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Michigan Census Records - Federal Population Schedules that exist for Michigan are 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 (fragment, see below), 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. The 1820 Census includes six counties and Detroit. A complete set of federal population and supplemental schedules are available on microfilm at the State Archives of Michigan along with available AIS indexes.

See Also Researching in Census Records - What is the name, age, sex, color, occupation, and birthplace of each person residing in this house? Which of these individuals attended school or was married within the year? Who among them is deaf and dumb, blind, insane, ?idiotic,? a pauper, or a convict? Is there anyone in the household over twenty years of age who cannot read and write? What is the name of the slave owner? How many slaves belong to the owner? What is the tribe of this Indian? What were the places of birth of the person?s parents? In what year did this person immigrate to the United States and, if naturalized, what was the year of naturalization? For answers to these and other questions, researchers look to census records......

There are Industry and Agriculture Schedules availible for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. Slave Schedules exist for 1850 & 1860. The Mortality Schedules for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880.Union Veterans Schedules were conducted in 1890.

Territorial and State: Numerous state and territorial censuses were taken in Michigan, although few are extant. In 1710 the French compiled the first Michigan census. This, plus numerous others through the year 1792, were basically of the Detroit area. Fort Saint Joseph had a census taken in 1780 (Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol. 10, 1908, pages 406?07), as did Wayne County in 1796, which was printed in National Genealogical Society Quarterly 64 (1981): 185?94. A tax list of Wayne County in 1802 and a list of residents of Detroit in 1805 may be considered early enumerations of Michigan population.

The state census schedules for 1845, 1854, 1864, 1874, 1884, and 1894 are held by the State Archives of Michigan. Some of these are partial and/or incomplete. Prior to 1884 the state census names only the head of the household. The 1884 census, however, will identify those in each household that have married within the census year, giving the month of and the location of the marriage. There are also mortality schedules included in the 1884 and 1894 state censuses. A special Civil War Veteran Census was taken by the state in 1888.

  • Michigan Census, 1827-70: This collection contains the following indexes: 1827 Territorial Census Index; 1837 Kalamazoo County Index; 1840 Federal Census Index; 1840 Pensioners List; 1845 State Census Index; 1850 Federal Census Index; 1860 Federal Census Index; 1870 Federal Census Index; Early Census Index.
  • Michigan State Census, 1894: This database contains information from the 1894 Michigan State Census for the counties of Barry, Bay, Benzie, Dickinson, Emmet, Gratiot, Iosco, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Keweenaw, Lapeer, Menominee, Montcalm, and Washtenaw.

Excerpts From the Book "Family History Made Easy"

There are numerous ways to determine the location in which to concentrate research for an ancestor. One of the most popular and productive is the census.
Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., In Ancestry?s Red Book: American State,County and Town Sources

Since 1790, the U.S. government has taken a nationwide population count every ten years. Unique in scope and often surprisingly detailed, the census population schedules created from 1790 to 1920 are among the most used of records created by the federal government. Over the course of two centuries the United States has changed significantly, and so has the census. From the six basic questions asked in the 1790 census, the scope and categories of information have changed and expanded dramatically.

Early censuses were essentially basic counts of inhabitants; but as the nation grew, so did the need for statistics that would reflect the characteristics of the people. In 1850, the focus of the census was radically broadened. Going far beyond the vague questions previously asked of heads of households, the 1850 census enumerators were instructed to ask the age, sex, color, occupation, birthplace, and other questions regarding every individual in every household. Succeeding enumerations solicited more information; by 1920, census enumerators asked twenty-nine questions of every head of household and almost as many questions of everyone else in the residence. (Only a very small segment of the 1890 census remains; a fire in the Commerce Department destroyed the vast majority of the original records for that year. Because of privacy considerations, census records less than seventy-two years old are not available to the general public; thus, the 1920 census is the most recent available to the public.)

Few, if any, records reveal as many details about individuals and families as do the U.S. federal censuses. The population schedules are successive ?snapshots? of Americans that depict where and how they were living at particular periods in the past. Once home sources and library sources have been exhausted, the census is often the best starting point for further genealogical research. Statewide indexes are available for almost every census; they are logical tools for locating individuals whose precise place of residence is unknown. While some inaccuracies are to be expected in census records, they still provide some of the most fascinating and useful pieces of personal history to be found in any source. If nothing else, census records are important sources for placing individuals in specific places at specific times. Additionally, information found in the census will often point to other sources critical to complete research, such as court, land, military, immigration, naturalization, and vital records.

