Chippewa County was created on 26 Dec 1826 and was formed from Michilimackinac County. The County was named for the Chippewa or Ojibwa, the largest of the Algonquin tribes. The word referred to the puckered seams on their moccasins: "he who wears puckered shoes." The County Seat is Sault Ste. Marie .
Counties adjacent to Chippewa County are Luce County (west), Mackinac County (south), Algoma District, Ontario (north, east). Townships found in Chippewa County include Bay Mills, Bruce, Chippewa, Dafter, Detour, Drummond, Hulbert, Kinross Charter, Pickford, Raber, Rudyard, Soo, Sugar Island, Superior, Trout Lake, Whitefish Townships. Cities, Towns and Communities include Barbeau, Brimley, Dafter, De Tour Village, Drummond Island, Eckerman, Goetzville, Hulbert, Kincheloe, Kinross, Paradise, Pickford, Rudyard, Sault Sainte Marie, Sault Ste Marie, Strongs, Trout Lake
Researchers often overlook the importance of court records, probate records, and land records as a source of family history information.
All departments below at located at the Chippewa County Courthouse, 319 Court Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783 , unless a different address is listed below. NOTE: The date listed for each category of record is the earliest record known to exist in that county. It does not indicate that there are numerous records for that year and certainly does not indicate that all such events that year were actually registered.
Chippewa County Clerk has the following Records for: Births: 1869 to present (Death certificates are required to obtain birth certificate unless the certificate is older than 110 years), Deaths: 1869 to present, Marriages: 1827 to present, Divorces: Early 1900s to present (Older records take 1-2 days to retrieve from storage), Military Discharges: 1919 to present . The Office is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: 906-635-6300 .
The County Clerk is responsible for keeping records of births, deaths, assumed names, co-partnerships, issuing and filing marriage licenses, gun permits, notary bonds and processing passports.
Chippewa County Register of Deeds has Land Records from 1826 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (906)635-6312 .
The Register is the County's official recording officer for all legal documents pertaining to the transfers and encumbrances of all real estate property within the County. The Register also provides permanent storage for approved original subdivision plats, condominiums, land surveys and section corners.
Chippewa County Clerk of the Probate Court has Probate Records from 1828 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (906)635-6316 .
The Court Adjudicates and disposes of cases involving property of persons who have died or become incompetent, interprets wills and trusts, commits the mentally ill when necessary and appoints guardians and conservators for minors, incapacitated individuals and individuals with developmental disability.
Chippewa County Clerk of the Circuit Court has Court Records from 1860 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (906)635-6338 .
The Clerk provides a variety of functions for the court such as, but not limited to: filing and maintaing the official record for all cases that come before the court; providing staff to assist in the operation of the court; working with the Jury Commission and notifying all potential jurors to appear for jury duty; and, processing felony criminal cases bound over from the District Court.
County Treasurer - Property tax records at the county level usually date back to the first land records. Either the county treasurer or the register of deeds will be the custodian of these records.
Below is a list of online resources for Chippewa County Court Records. Email us with websites containing Chippewa County Court Records by clicking the link below:
Birth, marriage, and death records are connected with central life events. They are prime sources for genealogical information.
The State of Michigan Vital Records Office is located at 201 Townsend Street, Capitol View Bldg, 3rd Floor, Lansing MI 48913 (across the street from the state capitol - south side). The office hours are 8:00 am - 5:00 pm Mon-Fri, except for State holidays. They are open thru the lunch hour. If applying in person, you must submit your request by 3:00 pm in order to obtain same-day service. It can take up to 1-3 months to get a vital record from Michigan.
Below is a list of online resources for Chippewa County Vital Records. Email us with websites containing Chippewa County Vital Records by clicking the link below:
Few, if any, records reveal as many details about individuals and families as do government census records. Substitute records can be used when the official census is unavailable
Countywide Records: Federal Population Schedules that exist for Chippewa County, Michigan are 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 (fragment, see below), 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930.
Other Federal Schedules to look at when researching your Family Tree in Chippewa County, Michigan are Industry and Agriculture Schedules availible for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. The Mortality Schedules for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. There are free downloadable and printable Census forms to help with your research. These include U.S. Census Extraction Forms and U.K. Census Extraction Forms.
