About the Archives

Seated at a table in the Archives of Michigan, a woman looks through a worn notebook.

The Archives of Michigan is responsible for preserving the records of Michigan government and other public institutions. In fulfilling this primary mission, it serves as the collective memory of Michigan state government. In addition, after review, the Archives of Michigan also accepts papers from private individuals and organizations.

With documents dating back to 1792, the Archives of Michigan houses much of Michigan's record heritage. More than 80 million state and local government records and private papers, 300,000 photographs and 500,000 maps, plus films and audio tapes are available for research.

The records preserved by the Archives of Michigan are one-of-a-kind and extremely important. The records receive impeccable care. They are placed in a secure, fire-resistant area and stored in shelves, drawers or filing cabinets designed for record preservation and efficient use of space. Humidity and temperature levels are also carefully controlled to ensure longevity of the records.

Online Collections

A growing number of materials in the Archives of Michigan is available online at the Michiganology website. Michiganology is the online platform for the Michigan History Center. It includes Archives of Michigan research guides and indexes, a blog and educator resources – all from Michigan History Center staff.

There are more than 3 million records on Michiganology and new material is added frequently. There are a number of collections ranging from pre-statehood to the late 1960s, and these include letters, diaries, photographs, postcards and video. Collections available online include: 

  • State Census
  • Civil War Service Records
  • Civil War Photographs
  • Civil War Manuscripts
  • Plat Maps
  • Films
  • Civil War Battle Flags
  • Early Documents
  • Early Photography
  • WPA Property Inventories
  • Oral Histories
  • Music of Michigan
  • Maps
  • Main Streets
  • Architecture
  • Lighthouses and Lifesaving Stations
  • Governors of Michigan
  • Civil War Volunteer Registrie

Onsite Collections

The Archives of Michigan includes a substantial family research library and other materials that are not digitized and available online. You must call or visit the Archives to access these materials, including:

Abrams Foundation Historical Collection
The Abrams Collection emphasizes states east of the Mississippi River, including the Great Lakes region, New England, Mid-Atlantic and Southern states, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Some examples include:

  • County and local histories, cemetery transcriptions, vital record indexes, and much more from across the U.S.
  • Thousands of collective and individual family genealogies.
  • Birth, death, and marriage records for a number of states across the U.S., as well as and Ontario.
  • A large collection of historical directories for major U.S. cities.
  • Plat maps and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for many eastern U.S. states.
  • Immigration records consisting of thousands of National Archives microfilms and a large collection of printed resources.

Primary Sources
The Archives of Michigan preserves and provides access to state and local government records, as well as private manuscripts. These primary sources include:

  • Naturalization records for most Michigan counties.
  • State government commission meeting minutes.
  • Committee records from the Michigan State Senate and House of Representatives.
  • Military records from the American Civil War to World War I.
  • Records from the original land surveys that laid out Michigan’s township and range system.
  • Approximately fifty thousand cartographic images and over a million photographs.

Updated 09/23/2019