The importance of census records does not diminish over time in any research project. It is always wise to return to these records as discoveries are made in other sources because, as you discover new evidence about individuals, some information that seemed unrelated or unimportant in a first look at the census may take on new importance.

When you can?t find family, vital, or religious records, census records may be the only means of documenting the events of a person?s life. Vital registration?the official recording of births, deaths, and marriages?did not begin until around 1920 in many areas of the United States, and fires, floods and other disasters since have destroyed some official government records. When other documentation is missing, census records are frequently used by individuals who must prove their age or citizenship status (or that of their parents) for Social Security benefits, insurance, passports, and other important reasons.

How to Find Census Records
All available federal census schedules (those made from 1790 to 1920) have been microfilmed and are available at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.; at the National Archives? regional archives; at the Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) in Salt Lake City and LDS family history centers throughout North America, ?The Family History Library and Its Centers?); at many large libraries; in genealogical society libraries; and through companies that lend microfilmed records. Some state and local agencies have census schedules for the state or area they serve. Generally, microfilm copies may be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

Starting With the Census
It is usually best to begin a census search in the most recently available census records (1920) and to work from what is already known about a family. With any luck, birthplaces and other clues found in these more recent records will point to locations of earlier residence.

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Michigan Court Records - Records at the county level are the responsibility of different offices-office of the county clerk: birth, death, and marriage; register of deeds: land records; office of the probate judge: probate files; and circuit court office or office of the county clerk: circuit court records.

County circuit court records are kept by the county clerk or the circuit court clerk in the appropriate county office. There are no state indexes to these records.

National Archives/Great Lakes Region holds federal district court records as follows: Eastern District (Flint), 1895?1962; Bay City, 1894?1962; Detroit, 1837?1962; Western District (Grand Rapids), 1863?1962; and Marquette, 1878?1962. An inventory of holdings is available at the archives in Chicago. Documentation of shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, filed in the admiralty case files, are included in these records.

See Also Research In State Court Probate - Even today, few people escape mention in court records at some time during their lives as witnesses, litigants, jurors, appointees to office, or as petition signatories. However, Americans of a few generations ago also expected to attend local court proceedings when they were in session. It was a civic duty-and they could be fined if they did not attend......

Immigration - The French were the first Europeans to inhabit present-day Michigan. The Burton Historical Collection holds typed transcriptions of twenty-two volumes of French Notarial Records for Montreal (1682-1822) and four volumes of the Detroit Notarial Records (1737-95). Included are business contracts, indentures, apprentice and servant contracts, and fur trade transactions. Michigan French-Canadian descendants definitely should attempt to utilize the extensive available Canadian provincial and religious records in all repositories.
Membership in the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan (Library of Michigan, 735 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48913) includes five newsletters per year and the quarterly journal, Michigan's Habitant Heritage.

Michigan attracted a large number of immigrants. Entries for collections on various groups can be found in all of the repositories' holdings. One example is in Michigan Historical Collections in Ann Arbor, which holds letters sent by Swedish immigrants to entice others to come, as well as Swedish-language newspapers published in Michigan. Ethnic Groups in Detroit (Wayne State University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, 1951) was published as part of the city's 250th anniversary. Included is a discussion of forty-three ethnic groups.

Naturalization - Beginning in the 1840s and burgeoning near the end of the century, immigrants from northern and eastern Europe journeyed to Michigan for employment opportunities and religious freedom. Naturalization records for Michigan are organized by county, some with indexes. Declarations of intentions are usually arranged by surname while other documents for the citizenship process are chronological. Records for sixteen of Michigan's counties are cataloged by the State Archives of Michigan: Cass, Genesee, Gladwin, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Keweenaw, Luce, Marquette, Monroe, Montcalm, Muskegon, Saginaw, and Wayne.

  • Michigan Eastern District Naturalizations: Index to Naturalization papers of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit, 1837-1903 and U.S. Circuit Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit, 1837-1903
  • Search Court Records From All States
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  • Search County Criminal Records with a Criminal Background Check
  • Search for Registered Sex Offenders in your local Area

Michigan Probate Records - Probate records are the responsibility of the probate court office or the office of the probate judge in each county. There is no state index to these records, but see County Resources for earliest records available. Some probate court records, estate case files in particular, have been deposited at the state archives or at a regional depository. Consult State Archives Circular No. 6, Probate Court Records, for a listing of counties and dates of these original and microfilmed files.

See Also Research In State Probate Records - Probate records include a variety of documents created to support court proceedings in the settlement of an individuals' estates. The number and type of probate records created may vary over time in different jurisdictions and due to the amount of real and personal property involved. The various documents generated in the probate process are rarely filed together......