Below is a list of online resources for Chippewa County Census Records. Email us with websites containing Chippewa County Census Records by clicking the link below:
Genealogy Atlas has images of old American atlases during the years 1795, 1814, 1822, 1823, 1836, 1838, 1845, 1856, 1866, 1879 and 1897 for Michigan and other states.
You can view rotating animated maps for Michigan showing all the county boundaries for each census year overlayed with past and present maps so you can see the changes in county boundaries. You can view a list of maps for other states at Census Maps
You can view rotating animated maps for Michigan showing all the county boundary changes for each year overlayed with past and present maps so you can see the changes in county boundaries. You can view a list of maps for other states at County Maps
Below is a list of online resources for Chippewa County Maps. Email us with websites containing Chippewa County Maps by clicking the link below:
Military and civil service records provide unique facts and insights into the lives of men and women who have served their country at home and abroad.
The uses and value of military records in genealogical research for ancestors who were veterans are obvious, but military records can also be important to re-searchers whose direct ancestors were not soldiers in any war. The fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and other close relatives of an ancestor may have served in a war, and their service or pension records could contain information that will assist in further identifying the family of primary interest. Due to the amount of genealogical information contained in some military pension files, they should never be overlooked during the research process. Those records not containing specific genealogical information are of historic value and should be included in any overall research design.
Below is a list of online resources for Chippewa County Military Records. Email us with websites containing Chippewa County Military Records by clicking the link below:
The Repositories in this section are Archives, Libraries, Museums, Genealogical and Historical Societies. Many County Historical and Genealogical Societies publish magazines and/or news letters on a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual basis. Contacting the local societies should not be over looked. State Archives and Societies are usually much larger and better organized with much larger archived materials than their smaller county cousins but they can be more generalized and over look the smaller details that local societies tend to have. Libraries can also be a good place to look for local information. Some libraries have a genealogy section and may have some resources that are not located at archives or societies. Also, take a special look at any museums in the area. They sometimes have photos and items from years gone by as well as information of a genealogical interest. All these places are vitally important to the family genealogist and must not be passed over.
Below is a list of online resources for Chippewa County Genealogical Addresses. Email us with websites containing Chippewa County Genealogical Addresses by clicking the link below:
Obituaries can vary in the amount of information they contain, but many of them are genealogical goldmines, including information such as names, dates, places of birth and death, marriage information, and family relationships.
There are many churches and cemeteries in Chippewa County. Some transcriptions are online. A great site is the Chippewa County Tombstone Transcription Project.
The earliest religious denomination in Michigan was the Roman Catholic church, established through a mission in 1668 at Sault Ste. Marie. Ste. Anne's, in Detroit, has parish records beginning in 1703.
Michigan Historical Collections in Ann Arbor holds large collections from the Presbyterian Church and the Protestant Episcopal Church, in addition to other denominations. Dutch Reformed church records are at Calvin College and Seminary Library in Grand Rapids; Finnish church records are deposited at the Finnish-American Historical Archives at Suomi College in Hancock. The Upjohn Library at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo has a large collection of Baptist archive material. Many early Detroit churches have their records deposited at the Burton Historical Collection-Detroit Public Library. The Michigan Historical Records Survey, WPA, completed an Inventory of the Church Archives of Michigan, and many of the church records from this inventory were published from 1936 through 1942.
The Library of Michigan in Lansing and the Burton Historical Collection have over 1,000 books of transcribed or published tombstone readings from Michigan cemeteries. To locate a cemetery in the state, consult the Michigan Cemetery Compendium. It lists most cemeteries in Michigan.
Below is a list of online resources for Chippewa County Cemetery & Church Records. Email us with websites containing Chippewa County Cemetery & Church Records by clicking the link below:
The use of published genealogies, electronic files containing genealogical lineage, and other compiled sources can be of tremendous value to a researcher.
When view family trees online or not, be sure to only take the info at face value and always follow up with your own sources or verify the ones they provide. Below is a list of online resources for Chippewa County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information. Email us with websites containing Chippewa County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information by clicking the link below:
Much of the history of Chippewa County is the history of Sault Ste. Marie, or "the Soo." The Sault, which began as an outpost for French missionaries, fur traders and explorers, today is the vital link between the nation's iron ore fields and its industrial centers. Sault Ste. Marie was Chippewa County's first settlement and has always been its governmental center and largest city.
