Skip Navigation
DNR - Department of Natural Resources | DNR Department of Natural Resources | DNR
Department of Natural Resources | DNR
close print view
Printer Friendly Page
Email this Page
Share this Link on Facebook
Tweet this page on Twitter!

Genealogy Sources Guide

 Michigan Historical Center
 702 West Kalamazoo St.
 Lansing Michigan 48913

 E-Mail:  URL: 



The Archives of Michigan is by statute charged with preserving those public records of historical value which are created by state agencies and local units of government.  By and large, these sources are of a primary (unpublished) nature.  Also available in the Archives of Michigan are some federal records pertaining to the State of Michigan as well as a small research library containing many general sources relating to Michigan and the Old Northwest Territory.  Many of these sources are invaluable to genealogical researchers.

A. Federal Census Schedules (For State Censuses, see Circular 9 and 45)

The Federal Census Schedules of Products of Agriculture, Industry, Mortality, and Social Statistics, 1850-1880 (see microfilm index) are available for research in the Archives of Michigan.  These records provide diverse types of information.

1. The Schedule of Products of Agriculture offers name of owner, agent, or manager of farm; number of improved and unimproved acres of land; value of implements and machinery; number of livestock; and amount of produce raised or sold.

2. The Schedule of Products of Industry offers name of corporation, company or individual producing articles to the annual value of $550; product manufactured; capital invested in real and personal estate in the business; quantity, kind and value of raw materials used; plus kind and value of annual production.  Occasionally included are narrative reports on fisheries and other industries not mentioned on this form.

3. The Schedule of Social Statistics offers basic information on the insane; criminals; orphans; laborers; academies and schools; libraries; newspapers and periodicals; religious denominations; pauperism; crime; and wages.

4. The Schedule of Mortality offers names of persons who died during the preceding twelve months ending June 1 whose usual place of abode at the time of death was in the family dwelling; description (age, sex, color, civil status); place of birth; month in which death occurred; profession, occupation or trade; disease or cause of death; and number o days ill.  In 1879, the name of the attending physician was also included.

5. The Federal Population Schedules, 1820-1880, 1900-1930, are available at the Library of Michigan.  Unfortunately, the 1890 census was destroyed in a 1921 fire in Washington, D.C.  For the federal census of 1940 and after, you can contact the personal Census Service Branch, Bureau of the Census, Pittsburgh, KS 66762.  Ask for an Age Search Application form.  You should be aware that the personal information in the records of the 1940 and later censuses is confidential and may be furnished only upon the written request of the person to whom it relates or a legal representative, such as guardian or administrator of an estate.

B. State Census Schedules (See Circulars 9 and 45)

The State Census Schedules complement and often supplement federal census schedules.  The state enumeration's contain the same types of information as found in federal schedules.  Schedule number one (population) is often included among the state census records.  In order to make an effective search of the census records, a researcher should have at least the following information: a complete name, location (i.e. county and precinct), and an approximate date.

C. Tax Assessment Rolls (See Circular 1)

The Assessment rolls can be used when other types of land records are unavailable.  Assessment and tax rolls include a list of taxable persons and property.  This source offers name of owner or occupant; legal description; number of acres comprising tract or parcel; value of personal estate; and amount of tax assessed for state, county, township, highway, and special purposes.  The assessment and tax rolls are organized by county.

D.  Naturalization Records ( See Circular 10)

The Naturalization Act of 1802 established the three-part naturalization process which remains in effect today.  Aliens must declare their intention to become a citizen, observe a required residence period, and then petition an authorized court for admission to citizenship.  In character, this process is both judicial (occurring before and by order of a court) and administrative (being under the supervision of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice).