Excerpts From the Book "Family History Made Easy"

Even today, few people escape mention in court records at some time during their lives as witnesses, litigants, jurors, appointees to office, or as petition signatories. However, Americans of a few generations ago also expected to attend local court proceedings when they were in session.
Arlene H. Eakle, Ph.D. ?Research in Court Records?
In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy

American court files mirror U.S. history. Buried away in courthouses and archives everywhere are the dreams and frustrations of millions of citizens. The chances are great that your ancestors have left a detailed record of at least some aspects of their lives in court records.

Most of us don?t think of court records as the rich source of personal history that they are. But America?s English heritage established a tradition of court processes in which the people have a right to participate actively?and we always have. With relative freedom from royal supervision and with court enforcement of religious as well as civil laws, American courts tried many matters that were not subject to court action in other parts of the British empire and that are now considered too minor to warrant criminal action.

When a person dies, every state has laws that provide for public supervision over the estate that is left, whether or not there is a will. The term ?probate records? broadly covers all the records produced by these laws, although, strictly speaking, ?probate? applies only when there is a will.

Family historians use probate case files far more than any other kind of court record. Probate case files are logical sources because they tend to include so much personal data, and because Americans have depended on the courts to settle their estates since North America was colonized. According to Val Greenwood in his Researcher?s Guide to American Genealogy, ?All records which relate to the disposition of an estate after its owner?s death are referred to as probate records. These are many and varied in both content and value, but basically, they fall into two main classes: testate and intestate? (page 255). Probate case files generally provide names, addresses, and biographical data for the deceased, but frequently provide the same information for other relatives named in the papers. Relationships, maiden names of wives, married names of daughters, past residences, and place of origin in a native country are just a few of the details that can be discovered in probate files. And probate files can be found in courthouses and archives across the United States.

When requesting probate information from the county clerk, it is important not to limit yourself by asking for a person?s ?will.? The clerk will usually take you at your word and not copy other papers in the probate file that may have equally important information if there is no will.

Even if your ancestor is not mentioned in a probate case, consider all of the other procedures which might have resulted in him or her appearing in court records:

  • Admiralty courts (concerning events that took place at sea, on lakes, etc.)
  • Adoptions
  • Affidavits
  • Apprenticeships
  • Bankruptcies
  • Bonds
  • Chancery
  • Civil cases
  • Civil War claims
  • Claims
  • Complaints
  • Court opinions
  • Criminal
  • Decrees
  • Declarations
  • Defendant
  • Depositions
  • Divorce
  • Dockets
  • Guardianship
  • Judgments
  • Jury records
  • Land disputes
  • Marshals? records
  • Military
  • Minutes
  • Naturalization records
  • Notices
  • Orders
  • Orphan records
  • Petitions
  • Plaintiff
  • Printed court records
  • Probate
  • Receipts
  • Slave and Slave owners
  • Subpoenas
  • Summons
  • Testimony
  • Transcripts
  • Witnesses

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Michigan Church Records - 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. The Moravians, the first Protestant group in Michigan, assembled in Mount Clemens in the late 1770s. The Congregationalists in 1800 and the first Michigan Methodist minister in 1803 followed them.

See Also Research In State Church & Cemetery Records - Church records rank among the most promising of genealogical records available. Indeed, for periods before the advent of civil registration of vital statistics (a very late development in many American states), church records rank as the best available sources for information on specific vital events: birth, marriage, and death. They are also among the most under-used major records in American genealogy. Part of the reason lies in the number of denominations-there are hundreds of them. Identifying and locating the records of these various churches makes even professional genealogists hesitate......

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 records for the Central Methodist Church and St. Paul's Cathedral begin in 1820. The St. Joseph, Michigan Catholic Mission records of 1720-72 are at this repository.

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.

Michigan Cemetery Records - 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.

Cemetery records and gravestone inscriptions are a rich source of information for family historians. Cemetery and other sources of information associated with death include:

  • Biographical works
  • Burial permits
  • Church burial registers
  • Cemetery records (often several different kinds are kept)
  • Cemetery indexes (often compiled by genealogical societies)
  • Cemetery sextons? records
  • Cemetery deed and plot registers
  • Death certificates
  • Death indexes
  • Family bibles
  • Family burial plots
  • Funeral director?s records
  • Grave opening orders
  • Gravestone (monument) inscriptions
  • Military records
  • Monuments and memorials
  • Necrologies
  • Newspaper death notices
  • Obituaries
  • Probate records
  • Published death records
  • Religious records
  • Transcriptions of cemetery inscriptions

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Michigan Land Records -Private land claims based on grants made prior to U.S. sovereignty are found for Mackinac and Detroit. These records are in the National Archives. Most were "ribbon farms," very narrow but very long to ensure river frontage.

