Michigan Genealogy and Ancestry Research

This page will provide you with information that will help you in your genealogy and ancestry research for the state of Michigan. It includes a timeline for the state, when the state began recording vital records, what US and State census records are available, a map of the counties in the state and link to page showing when counties were formed, and links to a variety of genealogy and ancestry resources for the state of Michigan.

In 1835 a state government was created, but the Toledo War delayed the actual statehood process. The ‘war’ involved a border dispute between Michigan and Ohio, which led to mobilization of armed men. There were no fatalities, and Ohio received the disputed land, with Michigan receiving as compensation the land that is now the Upper Peninsula. Although the state government was already functioning during that period, Congress officially declared Michigan a state on 26 January 1837.

Michigan State History Timeline

There are more detailed history timelines for the state of Michigan in the Links section below.

1622 – French explorer Etienne Brule sight Lake Superior

1668 – The Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) and the Jesuit missionary Claude Dablon ( 1619 – 1697) establish the first mission at Sault Sainte Marie, the first European settlement.

1701 – French army officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac (1658-1730) establishes the first of several French settlements, including Detroit.

1756 – 1763: The Seven Years War (French and Indian War) due to disputes over land is won by Great Britain. France gives England all French territory east of the Mississippi River, except New Orleans. The Spanish give up east and west Florida to the English in return for Cuba.

1763 – The local Native American tribes unite and fight the British in Pontiac’s Rebellion.

1775 – 1783 – The American Revolution creates the United States of America. 

1787 – Michigan becomes part of the Northwest Territory of the United States.

1796 – The British finally leave Detroit.

1805 – The Michigan Territory is created.

1812 – The British retake Detroit at the start of the War of 1812.

1813 – The Americans take back Michigan and Detroit after winning the Battle of Lake Erie.

1819 – The Treaty of Saginaw cedes nearly 6 million acres of Indian lands to Michigan settlers. This forced the Native Indians farther and farther West

1825 – The Erie Canal is opened providing easier travel to Michigan.

1835 – The Toledo War ensues over the Michigan – Ohio boundary

1837 – 26 January 1837 Michigan becomes the 26th state.

1847 – Lansing becomes the capital city.

1903 – Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company. 1908 – General Motors is founded.

1935 – The United Auto Workers union is formed.

1959 – Motown Records is founded by Berry Gordy.

2013 – The city of Detroit declares bankruptcy.

Michigan Vital Records

Marriages, recorded in the county where they occurred, are the earliest public vital records in Michigan because of a marriage registration law that was enacted in 1805. A later law required marriages to be collected by the county clerk after 1 April 1867 and forwarded to the Secretary of State. Births and death records for each county, with copies also sent to the state, began no later than January 1867, although registration of all vital records was certainly not enforced. A 1905 law was much more effective. Divorce records began in 1897.

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have a variety of collections. I’ve listed many of them below in the links section.

Michigan Census Records


Population Schedules

  • Indexed’1820 (six counties and Detroit), 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Soundex’1880, 1900, 1910, 1920

Industry and Agriculture Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Mortality Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Union Veterans Schedules

  • 1890


A variety of state and territorial censuses were taken in Michigan, although few are extant. FamilySearch.org has more information regarding Michigan State Censuses and online resources at Michigan Census.


Michigan Counties

Michigan Counties Map
Michigan Counties Map

You can find more information about each county, including date formed, parent county(ies) dates first recorded birth, marriage, death, land, probate and court, at Michigan County Resources page at rootsweb wiki originally written by Arleigh P. Helfer, Jr. and Carol L. Maki for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

Michigan Genealogy and Ancestry Links

Michigan State History Timeline Links