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

Preparing for a Visit to the Archives of Michigan

21 February 2018

The Archives of Michigan is the repository of the governmental records of Michigan.  It houses records from state and local governments, public institutions, some organizations and some individuals.  Records date back to 1792. 

The holdings of the Archives include: 

  • 80 million state and local government and private papers
  • 300,000 photographs
  • 500,000 maps
  • Films
  • Audio tapes 
  • and more
 Many of the Archives holdings are being digitized at Seeking Michigan.org.  Another blog post about using Seeking Michigan can be found here

Anyone who plans to visit the Archives of Michigan will make better use of their time with some advanced planning.  This research checklist will give you the information you need for a visit.
Important things to remember:  1) Check the hours of operation and 2) Bring a photo ID or driver's license.  Researchers need a research card and you will need ID to get one.

The staff at the Archives of Michigan is awesome and available to help you, but if you want to make your research go smoother you will need to bring some information with you.  Knowing dates and places and how your research subject interacted with the government is needed.  It helps if you know what specific records you would like to search.  If you are looking for land records, land descriptions help.  If you are looking for probate records, the date of death and county of death are needed.  If you are looking for Prison Records, the time period of incarceration is helpful.  The more information you can bring with you, the better your chance of success will be.

The Archives of Michigan offers online guides and indexes to make your preparation easier.  The Guides do just that-guide you to archival material by subject matter.  The Genealogy Research Guide #64 explains what resources are available for family history researchers.  There are over 60 guides available to help you plan your trip.

The Archives of Michigan has one of a kind items.  For example, Guide #61-Diaries and Personal Journals has the list of what is in their holdings, subject and dates.  Your ancestor's diary may not be here, but someone else during the time period is and has written about the Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, farming, etc.  They are fascinating reads.

Guide #3 is for those who have black sheep in their family!  The Correctional Records have prison registers back to 1839.  In addition to individual records, some with mug shots, the Archives has information on the Prison itself.  Maybe your ancestor received a Pardon, Guide 48 has Pardons, Paroles, Warrants and Extradition information.

Guide #22 Infirmaries, Sanatoria, and Poor Homes has institutional information.  Records that provide confidential information will need a copy of the person's death certificate to access.  County infirmaries and county poor home records do not have such restrictions.  If you are interested in this type of information, a call, or email, to the Archives may be best.

Lumbering, Logging and Forestry is an important part of Michigan History.  Guide #28 shows what is available in that subject.  Were your ancestors involved in mining? Guide #25 is the one you want.

A variety of school records are available at the Archives.  Check Guide #11 for what schools and dates are covered.

I have highlighted just a few of the over 60 guides available in .pdf format, be sure to check here for a listing of all.

There are four online indexes available:

  1. Detroit News Index-A subject index for the Detroit News with over a million index cards.  Be prepared to use a variety of search techniques when using these cards.  Once you find a card you are interested in you can view the clipping at the Archives.  If you want to see the newspaper, you will have to visit the Library of Michigan.
  2. Naturalization Index-most naturalization records are indexed by county and not all counties have donated their records to the Archives.  For more information on Naturalization and Immigration records at the Archives, click here.  Eventually, the Naturalization records will be available at Seeking Michigan.  If you want to help index them, there is an indexing project ongoing.
  3. Military Index-Search by conflict to find your ancestor's record.
  4. Photograph Index-contains a portrait, Civilian Conservation Corp, and general photo collection.  
All of these indexes are available to help researchers prepare for a visit to the Archives.  

A little preparation will make your trip to the Archives successful.  Archives staff is available to help you from 8-5, Monday through Friday, via telephone at 517-373-3559 or email them at archives@michigan.gov  Onsite research hours are 1-5 Monday through Friday and Saturdays 10-4.


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