Long before the arrival of whites, Indians of the Great Lakes, especially the Chippewa, camped and fished along the rapids where Lake Superior drops into Lake Huron. On 4 October 1641, only twenty-one years after the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Chippewas were joined by Father Isaac Jogues and Charles Raymbault, French missionaries from the Christian Island mission on Georgian Bay. The missionaries soon left, but named the spot Sault de Sainte Marie (St. Mary's rapids). In 1668 Fathers Claude Dablon and Jacques Marquette founded a mission there, making Sault St. Marie the first permanent white settlement in the Midwest.
The Sault mission flourished. In 1671 a French party sent to look for copper, find a route to the Orient and claim ownership of the interior of North America, stopped there and issued the declaration known as the Pageant of the Sault.
On the fourteenth day of June, a beautiful spring day, two thousand Indians representing fourteen tribes watched as the Sieur de St. Lusson, clutching his sword in one hand and a piece of sod in the other, claimed Lakes Huron and Superior and all of the vast region "contiguous and adjacent there-unto, as well as discovered as to be discovered" for Louis XIV.
The Iroquois threat during the last decade of the century forced both missionaries and fur traders to leave the Sault. After peace with the Iroquois was established in 1701, French activity focused on Michilimackinac with its access to the Ohio Valley, the lower lakes (Erie and Ontario) and the Mississippi Valley. At the same time the French reduced their Lake Superior outposts to one-Chequamegon. Located in what is now Wisconsin, Chequamegon became more important than the Sault because of its proximity to the far western fur trade. It also replaced the Sault as the center of Chippewa occupancy and influence.
The Sault saw little further French activity until 1750 when a 200,000-acre seigneury, a feudal land grant, was given to two lesser nobles. Of the two, only Louis le Gardeur, Sieur de Repentigny, born in Quebec in 1721, came to the area. In fulfillment of his feudal obligations, Repentigny began clearing the land and unsuccessfully attempted to induce tenants to settle and start farming. However, the French expulsion from North America in 1763 caused Repentigny to abandon his land and go to France. (In 1781 descendants of the other noble, Louis de Bonne, initiated a lawsuit to acquire the land. The U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled their claim invalid in 1867.)
From 1763 until after the War of 1812, the Sault was the center for British fur trading activities. The best-known trader was John Johnston, who arrived in 1793, three years before the British turned their Michigan forts over to the newly formed United States. Married to the daughter of a Chippewa chief, Johnston developed a vast knowledge of the Chippewas, and "his familiarly with the Sault and northern Great lakes area was an invaluable asset to the development of that frontier." His loyalty to the British in the War of 1812 led to the destruction of much of his property by American soldiers in 1814. Following the war, Johnston accepted American dominance and continued to open his house, which still stands in Sault Ste. Marie, to explorers, traders, Indians, trappers, surveyors and others.
One of Johnston's visitors was territorial Governor Lewis Cass, who led a scientific expedition to the Upper Peninsula in 1820. Besides searching for mineral riches to promote Michigan settlement, Cass was to seek Indian approval to build a fort near the rapids. The expedition arrived at the Sault in early June, but the Indians were hostile, especially chief Sassaba, who met Cass wearing a British officer's uniform and raised the Union Jack in front of his lodge. Infuriated, Cass, accompanied only by his interpreter, went to the Indian village, tore the flag down and warned Sassaba that if another were raised, the Indians would be destroyed. Neengay Johnston, John's wife, intervened and brought the two parties together again, and hostilities were avoided. The Indians ceded to the U.S. a strip of land along the river.
Two years later, Colonel Hugh Brady and 250 soldiers arrived at the Sault, built a stockade enclosed by whitewashed cedar posts and called it Fort Brady.
