Muskegon County was created on 4 Feb 1859 and was formed from Ottawa County and Unorganized Land. The County was named for the Muskegon River running through it that empties into Lake Michigan. The word comes from the Ojibwe/Chippewa word "mashkig" meaning "swamp" or "marsh." The County Seat is Muskegon .
Counties adjacent to Muskegon County are Oceana County (north), Newaygo County (northeast), Kent County (east), Ottawa County (south). Townships found in Muskegon County include Blue Lake, Casnovia, Cedar Creek, Dalton, Egelston, Fruitland, Fruitport Charter, Holton, Laketon, Montague, Moorland, Muskegon, Ravenna, Sullivan, White River, Whitehall Townships. Cities, Towns and Communities include Bailey, Casnovia, Fruitport, Holton, Lakewood Club, Montague, Muskegon Heights, Muskegon, North Muskegon, Norton Shores, Ravenna, Roosevelt Park, Twin Lake, Wabaningo, Whitehall.
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 Muskegon County Courthouse, 990 Terrace, Muskegon, MI 49442 , 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.
Muskegon County Clerk has the following Records for: Births & Deaths and Marriages & Divorces: 1867 to present. The Office is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: 231-724-6221 .
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.
Muskegon County Register of Deeds has Land Records from 1839 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (231)724-6271 .
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.
Muskegon County Clerk of the Probate Court has Probate Records from 1867 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (231)724-6241 .
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.
Muskegon County Clerk of the Circuit Court has Court Records from 1856 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (231)724-6316 .
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 Muskegon County Court Records. Email us with websites containing Muskegon 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 Muskegon County Vital Records. Email us with websites containing Muskegon 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 Muskegon County, Michigan are 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 (fragment, see below), 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930.
Other Federal Schedules to look at when researching your Family Tree in Muskegon County, Michigan are Industry and Agriculture Schedules availible for the years 1860, 1870 and 1880. The Mortality Schedules for the years 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 Muskegon County Census Records. Email us with websites containing Muskegon 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 Muskegon County Maps. Email us with websites containing Muskegon 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 Muskegon County Military Records. Email us with websites containing Muskegon 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 Muskegon County Genealogical Addresses. Email us with websites containing Muskegon 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 Muskegon County. Some transcriptions are online. A great site is the Muskegon 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 Muskegon County Cemetery & Church Records. Email us with websites containing Muskegon 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 Muskegon County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information. Email us with websites containing Muskegon County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information by clicking the link below:
The human occupation of the Muskegon area goes back seven or eight thousand years to the nomadic Paleo-Indian hunters who occupied this area following the retreat of the Wisconsinian glaciation. The Paleo-Indians were succeeded by several stages of woodland Indian development, the most notable of whom were the Hopewellian type cultures that occupied this area perhaps two thousand years ago. During historic times the Muskegon area was inhabited by various bands of Ottawa and Pottawatomi tribes. Perhaps the best remembered of the historic Indian inhabitants of this area was the noted Ottawa Indian chief, Pendalouan. A leading participant in the French-inspired annihilation of the Fox Indians of Illinois in the 1730s, he and his people lived in the vicinity of Muskegon during the 1730s and 1740s until induced by the French to move their settlement to the Traverse Bay area in 1742.
The name "Muskegon" is derived from the Ottawa Indian term "Masquigon" meaning "marshy river" or "swamp." The "Masquigon" river is identified on French maps dating from the late seventeenth century, suggesting that the French explorers had reached the western coast of Michigan by that time.
No one knows for certain when the first Frenchman visited the Muskegon area, but Father Jacques Marquette traveled northward through this area on his fateful trip to St. Ignace in 1675 and a party of French soldiers under La Salle's lieutenant, Henry de Tonty, passed through this area in 1679.
If the French established any trading posts in this vicinity, their locations are not known. The earliest known resident of the county was Edward Fitzgerald, a fur trader and trapper who visited the Muskegon area in 1748 and who died here, reportedly buried in the vicinity of White Lake. Sometime between 1790 and 1800, a French-Canadian trader named Joseph La Framboise had established a trading post at the mouth of Duck Lake. Between 1810 and 1820 several French Canadian fur traders, including Lamar Andie, Jean Baptiste Recollect, and Pierre Constant, had established posts around Muskegon Lake.
Settlement of Muskegon began in earnest in 1837, when Muskegon Township was organized as a subdivision of Ottawa County. One of the earliest settlers, Henry Pennoyer, was elected as the first Township Supervisor in 1838.
As a corporate entity, Muskegon County dates from 1859. Prior to that time, the southern three quarters of the county were part of Ottawa County while the northern quarter belonged to Oceana County. At the time of the organization of the county in 1859, the county was divided into only six townships including Muskegon, Norton, Ravenna, White River, Dalton, and Oceana, with a total population of 3,947.
The era of settlement coincided with the beginning of the exploitation of the area's extensive timber resources. The commencement of the lumber industry in 1837 inaugurated what some regard as the most romantic history of the region.
The typical lumberman of the era was a young man in his twenties or thirties from New England, New York, or Pennsylvania who had enjoyed sufficient success in some previous occupation to build a small mill and to make a modest investment in Michigan timber lands. Local lumbermen such as Charles Mears, Martin Ryerson, Lyman Mason, Charles Hill, and George and John Ruddiman readily fit this stereotype. By the time the local lumber industry had reached its peak in the mid 1880s, forty-seven sawmills surrounded Muskegon Lake, while another sixteen dotted the shores of White Lake to the north. Muskegon was known as the "Lumber Queen of the World" when 665,000,000 board feet were cut in 1887 alone!
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the lumbering era was fading away. The local economy was severely depressed, the community disorganized, and the population restive and demoralized. Led by area industrialists, including Newcomb McGraft, Charles Hackley, and Thomas Hume, the community organized a program of economic development which attracted several substantial businesses to the community. Before long, Muskegon was well on its way to becoming a diversified industrial center, having attracted such firms as Shaw-Walker, Brunswick, Campbell, Wyant, and Cannon, Continental Motors, and the Central Paper Mill to this area. The Great Depression of the 1930s undermined much of that economic development, but the economy rebounded during World War II in response to Muskegon's role as an "Arsenal of Democracy." The 1950s and 1960s witnessed a return to the economic doldrums. Factories cut back on production and laid off employees in unprecedented numbers. Many area businesses closed their doors permanently. The 1960s and 1970s were years of business consolidation when numerous locally owned banks and industrial establishments were sold to giant national and international corporations. Since the 1970s, the industrial community has continued to diversify in order to cope with an ever-changing economy.
Over the years, Muskegon has attracted a unique mix of residents which has helped to shape the cultural and intellectual make-up of the community. The original settlers of the nineteenth century were typically native-born Americans from New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. They were quickly joined by immigrants from Canada, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The industrial surge at the the turn of the nineteenth century attracted large numbers of Southern Europeans to the area, while World War II witnessed the arrival of large numbers of Mexican-Americans, Southern blacks, and Appalachian whites. The melting pot diversity of Muskegon's ethnic heritage is in keeping with the varied nature of other elements of its recent past.