Emmet County was created on 1 Apr 1840 (Formed as Tonedagana County, renamed Emmet County in 1843; Organized in 1853) and was formed from Mackinac County. The County was named for the Irish patriot Robert Emmet (1778-1803), who was hung as a traitor to the British government at the age of 23. The County Seat is Petoskey .
Counties adjacent to Emmet County are Mackinac County (north), Cheboygan County (east), Charlevoix County (south). Townships found in Emmet County include Bear Creek, Bliss, Carp Lake, Center, Cross, Friendship, Little Traverse, Littlefield, Maple River, McKinley, Pleasantview, Readmond, Resort, Springvale, Wawatam, West Traverse Townships. Cities, Towns and Communities include Alanson, Brutus, Carp Lake, Conway, Cross Village, Good Hart, Harbor Springs , Levering, Oden, Pellston, Petoskey.
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 Emmet County Courthouse, 200 Division Street, Petoskey, MI 49770 , 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.
Emmet County Clerk has the following Records for: Births & Deaths: 1867 to present, Marriages: 1867 to present, Divorces: 1800s, Immigration, Civil War, Great War . The Office is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: 231-348-1744 .
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.
Emmet County Register of Deeds has Land Records from 1843 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (231)348-1761 .
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.
Emmet 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)348-1765 .
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.
Emmet County Clerk of the Circuit Court has Court Records from 1867 and is located at the County Courthouse, see address above for contact information. Phone: (231)348-1748 .
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 Emmet County Court Records. Email us with websites containing Emmet 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 Emmet County Vital Records. Email us with websites containing Emmet 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 Emmet County, Michigan are 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 Emmet 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 Emmet County Census Records. Email us with websites containing Emmet 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 Emmet County Maps. Email us with websites containing Emmet 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 Emmet County Military Records. Email us with websites containing Emmet 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 Emmet County Genealogical Addresses. Email us with websites containing Emmet 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 Emmet County. Some transcriptions are online. A great site is the Emmet 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 Emmet County Cemetery & Church Records. Email us with websites containing Emmet 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 Emmet County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information. Email us with websites containing Emmet County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information by clicking the link below:
Emmet County is at the top of the Michigan mitten. Its northern tip bumps into the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan outlines its western boundary. At first, Ottawa Indians, living in stone-age splendor, occupied the lake shore rim. Beyond the water's edge there was only the forest, the lakes, the streams, and some swamps dismal enough to discourage a traveling bear. Its strategic location on the great lakes waterways, however, marked it for early discovery by white men and the point of control for the whole upper great lakes territory. By the time Michigan became a state, well over one hundred years of fur trading, war whooping, empire building history was already behind it.
Recorded history started about 1715, the year the French built Fort Michilimackinac on the Straits, at present day Mackinaw City. The history of the area revolved around this fort for the next 66 years. For the first 46 years, until 1761, the French were in control. The Indians were generally faithful to them. They agreeably fetched in the furs, and just as agreeably sent war parties far distances to harass the British forces at war with the French. France lost this final aspect of the struggle to get control of the fur trade, called the French and Indian War, and by treaty provisions, the vast great lakes country. British forces moved into Fort Michilimackinac when the French moved out in 1761. With the exception of one little set back, they were there until 1781.
The setback occurred on June 2, 1763 when a group of them expressed their displeasure in colorful and graphic style by an efficient massacre of most of the garrison. This was the most blood curdling episode in the territorial period of the county's history. It took about two years after the massacre for the British to reestablish themselves at the Fort. They were there when the Revolutionary War was fought. Two years before the end of that historic struggle the Fort Commandant had a new fort built on the more Gibraltar-like Mackinac Island. Old Fort Michilimackinac was abandoned in 1781 and the beehive center of the fur trading, military and political doings shifted from the mainland to that island.
The Indian settlement on the western lake shore rim of the county, however, continued to flourish. In 1840, the year Emmet achieved shape and form as a county of the State of Michigan, Indian villages were almost continuous along the shore line from today's Harbor Springs to Cross Village. The area was still a wilderness, the Indians, by treaty provision with the U.S. Government, having the right to occupy the land. The county continued to be mostly Indian reservation until 1875. In that period of time it was used pretty much as a political football and went through numerous changes in shape and size.
