Van Buren County was created on 29 Oct 1829 (Organized in 1837) and was formed from Unorganized Land. Some early records before 1837 may be located in Cass and Leeawee Counties. The County was named for Martin Van Buren of New York, secretary of state under President Jackson (1829-1831) and later 8th President of the United States (1837-1841). The County Seat is Paw Paw .
Counties adjacent to Van Buren County are Allegan County (northeast), Kalamazoo County (east), St. Joseph County (southeast), Cass County (south), Berrien County (southwest). Townships found in Van Buren County include Almena, Antwerp, Arlington, Bangor, Bloomingdale, Columbia, Covert, Decatur, Geneva, Hamilton, Hartford, Keeler, Lawrence, Paw Paw, Pine Grove, Porter, South Haven Charter, Waverly Townships. Cities, Towns and Communities include Bangor, Bloomingdale, Breedsville, Covert, Decatur , Gobles, Grand Junction, Hartford, Kendall, Lacota, Lawrence, Lawton, Mattawan, Paw Paw, South Haven.
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 Van Buren County Courthouse, 212 Paw Paw Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079 , 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.
Van Buren County Clerk has the following Records for: Births & Deaths: 1867 to present, Marriages: 1836 to present, Divorces: 1857 to present . The Office is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: 616-657-8218 .
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.
Van Buren County Register of Deeds has Land Records from 1836 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (269)657-8202 .
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.
Van Buren County Clerk of the Probate Court has Probate Records from 1837 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (269)657-8225 .
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.
Van Buren County Clerk of the Circuit Court has Court Records from 1844 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (269)657-8218 .
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 Van Buren County Court Records. Email us with websites containing Van Buren 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 Van Buren County Vital Records. Email us with websites containing Van Buren 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 Van Buren 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 Van Buren 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 Van Buren County Census Records. Email us with websites containing Van Buren 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 Van Buren County Maps. Email us with websites containing Van Buren 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 Van Buren County Military Records. Email us with websites containing Van Buren 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 Van Buren County Genealogical Addresses. Email us with websites containing Van Buren 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 Van Buren County. Some transcriptions are online. A great site is the Van Buren 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 Van Buren County Cemetery & Church Records. Email us with websites containing Van Buren 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 Van Buren County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information. Email us with websites containing Van Buren County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information by clicking the link below:
Van Buren County is located in Southwest Michigan bordering on Lake Michigan on the West and Kalamazoo County on the East. Its Southern border is 21 miles from the Indiana stateline and on the North it borders Allegan County.
Van Buren County has a proud history paralleling the story of statehood. Settled for the most part by New York Dutch and new Englanders, it was formed into a County by an Act of the Legislative Council of Michigan and approved October 29, 1829, in the same Act that created Cass, Berrien and Kalamazoo Counties.
It was not until 1837 that the people of Van Buren County were deemed sufficiently numerous to justify them in assuming the responsibilities of local self government. On March 18, 1937 an Act organizing the County was approved by the Governor of Michigan.
Van Buren County, named after U.S. President Martin Van Buren, has come a long way since its residents traded with the Potawattomi Indians and followed their trails with pioneer roads. Population trends indicate it is located in a growing area of the state.
The County is known as the fruit basket of Michigan. The growing season opens with asparagus harvest in May and closes in the fall with apples and grapes. The Lawton, Porter and Paw Paw area is the grape capital of the County with each accommodating the fruit processors and wineries. Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford and Lawrence grow premium peaches and apples; Keeler has extensive strawberry beds, Hamilton produces acres of pickling cucumbers and the large blueberry plantations are located in Columbia and Geneva.
Though Van Buren County is known as an agricultural county, suburbia is invading its borders. Population increases reflects the East side is the growth area and the County's location on the Lake Michigan shoreline indicates the trend of increased tourism.
The first election of County Officers was held on the second Monday of April 1837 and the following were elected: Wolcott H. Keeler and Jay R. Monroe, Associate Justices; Jeremiah H. Simmons, Judge of Probate; Samuel Gunton, Sheriff; Nathaniel Starkweather, County Clerk and Daniel O. Dodge, Treasurer. The first Courthouse originally fronting the Paw Paw Main Street is now used as the Paw Paw Village Hall and is located at 111 East Michigan Avenue. The present Courthouse was formally dedicated in 1901 and was made possible by a $50,000 subscription by Paw Paw businessmen when South Haven threatened to wrest the County Seat from Paw Paw. Total cost of the present Courthouse and the old Jail was $120,000.
The upper and lower domes of the Courthouse had to be removed from the top of the building for restructuring and repair. This historic project was completed in 1999 at a cost of $249,654.
History of Michigan Townships
Most features of county and township govertnment can be traced back to the colonial period. Some structures were inventions to meet pioneer conditions while other structures were adaption of English models.
The structure of local government in Michigan was shaped by the 1785 Northwest Land Ordinance authored by Thomas Jefferson. The NWO provided the basic framework for the settlement and governance of the Northwest Territory which became the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Jefferson strongly believed in a citizen government. Government close to the citizens emerged as a cornerstone of governance in the Northwest Territory. Jefferson developed the rectangular grid survey which permitted the identification of property. Survey townships were 6 miles square (36 sections) placing local government in close proximity to its citizens.
Michigan is modeled after the New York Plan of Government combined with provisions of the Northwest Ordinance. This plan provided for a county board of supervisors comprised of the elected supervisor from each township. Townships maintained distinct roles and responsibilities for roads, the poor, elections, fence viewing, tax assessing and collection of property taxes.