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.
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.
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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:
FOR DEFINITIONS OF ALL CEMETERY TERMS SEE THE GENEALOGY ENCYCLOPEDIA
- 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
- Newspaper death notices
- Probate records
- Published death records
- Religious records
- Transcriptions of cemetery inscriptions
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