See Also Researching in Land Records - Land records provide two types of important evidence for the genealogist. Prior to the Civil War, more than eighty-five percent of all Americans owned or leased land. Therefore, almost every researcher, whether a seasoned professional or weekend hobbyist, has required land records to document the existence, association, or movement of an individual or ancestral family. Most beginning genealogists underestimate the importance of using land records to pin persons to specific locales. In the South, which has far fewer vital records than New England, the land records are even more crucial to genealogical success. For answers to these and other questions, researchers look to Land records......

The first public-domain land was purchased by settlers in Michigan in 1818. The Ordinance of 1785 had provided the methods for dividing and selling the recently ceded regions. The land was first surveyed into six-mile-square townships, each containing thirty-six sections. The townships were surveyed from an east-west line called a "base line" and a north-south line called a "principal meridian." These public domain lands were offered, at the first land office, in Detroit, for $2 per acre, with a minimum purchase required. "Installment plans" were available. In 1820 the cost per acre was lowered to $1.25, with "cash only" and a minimum purchase of eighty acres. Land was usually paid for with silver, gold, bank notes, or drafts. A "patent," usually signed by a clerk, for the U.S. president, would be sent to the landowner, giving title to the previously federal property. A "pre-emption law" in 1841 gave the "squatters" the right to purchase 160 acres at a minimum price.

Microfilm copies of the federal land patent records are at the Michigan State Library. These provide information on the first ownership of all federal lands in the state. The Office of the Great Seal, Department of State, 717 West Allegan, Lansing, Michigan 48918, has the original state land patent records. It is necessary to have an exact legal description of the property to utilize either of these valuable sources.
The State Archives of Michigan has numerous records of land transactions. They include the following sources of information (not inclusive) under various departments: tract books of swamp lands purchases, original maps prepared by federal surveyors that show cultural and physical features as they existed between about 1815 and 1855, abstracts of land grants ca. 1837-1900, surveys of private claims as early as 1807, and land tract books from 1818-1962.

Subsequent land transactions, no longer under federal control, are recorded in the appropriate county register of deed's office. Deeds for southeastern Michigan's "Toledo Strip", encompassing portions of Monroe, Lenawee, and Hillsdale counties, may have been recorded in Ohio and Michigan.

  • Michigan Land Records: Michigan Pre-1908 Homestead & Cash Entry Patent and Cadastral Survey Plat Index.
  • Land Records from All States
  • Search County Property Records
  • Search County Land Patents

Excerpts From the Book "Family History Made Easy"

Prior to the Civil War, more than eighty-five percent of all Americans owned or leased land. Therefore, almost every researcher, whether a seasoned professional or weekend hobbyist, has required land records to document the existence, association, or movement of an individual or ancestral family. While many researchers may feel a sense of historical excitement when finding an ancestor in a land deed, many also fail to understand the importance of such a document and how land can be used to make vital links between generations; they are not aware that it can bridge distant origins and help solve even the most difficult problems. E. Wade Hone, In Land and Property Research in the United States

U.S. House of Representative Private Claims, Vol. 1, Vol. 2 or Vol. 3

The right to own land has always been one of the great incentives for living in the United States. Yet researchers often overlook the importance of land records as a source of family history information. Written evidence of people?s entitlement goes back in time further than virtually any other type of record family historians might use.

Land records meet the needs of researchers in different ways and contain a variety of genealogical and historical data. They are a major source of information for many family histories and provide primary source material for local history as well. They are closely related to probate and other official court records and should be investigated in connection with them. Land and property are leading issues in the settlement of estates, and the majority of civil cases in the courts deal with real and personal property. Although land records rarely yield vital statistics, in many instances they provide the only proof of family relationships. Often they include the names of heirs of an estate (including daughters? married names and a widow?s subsequent married name) and refer to related probates and other court cases by number and court name. In some places where other records are scarce, the land records take on extra importance. Occasionally these documents disclose former residences and more often provide the new address of the grantors or heirs at the time of the sale of the property.

Land records provide two types of important evidence for the family historian. First, they often document family relationships. Second, they place individuals in a specific time and place, allowing the researcher to sort people and families into neighborhoods and closely related groups. One of land records? most important qualities is that they are sometimes the only records that allow us to distinguish one person of a common name from another.

The National Archives has bounty-land warrant files, donation land entry files, homestead application files, and private land claim files relating to the entry of individual settlers on land in the public land states. There are no land records for the original thirteen states or for Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and Hawaii. Records for these states are maintained by state officials, usually in the state capital. Searching for the record of a particular land grant from the federal government requires contacting both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Archives (NARA).

