Michigan Records: SeekingMichigan.org

Most of my family research is in Michigan. So I’m going to start a new series of posts of Michigan records – online and onsite – that I have used and wish to share with others. Today, we’re starting with one of my favorite websites – SeekingMichigan.org.

Seeking Michigan is an online platform for the Michigan Historical Center and is connected with the Archives of Michigan and the Library of Michigan. The website has a lot of great information about Michigan and several items available online. Here’s what is available online and a bit about each collection:

  • Death Records, 1897-1920 – These are amazing! Most counties only have the register of death for these dates, not the actual certificate. Human error can leave out important items or get something wrong, so being able to look at the official death certificate is wonderful! This is what I use the website for the most. You can search my county, city, death date, etc. I prefer to search by city and death year personally. The names don’t come up spelled the way you’d think very often so the way I search normally guarantees I’ll find the document I want.
  • Civil War Items:
    • Civil War Manuscripts – I haven’t yet found family in this collection but it is wonderful to look through to get an idea of what it was like to live (and serve) during that time. It contains letters and diaries from the Civil War period.
    • Civil War Service Records – This isn’t searchable by name, but if you know what regiment the person you’re looking for was in, you can search for those items. There is also a finding aid available for these records, which you can find here.
    • Civil War Photographs – Careful, you can get lost looking through these!
    • Michigan Civil War Volunteer Registries – Here is where you can find soldier names from the Civil War. This can help you search in other collections as well once you know what you’re looking for. It is the starting point for looking for service records.
    • Civil War Battle Flags – These include a description of what the flag was used for; great for history lessons!
    • More Civil War Resources – These resources aren’t just for Michigan Civil War records and have a lot of great information.
  • Michigan State Census Records, 1884-1894 – Not every county is included as some records have been lost. The census records are for either 1884 or 1894 so this can be great for those hoping to find a replacement for the missing 1890 census.
  • GLO Plat Maps – While taking the NGS Home Study Course, I discovered I LOVE working with land records! It goes along with my love of maps, which makes this collection wonderful! This collection comes from the initial survey by the State of Michigan and it shows the layout of the township and range grid system. You can search for maps by looking for the township, the county, or even the township/range numbers if you know them. This is great if you want to see where family members lived in relation to each other (as long as you know where their land was!).
  • Films – There aren’t many films here but some can be quite interesting – like some original footage of the awful race riots in Detroit in 1967.
  • Early Documents – These are official state documents chronicling  how Michigan became a state.
  • Early Photography – I love old photos and these are fun to browse through. You can search by name but not all the people in the pictures are known.
  • Rural Property Inventories or WPA Property Inventories – These are organized by township, range, and section numbers and contain inventory cards that can contain descriptions of the land and what was on it as well as more. Sometimes there are sketches of the homes and land areas too.
  • Oral Histories – Recorded interviews with Michiganders. These include the transcripts and audios of the interviews. You can search for the area or subject you wish to hear about. These are great as they tell a story that you can’t get from a record.
  • Music of Michigan – Music written by Michigan composers or issued by Michigan music publishers. This doesn’t have audio, just an FYI.
  • Maps – You can search for these by county as well as the subject. For example, they have a map of the bases of troops activated for the Flint Sit-Down Strike in 1937 by United Auto Workers.
  • Main Streets – These are a collection of images of street scenes of various cities in Michigan. You can search by city, county, or even what you want to see (clock towers, store fronts, etc.)
  • Architecture – These are the architectural drawings of the Ransom Eli Olds Mansion in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Lighthouses and Life-Saving Stations – Michigan is known for it’s many lighthouses and life saving stations (over 120!) and this is a collection of images of these items.
  • Governors of Michigan – A picture collection of Michigan’s 47 governors, up to Jennifer Granholm.

Not everything here is going to be genealogy related, however, having a good historical background of a place can ALWAYS help with your research so nothing should be overlooked.

Also, this website has guides on vital records, county records, immigration and naturalization records, and military records. If you are planning a trip to the Michigan Archives/Library of Michigan, I highly recommend utilizing these guides first so you know what you are looking for and can plan accordingly.

Happy Monday everyone!

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  1. Fantastic! I’ve just discovered a whole branch of my family migrated to Detroit in the early years of the 20th century and US records are pretty much uncharted territory for me. 🙂

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