

  1. Michigan History
  2. Migration and Immigration
  3. Records  
  4. Church Records and Cemeteries
  5. Archives, Libraries, Societies and Organizations

Pure Michigan Genealogy: Archives, Libraries, Organization and Societies

16 March 2018

Pure Michigan Genealogy
There are numerous places in Michigan to help with your research.  Whether it is at the Archives of Michigan, or one of the many public libraries in the state, your research will be helped by the resources available here.

SeekingMichigan.org-a wonderful Michigan research website.  One can find death records, civil war manuscripts and records, state census, early records, oral histories, and more.  New content is added periodically, so keep checking.

Archives and Libraries

Archives of Michigan-the genealogy collection is known as the Abrams Collection, which use to be at the Library of Michigan, is now housed at the Archives. The Archives of Michigan is the repository of many records beneficial to genealogists.  Researchers need a photo ID in order to research here.  There are many online guides available to help with the record collections found at the Archives.  

Library of Michigan-the Library of Michigan holds the newspaper collection and law library.  Use the Answer Catalog to search for resources.  If an item is held at the Archives, it will tell you that in your search.  

Note:  Please check the website for hours and location.  The Archives and the Library have different operating hours.  They are both located in the Michigan Library and Historical Center, Lansing, Michigan.

Bentley Historical Library at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan-the Michigan Historical Collection has manuscripts, maps, and resource for all of Michigan counties.
Burton Historical Collection at Detroit Public Library, Detroit, Michigan-resource for the City of Detroit and more.
Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan-this closed stacks library holds resources for northern half of Lower Peninsula.  Some American Indians references can be found here.
Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collection, Houghton, Michigan-Michigan's Upper Peninsula records can be found here especially for Keewenaw Peninsula.  Mining records, local history and more is here.
Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives, Marquette, Michigan-repository for central upper peninsula records.
Zhang Legacy Collection Center, Archives and Regional History, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan-southwest lower peninsula counties repository, yearbooks, land records and more can be found.
Kresge Library, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan-
Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, Michigan-this library is the repository for the Delta County Genealogical Society Collection.
Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, Michigan-newspapers, census, card file, and much more is here.  Grand Rapids, Kent County and other West Michigan counties is the main focus of their collection.
Van Raalte Institute, Hope College, Holland, Michigan-Dutch and Dutch American resources and history are available.
Heritage Collection of the Joint Archives, Hope College, Holland, Michigan-Hope College, Seminary, Church records and more.
Hoyt Library, Saginaw, Michigan-Resources pertaining to the Saginaw area.
Mount Clemens Public Library, Mount Clemens, Michigan-Macomb County resources and digital archive collection are a couple of their highlights.
Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society, Pontiac, Michigan-obituaries, photos, directories and more for Oakland county and surrounding areas.
Interactive Library Directory-a search engine that has all the libraries in Michigan on it.  You can narrow your search by county.  Check here for contact information for local libraries in your area of research.  Many libraries have local history resources.  Once you find a library in your area, google the library and check out their website.  They might have online resources.

Organizations and Societies
Michigan Genealogical Council-check their list of member organizations which include historical and genealogical societies.  There are many great local genealogical societies, too numerous to list, so be sure to check this resource.  The Michigan Genealogical Council Newsletter is available online and has a wealth of information in it from around the state.
Michigan Historical Society-promotes Michigan History, check out their publications.

These are a few of the resources available for researching in Michigan, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment.

Pure Michigan Genealogy is a series of posts on researching in Michigan. Archives, Libraries, Organizations and Societies is number five in the series. The red websites are new or have been updated.  Other posts in this series includes:

  1. Michigan History
  2. Migration and Immigration
  3. Records  
  4. Church Records and Cemeteries

Pure Michigan Genealogy: Churches and Cemeteries

14 March 2018

Pure Michigan Genealogy

There is no one source or repository for church records in Michigan.  Most church records are held by the church, their archives, or sometimes the parish minister or priest.  Occasionally, one will find church records in their local library, or a historical or genealogical society.  Once I found a list of the founders of a church in a local history, so don't forget to check those out.  Local histories are a good resource to find what churches were established at that time.  Check Google Books or Hathi Trust for local histories.  If you are really lucky you may find a published church history of your ancestors' church.

A Roman Catholic mission was in Sault Saint Marie in 1668.  St. Anne's was founded in 1701 in Detroit.  The first Protestant Church was Moravian, in Mount Clemens.  They were worshiping during the Revolutionary War.  Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, and Lutherans soon followed.  By 1865, the Methodist Church was the largest Protestant denomination in Michigan.