Initially, the alien files a Declaration of Intention with an authorized court, indicating his or her intention to become a citizen, to renounce all allegiance to any foreign state, and to renounce any foreign title or order of nobility.  Then, at least two years after making this declaration (but, after 1906, no more than seven years later), an alien who has been a resident of the United States for at least five years may petition the court for admission to citizenship (since 1941, the requirements to file a Declaration of Intention has been abolished and the residency record shortened for the spouses of citizens).  This Petition includes both the applicant's oath and the affidavits of two witnesses who attest to the residency and good character of the petitioner.  Finally, if the petition is accepted, the court issues an order admitting the individual to citizenship.

The Basic Naturalization Act of 1906 (passed June 29 and effective October 1) established the Immigration and Naturalization Service, more precisely defined administrative procedures, and provided for federal supervision over the naturalization process.  Prior to that time, naturalization could occur in any federal court or any state court of record operating only under the very general requirements of federal law.  Since October, 1906, uniform and considerably more detailed requirements for naturalization, including the form and contents of related records, have been specified by federal statute and promulgated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Researchers using naturalization records will find relatively few early entries for women.  From 1866 until the passage of the Married Woman's Act in 1922, citizenship was automatically conferred on the wife of any male citizen.  Since then, women have been required to be naturalized in their own right.

E. Probate (See Circular 6)

Some County Probate Court records are of value to genealogists.  Estate files may contain the name of spouses, siblings, and children as well as information about the estate.  The following records are in the Archives of Michigan unless otherwise indicated.

 This series of records may include:  Petition for the appointment of administrator of estate; order for hearing of petition to settle estate; bond of executor or administrator; order granting power of letter of administration; letters of administration; published notice of estate together with sworn statement of publisher; order for appointment of guardian; guardian's bond; petitions for appointment of guardian; report of sale of real estate; "letters testamentary" requesting inventory of goods, chattels, rights, credits and real estate of deceased; statements of monies due; contracts; petitions for determination of heirs; certificate of probate of will; will; petition for license to sell real estate; administrator's license to sell real estate; appraiser's warrant; confirmation of sale; bond on sale of real estate; receipts for probate fees; claims for payment of bills; receipts; commissioner's warrant and report of claims presented, examined and allowed; occasional letters; discharge of administrator; record of obligation of guardianship for minors and heirs of estate with petitions for appointment; letters granting authority; and bond of the appointed guardian.  Some cases may be missing.  Arranged numerically, unless noted otherwise.

F.  Circuit Court Records (See Circular 37)

The Archives of Michigan has collections of circuit court records for various counties.  Records include case files, court journals, and other miscellaneous record books of the court.  Case files are generally the most useful.  Researchers will find civil actions in the law case files, divorce and land disputes in the chancery files, and criminal trials in the criminal case files.

G. Military Records (See Circulars 4, 7, 20, and 27)

1. Michigan Volunteer Descriptive Rolls

Valuable data can be gathered from the records of the Michigan Military Establishment and Department of Military Affairs.  The Descriptive Rolls of Michigan Units, 1838-1919, are particularly helpful.  If an individual served in a Michigan unit during the period of 1838-1919, an examination of this source is possible when a full name and the approximate dates of military service is known.

2. Rosters of the Michigan Veterans Facility (See Circular 7)

If there is a reason to believe that an individual may have been an inhabitant of the Michigan Veterans Facility, records of that institution may be of value.  The Archives of Michigan has detailed information on those veterans and widows who resided in the Grand Rapids facility (veterans, 1885-1982; women dependents, 1894-1980).  If a complete name is provided, an examination of this source can readily be made.

3. Muster rolls of Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Posts

Limited information can be obtained on Union Veterans of the Civil war, who were members of GAR posts.  In order to use this source effectively, one must have not only a complete name of the individual but the post number or at least the community where the veteran resided.

4. Civil War Grave Registrations

The grave registration forms for Civil War veterans buried in Michigan were gathered by the Civil War Centennial Observance Commission.  The registration forms offer name; enlistment and service records; place and date of birth and death; name and location of cemetery; lot and grave number; and additional remarks.  Arranged alphabetically by name of county, then alphabetically by name of soldier.  Records from 63 Michigan counties are included. 