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Michigan Military Records -The State Archives of Michigan is the repository for military records in the state. Mail inquiries are answered. The Descriptive Rolls of Michigan Units, 1838-1919, are available for any individual serving in a Michigan unit during that time period. Their files also include records of fraternal organizations for veterans of the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Muster rolls of these organizations include names of members and their military history. A census taken of Civil War veterans in 1888 include county, name of soldier, rank, military unit and post office address. The state archives have extensive information on the Veterans' Facility, initially called the Soldier and Sailors' Home. It was established for Civil War veterans, but now serves veterans of all wars in which the United States has been involved. Records, many of which are indexed, span a period of 1885-1986. Individuals in those records are inhabitants of the facility; wives, widows, and mothers of veterans; and ex-nurses. The case files may include complete application forms with military and family information.

See Also Researching in Military Records - 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.......

The state archives also has unpublished indexes for the Spanish-American War and World War I.

Search Revolutionary War 1775-83 Service Records, Rejected Pensions, Loyalists Records, 1775-1783 Pay Rolls, Courts-Martial, Officers, Pension Index, 1841 Pensioner Census

  • Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Documents in NARA publication M246 include muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and supply records of American Army units, 1775-83.
  • Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Documents in NARA publication M246 include muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and supply records of American Army units, 1775-83.
  • Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, from NARA publication M804.
  • Michigan Military Records, 1775-1836: This database, originally compiled in 1920, is a collection of burial and pension records for residents of the state prior to 1836.

Civil War - The State Archives of Michigan has no pension records for Civil War veterans. They do have, however, a file of grave registrations gathered by the Civil War Centennial Observance Commission. The forms, filed by county and by name of soldier, include name, enlistment and service records, place and date of birth and death, name and location of cemetery, and additional remarks. They also have Muster Rolls of the Grand Army of the Republic Posts in Michigan. The archives have portraits of Civil War Soldiers, indexed by unit and by surname.

In the state archives' collection classified as Civil War Manuscripts, certificates, diaries, discharges, journals, letters and miscellaneous documents can be found. The following published finding aids can be obtained from the state archives for their military collections:

  • Archival #1-Records of the Michigan Military Establishment, 1838-1941
  • Archival #15-Records of the Grand Army of the Republic, Michigan Department
  • Archival #17-Records of the Michigan Veteran's Facility; Circular No. 20, Civil War Manuscripts.

The Burton Historical Collection holds extensive records for Civil War soldiers, but they are not cross-indexed. One group of their records is for U.S. General Hospital (1864-65), which includes a register of sick and wounded soldiers taken to Harper, St. Mary's, and the Post Hospital in Detroit.

Below is a list of online resources for Michigan in the Civil War. Email us with websites containing information on Michigan in the Civil War by clicking the link below:

  • Southern Claims Commission (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Documents In the 1870s, southerners claimed compensation from the U.S. government for items used by the Union Army, ranging from corn and horses, to trees and church buildings.
  • Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900 from the State of Michigan (The National Archives): View, Print Copy & Save Original Pension applications for service in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1917, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served.
  • Michigan in the Civil War: This database contains a report compiled from reports of the Adjutant General and reports held by the War Department in Washington, of the services of Michigan regiments, batteries, and companies in the Civil War.

The site U.S. Wars list conflicts dating from earliest to 1865. Wars covered that are availibele are:

  • Colonial Wars
    • Pequot War 1637-1638
    • French and Iroquois Wars 1642-1698
    • King Philip?s War 1675?1676
    • Pueblo Rebellion 1680
    • King William?s War 1689?98
    • Queen Anne?s War 1702?1713
    • Tuscarora War 1711-1715
    • Dummer's War 1723-1726King
    • George?s War 1744?48

    • French and Indian War 1754?63
    • Pontiac's Rebellion 1763-1766

    • Lord Dunmore's War 1774
    • Revolutionary war
    • Frontier conflicts 1775?1811
  • Post-revolutionary wars to 1848
    • Tripolitan War 1801-1805
    • War of 1812 1812?15
    • Creek Indian War 1813-1814
    • The First Seminole War 1818-1819
    • Texas Revolutionary War 1835-1836
    • Second Seminole War 1835-1842
    • Mexican War 1846?48
    • Civil War 1861?65
    • Spanish-American War 1898
  • Modern Wars
    • World War I 1917?18
    • World War II 1941?45
    • Korean War 1950?53
    • Vietnam War 1961?73
    • War on Terrorism 2001-Present

