Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Death Records Available on New Seeking Michigan Site

From the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries:

‘Seeking Michigan’ Web site employs today’s technology to deliver Michigan’s history to information seekers

The Department of History, Arts and Libraries today announced the launch of the Seeking Michigan Web site (www.seekingmichigan.org), a growing collection of unique historical information that – through digitized source documents, maps, films, images, oral histories and artifacts – creatively tells the stories of Michigan’s families, homes, businesses, communities and landscapes.

Seeking Michigan’s first major project is the digitization of roughly 1 million death records covering the years 1897 through 1920. These records – never before available electronically – are indexed for easy searching by name, death date, location and age, and hold tremendous research opportunities for genealogists, historians and students.

Whether you are interested in Civil War records, photographs, architecture, music, photography or family history, Michigan enthusiasts are sure to discover a brand new side to Michigan through this unique online resource, a collaboration that has long been in the making between the Archives of Michigan and the Library of Michigan. Site design and digitization of resources were funded through various grants.

“Seeking Michigan takes great information from both of our agencies and makes it available to everyone in a convenient and easy-to-navigate Web site,” said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center. “We were inspired by the state motto in designing the site. If you look, you will discover stories, photos and much more to connect you to our state’s pleasant peninsulas and one-of-a-kind past.”

With plans in place to add much more material, Seeking Michigan currently includes:

More than 100,000 pages of Civil War documents;

Approximately 10,000 photographs;

A variety of Michigan sheet music;

Roughly 1 million death records;

A rich section about Michigan’s 44 past governors;

Works Progress Administration data (circa 1936-1942) about land and buildings throughout rural Michigan; and

Oral histories with notable Michigan residents.

According to State Librarian Nancy R. Robertson, Seeking Michigan boldly moves the archives and library experience outside of the bricks and mortar of the building in which the collections are housed. By employing the latest Web technologies and social media, the site aims for an enhanced user experience. “We want to give visitors historical content and, whenever possible, the context for that content,” she explained. “For K-12 educators, there’s also a ‘teach’ page that links up with related resources and grade-level content expectations.”

Clark noted that Seeking Michigan will open up Michigan’s history to a whole new market of information hunters. “Seeking Michigan is definitely a big boost for those who already have an interest in our state’s history, including scholars, authors, genealogists and publishers,” she said. “What we’re very excited about is the prospect of introducing new generations of Michigan residents to the Michigan they thought they knew and helping them forge connections with our state’s remarkable past.”

Seeking Michigan was made possible with generous funding from the Talbert and Leota Abrams Foundation, a Lansing-based nonprofit that primarily focuses on funding library and educational science programs. Since the mid-1980s, the Abrams Foundation has provided more than $2.5 million toward the development of the Library of Michigan’s and Archives of Michigan’ genealogy collection, including the digitization of the death records so crucial to family historians’ research efforts. The National Historic Publications and Records Commission provided additional funding.

The Library of Michigan Foundation (www.michigan.gov/lmfoundation) and the Michigan History Foundation (www.michigan.gov/mhfoundation) helped facilitate the funding process for Seeking Michigan and provide donors the opportunity to contribute to Seeking Michigan and many other initiatives. The Archives of Michigan is part of the Michigan Historical Center. The Michigan Historical Center and the Library of Michigan are agencies within the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). Dedicated to enriching quality of life and strengthening the economy by providing access to information, preserving and promoting Michigan’s heritage and fostering cultural creativity, HAL also includes the Mackinac Island State Park Commission and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. To learn more, visit www.michigan.gov/hal.

In an additional message, I received the following:

The flood of visitors searching Seeking Michigan has caused the site's response time to drag. This challenge illustrates how popular we knew the information would be. We encourage researchers to check back periodically and continue to try to explore the site. We are working on the problem and hope to have things running smoothly in the near future.


Robin said...

I am so very excited about this. My mother's family migrated from Greece to Canada and then to MI and have not been able to find a lot of information. Maybe now I will be able to get somewhere! Thank you for posting this story.

Robin said...

The www.seekingmichigan.org link you have posted is not working. Just thought you would like to know.

Miriam Robbins said...

So many people have been using the site that it is inaccessible at times, Robin. Please be patient. I was able to get on earlier, but now am having difficulty again.

Anonymous said...

The high traffic yesterday overwhelmed the servers. The Seeking Michigan content - including the death records - is currently being transferred to newer servers with higher capacity.

It's disappointing for the short-term, but once the site is up and running again shortly, users will have a great research experience.

I think the high traffic and volume is a testament that the material and information is so strong.


Kris Rzepczynski
Library of Michigan

Miriam Robbins said...

If you're having trouble accessing the site, read my tip, "Sneaking in the Back Door: Getting Michigan Death Certificates."