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A one-stop shop for early Michigan statutes


The state whose territory — home to various Native American tribes — was first claimed by France as part of the New France colony, then by the British, then by the new United States.1 It was part of the Northwest Territory, then the Indiana Territory, before becoming its own Michigan Territory in 1805.2 It was admitted as the 26th state in 1837,3 though not without some tense moments due to a border dispute with Ohio.4

The state that takes its official name from the Ojibwe word “mishigami,” meaning “large water” or “large lake,” and that’s bordered by four of the five Great Lakes.

The state that’s sometimes called the Mitten State, because residents can tell you where they’re from by holding up a hand and pointing to a spot.

The state that’s sometimes called the Great Lakes State.

Or the Wolverine State.

Or even, according to its license plates at one time, the Water Winter Wonderland.5

Whatever you decide to call the State of Michigan, The Legal Genealogist respectfully submits it can be called the “easier to research in today” state.

Thanks to a friend and colleague whose personal research continues to lead her to construct guides to the historical laws of various states for her own use — and then share them on her website for the benefit of the rest of us.

Michigan resources

Yes, Debbie Mieszala of The Advancing Genealogist has done it again: the Law Library part of her website now lists the original published laws and court cases for Michigan from territorial times onward with links to those materials that can be found online:

• The Historic Michigan Statutes page begins by listing the known sources of historic Michigan statutory law, and adds links to digitized books including territorial laws, state laws, and topical compilations.

• And the Historic Michigan Case Law page includes links to digitized books include case law digests and reporters. Debbie notes that digests can work as indexes to case reporters.

Michigan thus becomes the sixth state to have a resource section added to The Advancing Genealogist, joining Illinois, Kansas, Montana, New York, and Wisconsin. And there are also resource pages for Indian Territory and for Special Topics, including links to treatises on various legal topics that might be helpful in research.

So if you want to know, for example, how old you had to be to leave a valid will disposing of land in the Territory of Michigan in 1818,6 or how Rhoda Zeolida Critchett’s name was changed in 1847,7 you know where to begin.

Head over to The Advancing Genealogist, and check out the new listings of historic Michigan legal resources.

And drop Debbie Mieszala a note of thanks while you’re there.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Legal Michigan,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted date).


  1. See Wikipedia (, “Michigan,” rev. 27 Apr 2021.
  2. See “An Act to divide the Indiana Territory into two separate governments,” 2 Stat. 309 (11 Jan 1805).
  3. “An act to admit the State of Michigan into the Union upon an equal footing
    with the original States,” 5 Stat. 144 (26 Jan 1837).
  4. See “Michigan Becomes a State January 26, 1837,” America’s Story from America’s Library, posted 7 Jan 2019 ( : accessed 28 Apr 2021).
  5. See Wikipedia (, “Michigan,” rev. 27 Apr 2021.
  6. “AN ACT prescribing the manner of devising Land, Tenements and Hereditaments” (27 July 1818), Laws of the Territory of Michigan (Detroit: By Authority, 1820), 20; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 28 Apr 2021). You had to be 21, of course.
  7. “An act to change the name of Rhoda Zeolida Critchett” (1 Feb 1847), in Acts of the Legislature of the State of Michigan (Detroit: By Authority, 1847), 23; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 28 Apr 2021). And, yeah, I knew you’d ask: her name was changed to Rhoda Zeolida White.
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