In 1840 the State Legislature, wishing to take the basic steps necessary to insure proper development of the whole state, passed Act No. 119 laying off and outlining the boundaries of certain northern counties. These counties were unorganized, or prospective only. Section 28 of that Act described the boundaries of Emmet County as that portion of the State lying north of the line between towns 36 and 37 north, and west of the line between ranges 4 and 5 west. The Act designated it as the County of Tonedagana. Two years later another act changed the name to Emmet. Why an area with such a long and colorful Indian history was required to sacrifice its original name to some Irish patriot remains a mystery. These unorganized northern counties were attached to the organized Mackinaw County for judicial purposes.
In 1847 a colony of Mormons under King James J. Strang settled on Beaver Island. Feuding, worse than the Hatfields and McCoys, started immediately between them and the whites in the Mackinaw and Charlevoix areas. The Mormons had the short end of the stick for the Mackinaw group had charge of law and order. In 1852, King Strang, by a brilliant political maneuver, managed to become a member of the House of Representatives of the State Legislature. By January of 1853 he had ushered through Act No. 18 of the Sessions Laws of 1853 entitled, "An act to organize the County of Emmet". The Act provided that the islands contiguous to the counties of Emmet and Charlevoix, together with so much of range 4 west as was theretofore included in Cheboygan County should be annexed to Emmet County and that the former County of Charlevoix should be a township of Emmet County. King Strang now had some law and order of his own and a much larger area of control. There is plenty of evidence, but no official records, to show that he made haste to properly organize the now greatly enlarged Emmet County and put the legal machinery in motion. County business was certainly transacted at St. James on Beaver Island and Mormons were, naturally, the county officials.
The first expedition of the Emmet County Sheriff and his posse resulted in what is known as the Battle of Pine River (Charlevoix). The battle itself resulted only in a badly shot-up posse but because of it the whites on the mainland at Charlevoix thought it best to leave Emmet County territory. Further resistance to the growing Mormon strength was then engineered legally in the State Legislature by Mackinaw and Charlevoix men. In 1855 they succeeded in getting an Act passed to reorganize the County of Emmet. This time, the islands, including the Beavers, were set off into a county by themselves. The Mormons, therefore, were effectively separated from Emmet County affairs. The Act further provided for the elections of county officers and the board of supervisors was directed to fix the county seat.
Forty votes were cast in the first special election. There is no evidence that those elected ever qualified or performed any official act. In the fall of 1856 the first regular election was had and 162 votes cast for county officers. These officers qualified and official records commenced soon after that date. According to an undated certificate, properly signed by county officials, the Board of Supervisors at a meeting held at Little Traverse (Harbor Springs), on April 27, 1857 voted to establish the county seat at Little Traverse.
At this time a group of men was planning an ambitious promotion for the future Mackinaw City. The city, so far on paper only, would rival Chicago and people far and wide would be urged to hurry north and settle where all these natural advantages for establishing a profitable business awaited them. This project may have been the reason why the State Legislature in February of 1858, passed an Act establishing the county seat for Emmet County at Mackinaw City. The Emmet County Board of Supervisors promptly informed the state officials that they had already established the county seat at Little Traverse and in 1861 the Act was declared unconstitutional and repealed.
The History of Township Organization in Emmet County.
As stated earlier, Emmet County was organized in 1853 by the Mormon King, James Jesse Strang. Its boundaries were considerably larger then. At this point, we are dealing only with such townships as existed at one time or another within the present boundaries of Emmet County.
The first of these was Charlevoix Township. It was organized in 1853 and included the present nine townships in the southern half of the county. In a major reorganization by the State legislature in 1855, Charlevoix Township lost all of this territory except for the southern tip of Resort Township.
In the 1855 reorganization, four new townships, La Croix (name changed to Cross Village in 1875), Little Traverse, Bear Creek and Old Fort Mackinac were created by the State. The County Board of Supervisors created two more, Arbour Croche and Utopia. In defining the boundaries for Little Traverse and Bear Creek, the State had given an area to both townships. The Supervisors had defined Arbour Croche boundaries as being the same as the Little Traverse minus the area of overlap in Bear Creek Township. It appears that this resolved the situation to everyone's satisfaction. The Supervisors used the boundaries they established for Arbour Croche but called it Little Traverse Township, and the name Arbour Croche simply disappeared in thin air. The townships of Utopia and Old Fort Mackinac were swallowed up by other township organizations after white settlement began.
White settlement started in Emmet County in the fall of 1874, with the homesteaders coming in droves in 1875 and 1876. By 1877 there were sufficient clusters of them to organize six additional townships. These were the townships of Bliss, Friendship, Littlefield, Maple River, Pleasantview and Readmond. Center Township came into existence in 1878 and Carp Lake in 1879. In 1897, parts of Friendship and Little Traverse Townships detached and organized as West Traverse Township.
