24 January 2022

Pure Michigan Genealogy: Records

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 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.

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 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:
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. 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
3.  Records
4.  Yankee Migration
5.  Churches and Cemeteries
6. Archives, Libraries, Societies and Organizations
7.  What Else is There? 10 More Resources
8.  Maps 
9.  Living History

10. The End


  1. Brenda, thank you. You know I will enjoy looking at the various links, and I love the blue color indicating what to click on. Great, great job.

  2. Barbara, I hope you find something that will break through that Farmer wall. Thanks for your kind words.

  3. Hi Brenda
    The Michigan in the Civil War link hasn't worked in over a week. I'm hoping he didn't take down the site. It was incredible.

  4. Thank you for letting me know. I edited the post to update this. I added a cached link from the middle of June. I hope that continues to work. I agree the website is incredible. Maybe, it is being updated. Fingers crossed.