Excerpts From the Book "Family History Made Easy"

Military and pension records are among the most useful sources available to genealogists because of the detail they offer. These records are important because they may provide an ancestor?s date of birth, place of residence, the names and addresses of family members, and other details that can round out a picture of his or her life. Judith Prowse Reid, Head, Local History and Genealogy, Library of Congress

Military records have originated at the federal, state, and local levels. Whether created in time of war or in time of peace, these records provide unique facts and insights into the lives of men and women who have served in the military forces of the United States. Almost every American family, in one generation or another, has seen one or more of its members serve in America?s armed forces. From regimental histories, which provide blow-by-blow accounts of a unit?s participation in military actions, to the personal details contained in the service and pension files of individual men and women, military records provide valuable information concerning a large and significant portion of the American population. And because military records have been preserved and made available at and through a number of research institutions, much information awaits the well-prepared researcher.

How to Find Military Records
To locate military records for any individual, it is essential to know when and where in the armed forces he or she served and whether that person served in the enlisted ranks or was an officer. (If you don?t have that identifying information, some potential solutions are discussed below.)
As in any research project, it is important to study carefully whatever is already known about the subject of interest. Families and communities frequently pass down stories of military heroes from generation to generation. In most cases, these stories retain some fact, but, with the passage of years and in the process of retelling, accuracy fades. At any rate, family stories should not be overlooked for clues at the start of a military search.

When and where did the individual live? Did the family keep evidence of military service? Certificates, letters, journals, diaries, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs, medals, swords, and other memorabilia kept in private collections may provide the basic facts needed to begin searching in military record collections.

Military Time Lines
Creating a historical time line can be especially useful for determining if and when the subject might have served in the military. By compiling a chronological list of the known dates and places of residence of an individual from birth through adulthood, it is frequently easy to discover the possibility of military service. Was the individual the right age to be eligible for the draft or to serve voluntarily in the Civil War? Is it likely that the person served on the Northern rather than the Southern side, or vice versa? For records from the colonial period to more recent military engagements, the place of residence is key to finding an individual?s records.

Evidence of Military Service in Hometown Records
There are a number of public records that are potentially valuable in discovering the military history of a veteran. It has been a long-standing American tradition to foster patriotism by honoring local sons and daughters who have defended the ideals of their country. Hometown military heroes are frequently noted on public monuments, and local newspaper files may yield surprisingly detailed accounts of a community?s well-known and less-famous military personnel.

Military History
Commercial enterprises and historically oriented groups and institutions have regularly published local histories. As a rule, these histories will include glowing accounts of the area?s involvement in military activities. Some volumes provide biographical sketches of military leaders, while others attempt to list all of the community?s participants in various military conflicts. Locally focused histories have been published at various times for virtually every state and county in the United States. Do not overlook them as an important research aid. P. William Filby?s A Bibliography of American County Histories is a list of five thousand such sources.

In addition to the standard histories, local public libraries and historical societies usually preserve and make available other types of publications that document the military history of the geographical areas they serve. Historical agencies collect biographies, letters, diaries, journals, and all sorts of memorabilia from military units and servicemen and -women. The personal accounts found in some collections are a fascinating means of stepping back in time. Firsthand accounts afford a better understanding of the day-to-day drudgery, loneliness, fears, and satisfactions of military life.

Evidence of Military Service in Cemeteries
Cemeteries provide yet another local source of information regarding individuals who served in the armed forces. Almost every cemetery in the United States contains some evidence of military events and veterans. Cemetery records and grave markers frequently identify military dead by name, rank, and unit designation. If a man or woman died elsewhere while in the service, the body was frequently brought home for burial; cemetery records often note the place and date of death.

Evidence of Military Service in Court Records
Court records are yet another potential source for identifying those who served in the military. Most counties formally recorded and indexed the names of their citizens who were discharged from the military. In some local courts, ?military discharges? will be found indexed separately, and in others the military records may be oddly interspersed with deeds, naturalizations, or other categories of documents. The contents of military records may vary greatly from one courthouse to another. Some will provide biographical information, while others may simply list names and the event or names and date of certificate issue.

Military Records in the National Archives
Federal military documents that have been classified as archival material are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration. Not all records created by military agencies are judged to be permanently valuable. Generally, only records of historical or administrative importance are kept.

