Michigan Vital Records

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This entry was originally written by Arleigh P. Helfer, Jr. and Carol L. Maki for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Michigan Family History Research series.
History of Michigan
Michigan Vital Records
Census Records for Michigan
Background Sources for Michigan
Michigan Maps
Michigan Land Records
Michigan Probate Records
Michigan Court Records
Michigan Tax Records
Michigan Cemetery Records
Michigan Church Records
Michigan Military Records
Michigan Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Michigan Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Michigan Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Michigan
Michigan County Resources
Map of Michigan

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.

Photocopies of these registrations can be ordered from the Michigan Department of Community Health, Vital Records Requests, P.O. Box 30721, Lansing, MI 48909.

All death, marriage, and divorce records, and those birth records over 100 years old are public records, and photocopies of them are available to any individual or agency upon written application and payment of the fee. Birth records less than 100 years old are available only to the individual to whom the record pertains, the parent(s) named on the record, any heir, legal guardian, or any legal representative of an eligible person. 'Heir' generally is interpreted as any descendant with a blood relationship to the individual. Relationship to the person named on the birth record, and date and place of death for that person must be supplied when requesting such a birth certificate.

Official forms, all available online, are required to request a certified copy of any vital record (non-certified copies for genealogical research are not available.) Non-refundable fees for any type of copy are the following: first record request, including a standard three-year search'$15; duplicates of certified copies'$5 each; additional years searched per record request'$4 per year. Marriages registered before mandatory recording (1867) in some counties (see Michigan County Resources) may be ordered from the appropriate county clerk. Charges for searches and/or copies will vary from county to county but must not exceed the state fees. Some township clerks also recorded births and deaths.

The Michigan Department of Community Health offers the Genealogical Death Indexing System (GENDIS), which provides Internet access (see address above) to selected death records at its website. The data (individual's name, date of death, father's surname, and county of death) have been obtained from microfilmed death ledgers and transcribed by genealogical society members. GENDIS contains well over 200,000 records from 1867 to 1897, with additions planned.

Microfilm copies of indexes to specific groups of Michigan vital records are at the Library of Michigan, State Archives of Michigan, Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library, and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies for location of all four repositories):

  • Michigan. State Department of Public Health. Index of Death Records, 1867'1914. 13 reels.
  • Michigan. State Department of Public Health. Index to Marriage Records, 1872'1921. 21 reels.

The government archive records at the Burton Historical Collection include the forms for Wayne County Marriage Returns. Completed by a minister or civil authority, the forms were sent to the county clerk between 1818 and 1888, although most are dated 1860 to 1877. The forms include the date of the marriage and names of the bride and groom with their color, residence, age, place of birth, and occupation.

FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:

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