Church Record Sources
  1. Michigan Historical Collections, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor-a large collection of religious records are held here.
  2. Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library, Detroit-many early Detroit church records.  Additionally, Catholic Mission Records, 1720-1772 are here.  A map of Detroit Catholic churches is available as well.
  3. Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan has vertical files finding aids for 48 Michigan religions.
  4. WPA's Michigan Historical Records Survey Inventory of the Church Archives of Michigan-a series of records published and available at Family Search and Bentley Historical Library.
  5. Western Michigan Genealogical Society Church Records Collection at the Grand Rapids Public Library.
  6. Family Search Michigan Church Records Wiki is a resource too.
Additional denomination specific resources are available for church record research:

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Congregational/United Church of Christ
Disciples of Christ

Reformed and Christian Reformed
Seventh Day Adventist

Cemetery Resources
Pure Michigan Genealogy is a series of posts on researching in Michigan.  I am posting a blog article every day this week as Michigan celebrates Michigan Week.  Michigan Week is a time when Michigan celebrates its' heritage.  Churches and Cemeteries is part four in the series.  Other posts in this series include:
  1. Michigan History
  2. Migration and Immigration
  3. Records
  4. Churches and Cemeteries

Pure Michigan Genealogy: Yankee Migration

12 March 2018

Michigan Territory once had a reputation as "good for Indians and disease and not much else."  Men who served in the Michigan Territory during the War of 1812 sent word back home about the dismal area of the territory.  Surveyor General Edward Tiffin reported after an 1817 survey "no tillable acre in the whole territory, worthless soil, all they did find were bogs, swamps, mosquitoes, dangerous animals and savage Indians."

If this was the case how did Michigan ever become a state?  We have Lewis Cass, Territorial Governor and Henry Schoolcraft, explorer, to thank for new surveys showing that the territory was habitable.  Cass wrote to the general government saying that the lands of Michigan had been grossly misrepresented.  New surveys were ordered.  A sixty-five person team surveyed the area starting in May 1820, with Henry Schoolcraft in tow.  They found the wilderness very habitable.

Something else was happening during this time.  Robert Fulton discovered that steamboats could travel up the Hudson River from New York to Albany. Steamboat travel combined with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 allowed an all water route from the Atlantic Ocean to Michigan.  This allowed western migration to move from the Ohio Valley to the Great Lakes.

Lastly, John Farmer, an early surveyor from New York, sold a map and a gazetteer, "Farmer's Guide to Michigan".  The new survey results, the Erie Canal opening and Farmer's map and gazetteer reached those living in the east and new settlements were on the horizon.

My ancestor, Orlo Fenn, was one of those who used the Erie Canal to travel to the Michigan Territory.  He writes back home to his family in Shoreham, Vermont:
We have enjoyed good health ever since we left Shoreham, for which we ought to feel thankful, but I must proceed to give you a short history of our travils (sic) since we left Shoreham. We arrived in Whitehall the same day we left Shoreham and locked up. The next morning we left and arrived in Troy on Friday morning. Left Troy Friday evening and arrived in Buffalo on Saturday of the next week in time to ship outboard the steamboat Ohio.  At 1/2 past 10 o'clock we left Buffalo for Detroit on Monday evening, which made us two weeks from home....
Source: ”A Letter to Shoreham,” Vermont Quarterly, July 1955, page 329.  From a letter written by Orlo H. Fenn, Dexter, Michigan Territory,  to his parents, Daniel Fenn and Huldah Rowley Fenn, in Shoreham, Vermont, 1 July 1832. 

Orlo Fenn wasn't the only "Yankee" who migrated to Michigan during this time.  The population of the Michigan Territory in 1805 was about 4000, most of which lived in the Detroit, Frenchtown, Mackinaw and Detroit River vicinity.  By 1830 the population rose to 31630, many from the New England area.

This growth became known as the "Yankee migration."  What is a Yankee? Brian C. Wilson, author of Yankees in Michigan, defines it as a “distinct ethnic group...descendants of the first seventeenth-century English settlers to New England” 

The Yankee migration began around Plymouth, Massachusetts and continued to other points in Massachusetts.  Next, migration to Connecticut via the Connecticut Trail, then to Western Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire using the Connecticut River.  Many migrated to New York and Pennsylvania and the Northwest Territory.

Yankees left in hopes of finding better land. Lands in the east were being used up and if a family had too many sons, there wasn't enough land to inherit. Once land became available in the Northwest Territory many moved. First to Ohio, then Indiana and Illinois and eventually Michigan.

There was a song about this emigration, the Emigrant's Song:
Come all ye Yankee farmers who wish to change your lot,
Who’ve spunk enough to travel beyond your native spot,

And leave behind the village where Pa and Ma do stay,
Come follow me, and settle in Michigania-
Yea, Yea, Yea, in Michigania.

The population steadily grew with this Yankee migration.  Michigan became a state in 1837. The 1840 population was 212,267; 1850 population was 397,654 with over 40% from six New England states:

  • Rhode Island-1031
  • Maine-1117
  • New Hampshire-2744
  • Connecticut-6751
  • Massachusetts-8167
  • Vermont-11113
  • New York-133756
Michigan would be a different place without the Yankee influence. Yankees were involved in the law making and governing of Michigan.  The first fourteen governors were from the East . Michigan's First Constitutional Convention was 70% New Yorkers.  Michigan patterned many laws after New England states.  Punishments were taken from Vermont; Probate from Massachusetts; Real Estate laws from New York; and Townships from New England.  Just about every facet of Michigan growth can be contributed to the Yankee Migration, including education, religion, judiciary, business and more.