A wonderful array of federal military records are available in major libraries and archives and through microfilm rental programs. (Heritage Quest, a division of AGLL, Inc., PO Box 329, Bountiful, UT 84011-0329, is a source of rental microfilms.) With sufficient identifying information, you may request a search of the registers of enlistments or the compiled military service records. The minimum information required for a search is (1) the soldier?s full name, (2) the war in which he or she served or period of service, and (3) the state from which he or she served. For the Civil War, you must also indicate whether the person served in Union or Confederate forces. A separate copy of the form must be used for military service, pension, and bounty-land warrant applications. Submit requests for information about individuals who served in the military before World War I on NATF form 80 (Order for Copies of Veterans Records). Write to the National Archives and Records Administration, General Reference Branch, Washington, DC 20408 to obtain copies of NATF form 80. Always ask for ?all records? for an individual.

Make requests for information about U.S. Army officers separated from the service after 1912 on standard form 180 (Request Pertaining to Military Records) and send it to the Military Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132.

U.S. Military Records
By far the most comprehensive study of military records and how to use them is found in James C. Neagles?s U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Neagles?s guide addresses primary and secondary military sources and accessibility, including the following information-rich sources:

Records of state militias and the National Guard
Records of the army, navy, and other branches of the U.S. military
Records of the military academies
Post-service records
Bounty-land grants
Bonuses and family assistance
Soldier?s homes
Military burials
Military installations
Censuses of veterans
Civilian affairs

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Michigan Vital Records - Marriages, recorded in the county where they occurred, are the earliest public vital records in Michigan since a marriage registration law was enacted in 1805. A later law required marriages to be collected by the county clerk after 1 April 1867 and forwarded to the Secretary of State. Births and death records begin in January, 1867, although registration of all vital records was certainly not totally enforced. A 1905 law was much more effective. Divorce records begin in 1897.

See Also Researching in Vital Records - Vital records, as their name suggests, are connected with central life events: birth, marriage, and death. Maintained by civil authorities, they are prime sources of genealogical information; but, unfortunately, official vital records are available only for relatively recent periods. These records, despite their recent creation in the United States, are critically important in genealogical research, often supplying details on family members well back into the nineteenth century.......

Photocopies of these registrations can be ordered from the Michigan Department of Public Health, Office of the State Registrar and Center for Health Statistics, P.O. Box 30035, Lansing, Michigan 48909. Birth records in Michigan are available only to the individual to whom the record pertains, the parent(s) named on the record, any heir, legal guardian, or any legal representative of an eligible person. Relationship to the person named on the birth record, and date and place of death for the person named on the birth record, must be supplied. Photocopies of death, marriage, and divorce records are available to any individual or agency upon written application and payment of the fee.

Marriages registered before mandatory recording (1867) in some counties may be ordered from the appropriate county clerk. Charges for searches and/or copies will vary from county to county but must not exceed the state fees. Some township clerks also recorded births and deaths.

The Michigan Death Record Project, a joint endeavor between the Michigan Department of Public Health and the Michigan Genealogical Council, is in a developmental stage. The resulting index of some 500,000 early death registrations will include name of the deceased, book number, date of death, and county of death. It is hoped to have the index released to the public in increments, very likely in a microform format.

Microfilm copies of indexes to specific groups of Michigan vital records are at the Library of Michigan, State Archives of Michigan, Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library, and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana:
Michigan. State Department of Health. Index of Death Records, 1867?1914. 13 reels.
Michigan. State Department of Health. Index to Marriage Records, 1872?1921. 21 reels.

The government archive records at the Burton Historical Collection include the forms for Wayne County Marriage Returns. Completed by a minister or civil authority, the forms were sent to the county clerk between 1818?88, although most are dated 1860?77. The forms include the date of the marriage and names of the bride and groom with their color, residence, age, place of birth, and occupation.

Fill out the appropriate application form from the MDCH web site. Make check or money order payable to State of Michigan. Copies of most records since 1867 may also be obtained from the County Clerk in the county where the event occurred. Fees vary, or you can reciebve the certificates in as little as 2-5 days by ordering on line through Vital Chek Services

Photocopies of these registrations can be ordered from the Michigan Department of Public Health. Birth records in Michigan are available only to the individual to whom the record pertains, the parent(s) named on the record, any heir, legal guardian, or any legal representative of an eligible person. Relationship to the person named on the birth record, and date and place of death for the person named on the birth record, must be supplied. Photocopies of death, marriage, and divorce records are available to any individual or agency upon written application and payment of the fee.

Official forms are required for either a certified copy of any vital record or genealogical research copy of a marriage, death, or divorce record.

Some township clerks also recorded births and deaths.
Microfilm copies of indexes to specific groups of Michigan vital records are at the Library of Michigan, State Archives of Michigan, Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library, and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana:

The government archive records at the Burton Historical Collection include the forms for Wayne County Marriage Returns. Completed by a minister or civil authority, the forms were sent to the county clerk between 1818-88, although most are dated 1860-77. The forms include the date of the marriage and names of the bride and groom with their color, residence, age, place of birth, and occupation.

