Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some Michigan Death Certificates, 1898 - 1920, Available Online for Free

Seeking Michigan has been adding images of death certificates for Michigan citizens for the years 1898 - 1920 to their website over the past couple months, with this last week seeing a huge influx of data. Genea-blogger Pam Warren tells me that the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries hopes to open Seeking Michigan on Tuesday, March 17th, with slightly over one-quarter of their data online. The plan is to add more data in three or four following stages, and the word from the Archives of Michigan is "it's new, be patient. We're getting fixes as quickly as we can after problems are discovered."

I am happy to report that I have found death certificates for half a dozen of my ancestors. Some of it confirmed what I already had, but other information was brand new (always a delight)! I've also found information on siblings, children, and other relatives of my ancestors, expanding my family tree. I have found that running the same search on consecutive days yields new information each day, so apparently data is being added on a daily basis as Tuesday's opening day looms near. Comparing what I've found with data at FamilySearch Record Search, which has Michigan State Births (1867 - 1902), Marriages (1867 - 1925), and Deaths (1867 - 1897) from information gathered from county libers, as well as Federal Census records, helps confirm and expand the information I'm finding at Seeking Michigan.

The addition of these death records brings the death record information for Michigan
available online for the following years: 1867 - 1897 (FamilySearch Record Search - liber records, images), 1898 - 1920 (Seeking Michigan - death certificates, images, currently incomplete), and 1971 - 1996 (Ancestry - death indexes, transcribed, requires subscription). Michigan began keeping birth and death records in 1867, but they were gathered census-style, once a year by township supervisors and city supervisors or assessors, so many of our ancestors' births and deaths went unrecorded until birth and death certificates were issued in 1905 and 1897, respectively. If you are looking for death records during the "gap" years, check out the Michigan page at Joe Beine's Death Indexes website for county death indexes, obituaries, burial records, and other alternative sources.

Finally, if you have ancestors from Michigan, you should be aware that due to severe budget cuts, the Library of Michigan may be closed completely. Pam has a detailed article here, and urges her fellow Michigan citizens to contact their legislators regarding this serious matter. I think it would behoove those of us non-Michigan residents to "contact Senator Thomas George, chairman of the Michigan Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for History Arts and Libraries by phone at 517-373-2768 to express your support for the Library. You may visit his web page for more contact options." These legislators need to know how much such a drastic action would affect those who live outside Michigan and the economic impact it would have on the State of Michigan by cutting out-of-state income from those who would pay research fees or visit the Library themselves.

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