Today's Michiganders would never believe that Michigan was once described as inhabitable. Michigan is home to beautiful, sandy beaches, fresh water in rivers and streams, in addition to the four Great Lakes we border. It has fertile land and lush forests. The growth of Michigan from Yankee migration is one I am happy to call my own story.  I am glad my Fenn family traveled from Vermont and settled in my home state.  Yea! Yea! Yea! in Michigania.

Pure Michigan Genealogy: Records

09 March 2018

Pure Michigan Genealogy

A wide variety of Michigan records are available when researching your Michigan ancestor.  Some records are available online and others by doing onsite research.  Below is an overview of the common record sources for researching in Michigan.

1.  Census
     Many of you know about the federal population schedules, which Michigan is recorded in, but do you know that Michigan conducted its' own census collection?  One census collection that is valuable to Michigan researchers is the 1894 State Census.  The chart at Michigan Census Wiki details what census records are available for Michigan.  One as early as 1820.  The following free online resources will help you with the Michigan Census.
2.  Courts
The court system in Michigan is made up of 
  1. Municipal Court:  There are only four municipal courts in Michigan.  These courts have city jurisdiction and handle minor criminal, civil and small claims cases.
  2. District Court:  There are 107 district courts, many at the county level.  These courts handle misdemeanors and minor civil cases.
  3. Probate Court:  There are 78 probate courts.  These courts handle administration of wills, estates and trusts; treatment of mentally ill; and guardianship and conservators of minors, adults, and developmentally disadvantaged.  Michigan Probate Records, 1797-1973, are available to browse at Family Search.  
  4. Circuit Court:  There are 57 circuit courts that serve from one to four counties.  These courts are known as trial courts and handle felonies, major civil and domestic matters, and Naturalization until 1906.  Circuit court includes a family division which hears cases under the probate and juvenile code of Michigan.  The family division hears cases involving child abuse, name changes, adoption, emancipation of minors, divorce, custody, and personal protection orders.
  5. Court of Appeals:  This is an appelate court between the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court.     
  6. Supreme Court:  There is one Supreme Court in Michigan.  They hear cases that are appealed to it from the court of appeals.  They oversee all courts in Michigan.
An explanation of the Michigan Judicial System can be found here.  Very few court records are available prior to 1833, in Michigan.  Research with court records needs to be done with the clerk office in the appropriate court.  A trial court directory is available online.

3.  Naturalization
The naturalization records that are available are usually in the county clerk's office.  I would recommend calling the county clerk's office before researching onsite as some of the naturalization records have been transferred to the Archives of Michigan.  I found my great-grandfather's record from Marquette County at the Archives.  An index of naturalization records is available online at Seeking Michigan.org.  This online index is categorized by county.  Clicking on the county name will take you to a list to search.  You can order a copy of this record for $20 through the online store.  Not all counties in Michigan are included.  The Archives of Michigan has a circular on Naturalization records that is helpful.  The naturalization records that are at the Archives of Michigan have been digitized and are currently being indexed through Family Search.  Eventually, they will be available at seekingmichigan.org.

4.  Land
The earliest land records available for Michigan include those for Mackinac and Detroit private land claims, available at the National Archives.  Federal land patents are searchable at the Bureau of Land Management.  The first land office in Michigan opened in 1818, in Detroit.  The Archives of Michigan holds the original state land grant records.  Land records can be be also found at National Archives.  The register of deeds in each county is the repository for land sales and mortgages.  Family Search has a Land Record wiki for Michigan that is good.

5.  Military 
The Archives of Michigan is the repository for Michigan military records.  The archives guides list the military records available at the Archives.

 Other military records for Michigan include:
6.  Tax Records
Property tax records are kept at the county level.  There are 83 counties in Michigan.  The county treasurer or assessor or register of deeds office are in charge of these records in Michigan.  A complete list of Michigan Register of Deeds is available online.  

The Archives of Michigan has a guide on Tax Assessment Rolls which provides you with what rolls are available for each county.  You would have to visit the Archives to access these records.  There are some records available at regional archives in Michigan.  The list is provided in the circular too.

7.  Vital Records
The genealogy trifecta, birth, marriage, and death records are available in Michigan.  It is important to know the dates of vital record registration before researching.  Those dates are:
Vital Records are kept at the county level in the county clerk's office in Michigan.  I have found various times and days are available when researching at the clerk's office.  I recommend calling before you go, just to be sure.

Some vital records are available for order online.  The addresses and information can be found on the Center for Disease Control website.

The information provided for the record groups is not complete.  I tried to provide Michigan researchers information that is readily available.  I did not include any of the paid subscription sites which has Michigan record resources available for a fee.

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any help with record sources in Michigan.

Pure Michigan Genealogy is a series of posts on researching in Michigan.  Records is number four in the series.