Ordering Vital Records Online - Getting documents by mail can take a long as six weeks or more. Through VitalChek Express Certificate Service you can get Birth, Marriage, Divorce & Death Certificates Signed, Sealed, & Delivered in as few as three business days!

Birth Certificates
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Facts on Birth Records - Most early birth records contain very little biographical information. Typical early New England town and church records, for example, give little information beyond the name of the child, date and place of birth, and parents? names. Some localities listed only the name of the father.

While early birth records can be discouragingly lacking in information, by the mid-nineteenth century birth records in the United States began to include more information. Even though births were not widely recorded during the early years of America?s existence, the records that do exist may be the only source of a birth date for an individual and should always be consulted.

Delayed births are also important vital registrations that you should consider for obtaining biographical information. When Social Security benefits were instituted in 1937, individuals claiming benefits had to document their birth even if the state of their birth did not require registration when they were born. Individuals who were not registered with state or county agencies at the time of their birth often applied for a delayed birth registration. Obtaining passports, insurance, and other benefits also required proof of age.

Applications were accompanied with full name, address, and date and place of birth; father?s name, race, and place of birth; and evidence to support the facts presented. The evidence could be in the form of a baptismal certificate, Bible record, school record, affidavit from the attending physician or midwife, application for an insurance policy, birth certificate of a child, or an affidavit from a person having definite knowledge of the facts. Delayed birth records are usually filed and indexed separately from regular birth registrations, and it may be necessary to request a separate search for them.

  • Michigan Marriages to 1850: This database of Michigan marriages to 1850 contains 13,000 names.
  • Michigan Marriages, 1851-75: This database contains records of marriages within the state for the years 1851 through 1875.
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Facts on Marriage Records - Because of the importance of the legal distribution and control of property, most states and counties began to record marriages before births and deaths. The recording of a marriage is a two-step process. Traditionally, couples apply for a license to marry, and the applications are usually filed loose among other applications or in bound volumes. Marriage returns are filed once the marriage has taken place. The latter document is the proof of a marriage (not the license application).

Marriage applications are often filled out by both the bride and groom and typically contain a significant amount of genealogical information. They may list full names of the bride and groom, their residences, races, ages, dates and places of birth, previous marriages, occupations, and their parents? names, places of birth, and occupations.

Marriage certificates are issued by counties after the marriage ceremony is completed, and these are usually found among family items. While the certificates tend to have less biographical data than the application, the name of the individual officiating at the wedding may lead you to religious records by revealing the denomination. The religious records, in turn, may reveal the names of witnesses and other useful information.

Early American records sometimes include marriage bonds, which served as a protection for the future children of the marriage. A bond obligated a prospective groom to pay the bond if he were discovered to be a bigamist or imposter or otherwise ineligible to contract a valid marriage. As long as the marriage was legal, the bond was void. Bonds generally include the groom?s name, name of the surety, the sum, and the date of the agreement.

  • Order Marriage Certificates or Divorce Records Online
  • Search U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900
  • Search County Marriage Records
  • Search County Divorce Records

Facts on Death Records - Early death records in the United States provide little more than the name of the deceased, the date of death, and the place of death. Obituaries and cemetery, court, and other records often provide more information about the deceased than do most official death records created before the last quarter of the 1800s.

By 1900 death records included more details. They often include the name of the deceased; date, place, and cause of death; age at the time of death; place of birth; parents? names; occupation; name of spouse; name of the person giving the information; the informant?s relationship to the deceased; the name and address of the funeral director; and the place of burial. Race is listed in some records, and modern death certificates generally include a Social Security number.

  • Michigan Deaths, 1971-1996: With over 2.75 million records, the Michigan Death Index covers the years from 1971 to 1996, making this database of particular interest to those with relatives from Michigan.
  • Order Death Certificates Online
  • Social Security Death Index
  • Obituary Collection
  • Search County Death Records
  • Find Obituaries in The World's Largest Newspaper Archive at! - Find thousands of Michigan obituaries to help you research your family history. Search for a Michigan newspaper obituary about your ancestor or a celebrity. Begin your search today and find death notices and funeral announcements printed in newspapers from Michigan.
  • America's Obituaries (1977 to current) at - Obituaries contain helpful information such as names, dates, places of birth, death, marriage and family information. Over 28 million obituaries make this the most complete collection from the 20th and 21st centuries - includes over 1,100 U.S. newspapers. New content added daily!

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