During the same year, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft became the U.S. Indian agent at Sault Ste. Marie. Schoolcraft's many achievements included numerous writings on Indian culture and legends, some of which aided Henry W. Longfellow in composing his poem Hiawatha. Schoolcraft also explored the Lake Superior region extensively and in 1832 discovered the source of the Mississippi River. In 1833 the Indian agency moved to Mackinac Island and Schoolcraft and his family left the Sault. His house, Elmwood, one of the oldest in Michigan, was moved to a new location and plans call for its eventual restoration.
On 1 February 1827, boasting a civilian population of less than 200, Chippewa County was officially organized. During the next twenty-five years Sault Ste. Marie grew steadily but remained an isolated outpost. However, in the early 1850s, with a population of less than 2,000, it began a transformation that changed its history.
Twenty-three-year-old Charles T. Harvey, an accountant for the Fairbanks Scale Company, spent the summer of 1852 investigating mining opportunities in the Upper Peninsula for his employers. A year later, as general agent of the St. Mary's Falls Ship Canal Company, he broke ground for the Soo Locks, a project that made Sault Ste. Marie one of the most important cities in America.
The rapids of St. Mary's River, where Lake Superior drops twelve feet into Lake Huron, had always obstructed navigation. Furs, pioneers' possessions, copper and iron ore had to be unloaded, portaged around the rapids and reloaded. In 1797 the Canadian-based North West Company constructed a small navigation lock on the Canadian side of the river. It was used until American troops destroyed it in 1814.
After achieving statehood in 1837, Michigan commissioned the building of a canal to connect the lakes, but the project failed. Throughout the 1840s Michigan's congressional delegation unsuccessfully sought a federal land grant to finance a canal that would aid development of the Upper Peninsula's mineral resources. During one debate, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky asserted that a canal at Sault Ste. Marie would be "a work quite beyond the remotest settlement of the United States, if not the moon."
Then, in 1852, Congress granted Michigan 750,000 acres of public land to be given as compensation to the company that built the canal. At Harvey's urging, the Fairbanks brothers induced several other eastern capitalists to join them in forming the St. Mary's Falls Ship Canal Company. The company won the bid, and Harvey began work.
In spite of adverse weather, disease, and problems securing ample food and supplies for hundreds of laborers, two 350-foot locks, arranged in tandem, and a one-mile canal were completed before the two-year deadline. On 22 June 1855 the Illinois became the first ship to pass through the locks. The State of Michigan operated the locks until 1881 when they were transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Great Lakes shipping soon outgrew Harvey's locks and others were built to meet the demand. Today there are four separate American locks and a small Canadian one. The newest lock, Poe 2, was opened in 1968 and replaced the Poe Lock built in 1896. It is the system's workhorse-1,200 feet long, 110 feet wide and 50 feet deep. Sixty to seventy million tons pass through it annually, more tonnage than through any other single lock in the world.
One hundred ninety-three ships carrying 107 thousand tons went through the locks in 1855. In 1978 there were 13,461 ships carrying 107 million tons. (While the 1978 tonnage was recorded, there have been years, especially during World War II and the Korean War, when more than twice as many ships passed through.)
Lumbering came to Chippewa County during the late nineteenth century. Shelldrake, Emerson, Detour, Bay Mills and Drummond Island, as well as the Sault, once hummed with the whine of saws cutting the areas plentiful growth of timber. Several of the mills were large, like the one in Detour that disappeared in April 1889. Fearing seizure by creditors, the mill's owners dismantled it, cut a path in the frozen river and sailed for Canada. The local sheriff caught up with the thieves only after they had reached Canadian waters where he had no jurisdiction. After settling matters with Canadian customs, the owners rebuilt the mill and operated it for years.
Today Sault Ste. Marie still dominates Chippewa County. But there have been some changes. A new Fort Brady was built in 1892. It was evacuated and given to the Michigan college of Mining and Technology at Houghton in 1946 for a branch college. That branch became Lake Superior State College, an autonomous four-year institution, in 1970. The lumbering areas are now sleepy villages and recreational areas, like Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
The area's history is preserved in three museums, all in Sault Ste. Marie—the John Johnston House, furnished from the early nineteenth century; the Tower of History/Shrine of Missionaries, erected in 1968; and the S. S. Valley Camp, a Great Lakes cargo ship, permanently moored in 1968 and opened as a marine museum.