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A quick look at some Michigan resources

The Legal Genealogist is getting ready to head off to Detroit and Saturday’s big event: the 10th Annual Family History Festival at the Detroit Public Library, co-sponsored by the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research, Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society, Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation, and the Louisa St. Clair Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.

MichiganMy ancestors generally were from a bit further south1 so getting to see what resources there are for Michigan research is a real treat.

Vital records are key to any genealogical research, and the Michigan Historical Center’s Seeking Michigan website has links to some anyone with Michigan roots needs to know about. Death records are there in large numbers in two digital collections: Death Records, 1897-1920; and Death Records, 1921-1952. For the former, there are nearly one million death records created between 1897 and 1920. For the latter, records created up to 1939 include an image of the death certificate; later records are index-only.

The Library of Michigan has a guide to Michigan vital records on its website so you can see what research you can do onsite.

Newspapers are always key to tracking any family’s history, and the Michigan Digital Newspaper Portal has links to many digitized newspapers from throughout the state.

The earliest newspapers that are free to access include:

• the Niles Republican (1858-1868), available through the Niles District Library;
• the Cass County Republican -Dowagiac (1858-1880), through the Library of Congress Chronicling America website;
• the Kalamazoo Telegraph (1845-1869), available through the Kalamazoo Public Library;
• the Petersburg Daily Press (1856-1857, 1873-1877), through Google News;
• the Greenville Independent (1857-1923), available through the Flat River Community Library;
• the Grand River Times (1851-1857), through Chronicling America;
• the Grand Haven News (1858-1866), through Chronicling America;
• the Constantine Republican (1836-1838), through Chronicling America;
The True Northerner (1858-1919), through Chronicling America;
• the Ann Arbor Journal (1855-1863), Google News;
• the abolitionist Ann Arbor Signal of Liberty (1841–1847), through the Signal of Liberty website;
• the Ypsilanti Sentinel (1843-1848), through Chronicling America; and
• the Detroit Gazette (1817–1830), through Google News.

And there are many more from different time periods, or on pay websites.

In addition, the Library of Michigan not only has a whole bunch of newspapers microfilmed and available through inter-library loan but an amazing resource called the Michigan Newspaper Family Histories: “Since knowing the exact title and dates of a newspaper can be of great help in historical research, our newspaper ‘families’, similar to family trees, have been created to help librarians, researchers, genealogists and others track the titles, publishing dates and history of Michigan’s newspapers.”

Legal research is key to understanding many records, and we talked about that yesterday.2 For additional help in researching the law in Michigan, check out the online chapters from Locating the Law: A Handbook for Non-Law Librarians in Michigan, a workshop from the State Law Library. The information has to do more with modern legal research than with historical research, but some of what’s there can be very helpful.

So… if the 10th Annual Family History Festival is at the Detroit Public Library, why am I not listing the resources of the Detroit Public Library?

Because that’s a post for another day … tomorrow, to be precise.

Stay tuned…


  1. Such as, oh, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, just as examples…
  2. Judy G. Russell, “Laws of the Great Lakes State,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 23 Sep 2015 ( : accessed 24 Sep 2015).
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