Thursday, February 15, 2007

5 Tips for Michigan Internet Research

As part of the 18th Carnival of Genealogy, I am sharing five simple tips I've discovered while tracing my family tree in Michigan via the Internet over the past eight or nine years. Many of these tips can be used for research in other states as well.
  • *Use county genealogy websites - whether you use USGenWeb or USGenNet or websites unaffiliated with any genealogy network, find out what's available for the county of your interest. The Michigan county sites I've found most helpful, with tons of transcribed data, contacts for lookup volunteers, county histories and biographies, and many useful links include the ones for Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Newaygo, Genesee and Lapeer Counties. Tip: For most county sites on USGenWeb, you can type in the following URL for quick access:, in which "xx" is the two-letter abbreviation for the state, and "y" is the county name, up to 6 letters.
  • *Use genealogy society websites. I've found that the sites for the Western Michigan Genealogical Society and the Flint Genealogical Society are chock full of transcribed data that surpasses even that found on the county genealogy pages. The WMGS, which covers six western Michigan counties, has an obituary index database from 1910 to the present, and is currently adding names found in engagement, marriage and anniversary announcements from area newspapers to this database. In addition, they have Kent County Marriage Records Index from 1845 - 1929, as well as 16 other detailed databases! The FGS has a wonderful cemetery index database that covers more than just Genesee County cemeteries. They also have data currently being added to their birth, marriage, and death index databases from the 1860s through the early 1900s. Both societies have holdings, resources, and other interesting links that are very informational. Tip: Use Cyndi's List to find genealogical societies in the locales of your ancestors' homes.
  • *Use the International Genealogical Index (IGI) to find abstracts of Michigan vital records. Go to and choose the Search tab near the top of the page. Then choose International Genealogical Index in the left-hand menu. Next, enter the first and last names of the person you wish to search, and choose North America, United States, and Michigan for your search locale. I have been very lucky to find a lot of collateral relatives as well as some direct ancestors listed in the IGI. Check the source of each record to make sure it is an extract of a county record, not one submitted by a church member. The former tends to be more accurate than the latter. Tip: I make a list of all the family members whose records I find in a particular county on the IGI, then go to my local Family History Center to order the microfilm(s) of the county records so that I can view and print copies for myself.
  • *Use state and county vital records indexes. The Genealogical Death Indexing System (GENDIS) is provided by the Michigan Department of Vital Records and Health Statistics, and contains an index of many county death records from 1867 to 1897. Several county clerks' websites contain vital records indexes as well, including Muskegon and Genesee Counties. A listing of all Michigan county clerks websites can be found here. For more vital records indexes online, visit Joe Beine's website. Tip: It's often much less expensive to order vital records from a county clerk's office than from a state's Department of Health.
  • *Check out Michigan County Histories. With 202 volumes in 170 histories online dating from 1866 to 1926, you're sure to find a relative, if not an ancestor, if your roots extend back into Michigan's pioneer days. These scanned images contain not just county histories, but township histories, biographies, photographs, maps and military lists from the Civil War. Many other states have embarked or are embarking on similar projects. Google your state's archive website to discover more. Tip: If you're searching for a common surname in the MCH site, choose the Boolean or Proximity search to narrow down your search. To view an image after searching, click on Results Details, followed by the hyperlinked page number. If there's a lot of text on a page image and you're having trouble finding your surname on it, choose the text format from the drop-down menu near the top of the page. Voila! Your search term will be highlighted!
There you have it: five simple tips for doing Internet research in online Michigan resources. Happy Surfing!

P.S. I just added another post on a similar topic, "Recommended Reading for Michigan Research."


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

There are a couple of links here that I didn't have. Your tips for county urls and 'text' in the Michigan histories will save me time and aggravation. Thanks!

Tim Agazio said...

Thank you very much for this post. I just tracked an ancestor to Michigan - a new place for me to do research in. I was going to put it off for awhile because I wasn't familiar with the state, but your post has given me a place to start. Thanks again!

Tim Agazio