The townships of Resort and Springvale were formed in 1880, but at the time were in Charlevoix County. They, with Bear Creek, suffered boundary changes too numerous to mention. The townships of Bear Creek and Spring Lake were created out of portions of these townships. It was not until 1897 that the boundaries of these townships finally stabilized and areas that belonged to Charlevoix County for awhile came back to Emmet County. At that time the portions of Bear Lake and Spring Lake Townships in Emmet County were annexed by Bear Creek and Springvale Townships.
The Township of Egleston (name changed to McKinley in 1903) was organized in 1897. The last change was made in 1923 when fractional town 39, North of R4W was detached from Carp Lake Township and organized Wawatam Township.
History of the County Courthouse.
The old court house, first known as the Petoskey City Hall, was started in 1901 and completed in 1902. It cost the city of Petoskey $40,000.00 to build. One newspaper correspondent visited Petoskey in April of 1902 and reported:
"The architectural appearance of the structure is imposing. It is red pressed brick with gray sandstone trimming, and is of pleasing exterior detail. The interior throughout is of polished oak, excepting the basement which is occupied by the fire department and a modern steel-cage jail with excellent sanitary appliances. The main floor is devoted to office rooms, large, high and well lighted. Above are still more large offices and the court room. This chamber will be one of the finest of its kind in the northern half of the state. From its windows is afforded one of the most magnificent panoramic views we have ever seen, overlooking as it does, the entire length of Little Traverse Bay. The building is a credit to northern Michigan."
This building, completed with a clock in the tower to bong out the hours of each day, was the bait offered the citizens of the county if they would change the county seat from Harbor Springs to Petoskey. At the October, 1901 session, the Emmet County Board of Supervisors considered the offer. After a three-day jangle they agreed to accept the 50 year lease offer of the building and authorized a vote on the removal of the county seat from Harbor Springs to Petoskey. From then until voting day - April of 1902 - the factions for and against removal waged a bitter war of words. Even Charlevoix County got into the act. There were those who proclaimed it would mean the end of Charlevoix County if Petoskey became the county seat of Emmet. They based the assumption on the idea that a number of Charlevoix townships would like to be taken in by Antrim. Considering the history of political affairs in the area, the fears and the word fight waged, are not hard to understand. Charlevoix had been annexed before and Harbor Springs had lost the county seat.
In 1853 the State Legislature passed an Act organizing Emmet County. Included in its boundary was the unorganized county of Charlevoix plus the Mormon King Strang's domain, the Beaver Islands. Since Strang was responsible for all this, the first official affairs of Emmet County were conducted by Mormons at St. James on Beaver Island.
King Strang's drive for political power was effectively halted in 1855 when the Legislature reorganized Emmet County, chopping the Beaver Islands from its boundaries. There was very little choice and no objection now to relocating the county seat at Little Traverse, now Harbor Springs. This was done officially by the Emmet County Board of Supervisors in April of 1857.
In February of 1858 the State Legislature went out on its own and passed an Act establishing the county seat for Emmet County at Mackinaw City. The Board of Supervisors screamed about this and in 1861 the Legislature got around to repealing the Act as unconstitutional.
The question of location popped up again in 1867 when the Charlevoix area citizens wanted the county seat moved to Charlevoix. There was a vote on this, but some people voted for a county seat and others, for a county site, so no one knew for sure which side won. In May of 1868 the Circuit Court ruled in favor of Charlevoix and ordered the removal of county records to that village. The next year an area was carved off Emmet and a Charlevoix county was officially organized. The seat of Emmet County was now in another county and no provision for its relocation was authorized. However, Harbor Springs became the county seat, in fact if not legally, until 1902.
The April 1902 vote for removal to Petoskey passed by a two-thirds majority. There was some question of its being a clear-cut mandate for change since the tremendous vote expected did not materialize. A snow storm on election day kept many away from the polls.
Emmet County affairs had been conducted in the Court House at Petoskey for 63 years. Tearing down the familiar land-mark in 1966 to make way for a new, more modern structure, was not accomplished without a twinge of regret. People have especially missed the sound and sight of the old clock in the tower. It was a gift to the city in 1902 by one of its leading citizens, Mrs. W.L. Curtis. The clock was removed before the building was razed, and perhaps some day its voice can be heard again in Petoskey.