5. Federal Military Service Records, U.S. Pension Application Files and U.S. Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files

These records are not available at the Archives of Michigan.  For Military Service records based on service in the United States Army (officers who served before June 30, 1916, enlisted men who served before 1896), and Confederate armed forces (1861-1865); pension application files based on United States (not state) service before World War I; and Bounty-Land Warrant Application files based on United States (not state) service before 1856, one should contact the following address:

 Military Service Records (NCC)
 National Archives (GSA)
 Eighth and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
 Washington, D.C. 20408

For published Finding Aids of the military records found in the Archives of Michigan, please see the list at the back of this handout.  Note items No. 1, Records of the Michigan Military Establishment, 1838-1941; No. 15 Records of the Grand Army of the Republic , Michigan Department; and No. 17, Records of the Michigan Veterans; Facility, 1883-1960.  Feel free to request these published Finding Aids as well as others.

H. Photograph Files (See Circular No. 13)

The Archives of Michigan also maintains an extensive photograph collection of over 330,000 images.  The Biography Collection contains nearly 20,000 portraits of Michigan citizens past and present.  A complete card catalog index, arranged alphabetically by name, is located in the Audio/Visual reference area.  Portraits of Civil War soldiers are also listed by unit, in addition to the name index.

I. Land Records (See Circulars Nos. 2, 5, and 16)

The Archives of Michigan has in its holdings the original notes and maps prepared by the first surveyors to layout the township and range system of Michigan.  The records are seldom of value or interest to genealogists.  Once surveyed, the lands held by the government could be sold to private individuals.  The document recording the first transfer of property from public to private hands is called a land patent (title), and these deeds can be found at the Archives of Michigan.  They are not very revealing, however, usually giving just the date of the transaction, name of the purchaser, and legal description of the property.  Once a tract of land had been sold by the government, all subsequent transactions involving that parcel were recorded at the county level with the Register of Deeds Office. 

The Archives of Michigan also has in its possession the Rural Property Inventories, which were prepared during the Great Depression (1930s).  These records document a wide array of facts about nearly every tract of land in the non-urban areas of Michigan.  Included will be information for each parcel on land use, extant buildings, and some living conditions.  This data resource is not available for all counties, nor does it cover included counties thoroughly. 

There are about half million maps in the cartographic holdings of the Archives of Michigan.  Most of these maps are on a computer system that allows access by author, title, subject, place, and date or time period.  Anyone needing maps of Michigan or its regions, counties, and cities should feel free to visit our facility and look at our various plats, plans, and drawings.


A. Michigan Department of Community Health (See Circular no. 19)

Vital Statistics are invaluable in genealogical research.  Birth (1867+), death (1867+), marriage (1868+), and divorce or annulment records (1897+), can be obtained from the Michigan Department of Community Health, 201 Townsend Street, Capitol View Building, 3rd Floor, Lansing, Michigan 48913.  Upon request, the Department of Community Health will provide the appropriate forms for ordering birth, marriage, annulment, and death records.  Though the Department of Community Health has the indexes and certificates for birth, marriage, divorce, and death records, it should be noted that some of the indexes to these vital records are available at the Archives of Michigan.  At present, access cannot be granted to the birth records index.  Patrons may, however, make use of the following indexes at the Library of Michigan and/or the Archives of Michigan: Divorce, 1897-1977; Marriage, 1867-1921, and 1950-1969; Deaths, 1867-1914.  Prior to their collection at the state level, vital statistics were sometimes maintained by the county clerk's office.  If you can identify the county in question, we will provide you with the proper address of the appropriate county seat.  You can then request the county officials to examine their files for the desired information.

