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.
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.
- Michigan Census Wiki at Family Search.org
- 1820 Federal Census for Territory of Michigan
- 1836 Census of Ottawa and Chippewa
- Michigan, State Census, 1894 at Family Search.org
- Michigan Census by County at Census Online
The court system in Michigan is made up of
- Municipal Court: There are only four municipal courts in Michigan. These courts have city jurisdiction and handle minor criminal, civil and small claims cases.
- District Court: There are 107 district courts, many at the county level. These courts handle misdemeanors and minor civil cases.
- 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.
- 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.
- Court of Appeals: This is an appelate court between the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court.
- 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.
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 because 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. The naturalization records held by the Archives of Michigan are being digitized and will be available at Michiganology when completed. A circular on Naturalization records is availabe that tells you what is available.
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.
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:
- Circular No. 20-Civil War Manuscripts
- Circular No. 4-Military Records I War Records
- Circular No. 7-Military Records II Post War Records
- Circular No. 27-Military Records III Local
- Research Guide No. 4c-Spanish American War Records
- Research Guide No. 4d-World War I
Other military records for Michigan include:
- Officers at Fort Michilmackinac and Mackinac.
- War of 1812
- War of 1812 Pensioner's in Michigan-an index on the Allen County Public Library website.
- Michigan in the Civil War- a website created by Don Harvey. Regimental histories, wartime deaths, and Michigan civil war soldier grave sites are included here.
- Soldiers and Sailors Database- a civil war database provided by the National Park Service.
- Michigan and the Civil War-a website at Michiganology. Civil War, service records, photographs, battle flags and volunteer registries are available to browse on this site. The volunteer registries are from the Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, also known as the Brown Books.
- Michigan Volunteers in the Spanish American War
- WWI 328th Field Artillary American Expeditionary Force
- Vietnam War Memorial- a list of Michigan names.
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 circular 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:
- Births: Began in 1867, generally complied by 1915. Birth records less than 100 years old are closed in Michigan. Online Sources include:
- Marriages: Statewide registration began in 1805 with compliance in the same year. All marriage records are open to the public. Marriage records are some of the earliest vital records available in Michigan. Online sources include:
- Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1935
- Michigan Marriages, 1822-1995
- Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925
- The above records are found at Family Search and are incomplete at present, so if you don't find your ancestor, check back periodically.
- Dibean Michigan Marriage Index. This is an index only database of marriages in Michigan searchable by county. It will provide you information to further your research.
- Deaths: Statewide registration began in 1867 with compliance by 1915. Death records are open to the public. Online sources include:
- Michigan, Death Index, 1971-1996
- Michigan, Death and Burials, 1800-1995
- Michigan, Deaths, 1867-1897
- Michigan Genealogical Death Indexing System (GENDIS), 1867-1897
- Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952
- Michiganology is the premiere site for Michigan death records. Death Certificates are available from 1897-1920; 1920-1946; and indexes 1947-1952. Each year a new year of certificates are added to Seeking Michigan.
Some vital records are available for order online. The addresses and information can be found on the Center for Disease Control website. I would check with the Michigan county clerk first to see if the one you want is available. Birth records are not available for 100 years after the birth. Some restrictions apply to who can access these records.
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.
Pure Michigan Genealogy is a series of posts on researching in Michigan. Records is number four in the series. The others are:
1. Michigan History
2. Migration and Immigration
4. Yankee Migration
5. Churches and Cemeteries
6. Archives, Libraries, Societies and Organizations
7. What Else is There? 10 More Resources
9. Living History
10. The End