B.  Adoption Records

The Family Independence Agency has custody of adoption records for state-run institutions.  The contact office is within the adoptions division, Grand Tower, 235 S. Grand Avenue, PO Box 30037, Lansing, MI  48909      

C. Library of Michigan

1. While the Archives maintains primary data (unpublished materials) relating to the State of Michigan, the Library of Michigan, 702 West Kalamazoo, Lansing, Michigan 48915, maintains secondary sources (published material) relevant to the history of Michigan.  They have a large number of genealogical materials relating to Michigan, including published state, county, community, and family histories as well as various city directories.  Sources from surrounding states are also included.

2. The Library of Michigan also maintains a large collection of newspapers on microfilm which can be a helpful genealogical source when obituaries, birth notices, marriages, etc. are sought.  Since few newspapers are indexed, it is necessary that a fairly accurate date for the event in question be provided in addition to the complete names of the individuals involved.

3. It should be noted that the Library of Michigan has microfilm copies of the Federal Population Schedules, 1820-1880, 1900-1930.  The Federal Population Schedule provides the name of family head as well as members residing in the household; age; sex; race; marital status; relationship to family head; occupation; amount of real and personal property; birth place; and (after 1880) birth place of parents.

4. Also, microfilm copies of the Federal Land Patent Records are available to researchers in the Library of Michigan.  This source identifies the first individuals to buy all the federal lands in the State.  In order to research this source effectively, one should provide an exact legal description of the land (township, range, and section numbers).  After the land is no longer under federal control, the subsequent land transactions are recorded in the appropriate county Register of Deeds Office.


The foregoing references are examples of the genealogical sources maintained by the Library of Michigan.  It is suggested the researcher contact the Library of Michigan directly for more complete information concerning its genealogical sources.  Generally speaking, the Library cannot provide reference service for requests by telephone or mail.  Researchers should plan on visiting the Library to obtain the information they need.


A. Church Records

Ecclesiastical records often provide information concerning births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, etc.  Custodians of these records are often happy to search their files if requests are of a limited nature.  The Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has church records from a variety of faiths.  Depending upon their location in the State, records from Roman Catholic churches can be found in the archdioceses office and in the archives at the University of Detroit, Note Dame, and Marquette University.  Baptist records are primarily deposited at Kalamazoo College, although some are stored at Hillsdale College.  The records of various Methodist churches are preserved in the libraries at Albion and Adrian colleges, and some Congregationalist papers are housed at the library of Olivet College.

B. Cemetery Records

When the burial place of the deceased is known, information from the cemetery marker or records kept by the local cemetery association can be of value.  When the name and location of the cemetery is unknown, the local historical society may be able to provide guidance.  The Archives of Michigan will be happy to furnish the addresses of the historical societies in a given locale.


We encourage you to visit our facility at 702 West Kalamazoo, Lansing Michigan.  Our hours are:

Monday - Friday, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

If you find a visit impossible, our staff can provide limited research via phone, e-mail or mail.  When making such a request, please include as much information as possible about the individual(s) in question.  This facilitates our research.  If your request is quite extensive, we can provide you with a list of individuals who will undertake research at a reasonable charge.  Do not include money with any requests.  We look forward to providing assistance in your genealogical research.  Please direct inquiries to:

Archives of Michigan
Michigan Library and Historical Center
702 W. Kalamazoo Street
Lansing, Michigan 48913
Phone: (517) 373-3559 (Select option "3" from the voice menu.)

 Published Finding Aids


No. 1 Records of the Michigan Military Establishment, 1838-1941
No. 2 United States Census Records, 1820-1880
No. 3 Records of the Girls' Training School, Adrian, 1880-1941
No. 4 Records of the Michigan State Planning Commission, 1934-1946
No. 5 Records of the Turnpike Authority, 1953-1958
No. 6 Records of the Michigan State Prison, Jackson, 1839-1906
No. 7 Records of the Michigan Department of Aeronautics, 1946-1952
No. 8 Records of the Michigan State Highway Department, 1916-1953
No. 9 Records of the Boys' Vocational School, 1855-1954
No. 10 Records of the Department of Mental Health, 1922-1961
No. 11 Records of the Michigan Social Welfare Department, 1881-1952
No. 12 Records of the Michigan Department of Public Instruction, 1859-1957
No. 13 Records of the Michigan Department of Economic Development, 1934-1959
No. 14 Records of the Constitutional Convention, 1961-1962
No. 15 Records of the Michigan Grand Army of the Republic, 1876-1945
No. 16 Records of the Board of Registration in Medicine, 1898-1958
No. 17 Records of the Michigan Veterans' Facility, 1883-1960
No. 18 Records of the Michigan Children's Institute, 1871-1959
No. 19 Records of the Executive Office, Harry F. Kelly, Governor, 1934-1946
No. 20 Records of the Executive Office, 1810-1910


No. 1 Tax/Assessment Rolls
No. 2 Land Records
No. 3 Correctional Facilities
No. 4 Military Records I: War Records
No. 5 Surveyors' Records
No. 6 Probate Court Records
No. 7 Military Records II: Post War
No. 8 Youths, Records Relating to
No. 9 Census, Records, State
No. 10 Naturalization Records
No. 11 School Records
No. 12 Mental Health Records
No. 13 Railroad Records
No. 14 Legislative Records I: Special Committees
No. 15 Corporation Annual Reports
No. 16 Rural Property Inventories
No. 17 Legislature II: House Standing Committees
No. 18 Legislature III: Senate Standing Committees
No. 19 Vital Records
No. 20 Civil War Manuscripts
No. 21 Professions, Licensed
No. 22 Infirmaries, Sanatoria, Poor Homes
No. 23 Depression-Era Agencies
No. 24 Election Records: State and Local
No. 25 Mining Records
No. 26 Public Officials: Civil and Military
No. 27 Military Records III: Local
No. 28 Lumbering, Logging, and Forestry
No. 29 Minorities I: African-Americans
No. 30 Minorities II: Native Americans
No. 31 Photography Collection
No. 32 Roads and Bridges
No. 33 Pollution, Records about
No. 34 Libraries, Records on
No. 35 Women, Records Relating to
No. 36 Handicapped, Records about the
No. 37 Circuit Court Records
No. 38 Business Records
No. 39 Politicians' Records
No. 40 Associations and Organizations
No. 41 Minorities III: Asians and Hispanics
No. 42 Commissions
No. 43 Task Forces, Councils and Boards
No. 44 Architectural Plans and Drawings
No. 45 Census Records II: Special
No. 46 Shipping and Navigation Records
No. 47 Bounties, Premiums, Subsidies, and Relief
No. 48 Pardons, Paroles, Warrants, and Extradition's
No. 49 Parks
No. 50 Aeronautics
No. 51 Fishing Records
No. 52 Investigations

Maps and Photographs

Special List No. 1 Cartographic Records of Michigan, Department of Conservation Land Division
Special List No. 2 Cartographic Records of Michigan, Department of Conservation Land Division
Special List No. 3 Cartographic Records of Michigan, Department of Conservation, Geological Survey Division
Special List No. 4 Cartographic Records of Michigan, Department of Conservation, Geological Survey Division

A guide to Photographic Resources in the Michigan Department of State, Historical Commission Section, Archives Unit

Additional finding aids describing permanent records originating in units of local and state government are available in typewritten form.  To obtain copies of these reference tools, contact the Archives of Michigan.

Click Archives of Michigan to visit the Archives of Michigan home page.

Archives of Michigan
Michigan Library and Historical Center
702 West Kalamazoo
Lansing, Michigan 48913
Phone: (517) 373-3559

Updated November 16, 2013

Michigan Historical Center, Department of History, Arts and Libraries
Use and Reproduction Information [PDF]
Contact us with your question or comment about this page.

QR code

Copyright © 2001-2014 State of Michigan