Michigan Church Records

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The FamilySearch moderator for Michigan is Sallyrose1.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Church of the Assumption Houghton County MI.jpg

Before 1900, the largest religious groups in Michigan were the Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic churches. [1]
The Roman Catholic Church was the only organized religion in Michigan until the 19th century, reflecting the territory's French colonial roots. The Lutheran Church was introduced by German and Scandinavian immigrants; Lutheranism is the second largest religious denomination in the state. In West Michigan, Dutch immigrants fled from the specter of religious persecution and famine in the Netherlands around 1850 and settled in and around what is now Holland, Michigan, establishing a "colony" on American soil that fervently held onto Calvinist doctrine that established a significant presence of Reformed churches.[2]

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Look for online records.[edit | edit source]

Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com, and MyHeritage.com can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Caution sign.png

Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:

  1. Near matches: Researchers might mistakenly accept an entry very similar to their ancestor, thinking it is the only one available. Only use information that matches your ancestor in date, place, relationships, and other details.
  2. Stopping research: Researchers might assume the database proves church records do not exist. Actually the record is still out there, just not in this incomplete collection of records. Keep searching!

FamilySearch Indexes[edit | edit source]

Ancestry.com Indexes[edit | edit source]

Presbyterian[edit | edit source]

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

Dutch Reformed[edit | edit source]

Other Collections[edit | edit source]

Look for digital copies of church records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the state, county, or town.
  • If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
  • Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
  • To find records:
a. Click on the records of United States, Michigan.
b. Click on Places within United States, Michigan and a list of counties will appear.
c. Click on your county if it appears.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Click on Places within United States, Michigan [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]

These aids generally provide lists of records that are known to exist and information on their location.

Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
  • Each denomination page offers an online address directory of local churches for that denomination.

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.

Here you will find archive information unique to the state. Many more archives are kept by denomination. For denominational archives, go to Searching for Church Records by Denomination.

Western Michigan Genealogical Society[edit | edit source]

Western Michigan Genealogical Society
c/o Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-3268
E-mail: wmgs@wmgs.org

American-Canadian Genealogical Society Library[edit | edit source]

American-Canadian Genealogical Society Library
1 Sundial Avenue, Suite 317N
Manchester, New Hampshire 03103

Tel: (603) 622-1554

Baptist[edit | edit source]

Kalamazoo College
Upjohn Library
1200 Academy Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Phone: (616) 337-7153
Fax: (616) 337-7143

The material housed in the Archives is not genealogical in nature (very few records from individual churches, etc.). One exception to that is obituaries of prominent Baptist clergy, which were sometimes published in the minutes of the Michigan Baptist Convention.

Christian Reformed Church in North America[edit | edit source]

The Hekman Library
Heritage Hall
1855 Knollcrest Circle SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546-4402
Phone: 616.526.6313
Fax: 616.526.7689
E-mail: crcarchives@calvin.edu

In 1962 the Historical Committee of the Christian Reformed Church was instructed by Synod to collect the records of local, active congregations and microfilm their minutes (council, elders, deacons, the executive committee and the congregation), returning the originals to the congregation, so that a back-up set of records was available to local congregations should anything happen to their original set. The microfilm is stored in our vault, and the originals are returned to the congregation sending them.

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

For Upper Michigan:
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Wartburg Theological Seminary
333 Wartburg Place
Dubuque, IA 52001
Phone: (563) 589-0200 Fax: (563) 589-0333

The Wartburg Theological Seminary has Lutheran records from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and upper Michigan. The WTS Archives also contain the documents of the German Lutheran Synod of Iowa, 1854-1930 and the records of antecedent bodies of the ELCA Region 5. Many of the records in this repository can be borrowed for a small fee.

  • Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church.

For Lower Michigan:
ELCA Region 6 Archives
Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University
2199 East Main Street
Columbus, OH 43209-2334

Phone: (614) 236-6855
E-mail: reg6archives@capital.edu

  • Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church.

Methodist[edit | edit source]

Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church Archives
Shipman Library, Adrian College]
110 South Madison Street
Adrian, MI 49221
Phone: (517) 265-5161
Fax: (517) 264-3331

The archives maintain the records created by the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church (and the former Detroit and West Michigan Conferences) and its member churches

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

Drouin Collection[edit | edit source]

Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954 ($) (Ancestry). This database contains the French Catholic parish records from Michigan. It is the U.S. part of the U.S. and French-Canadian Drouin Collection. For more details see "The Drouin Collection: Six Databases" The types of records include baptisms, marriages, and burials as well as confirmations, dispensations, censuses, statements of readmission to the church, and so on. They are written mainly in French, as well as English, Latin, and Italian.

Diocesan Archives[edit | edit source]

Archdiocese of Detroit Archives
1234 Washington Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: (313) 237-5800
Fax: (313) 237-4642

The Archdiocese includes the counties of: Lapeer, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Wayne.[3]

Diocese of Gaylord Archives
611 W. North Street
Gaylord, MI 49735
Phone: (989) 732-5147

  • Rules of Access for Parish Sacramental Records This includes a list of closed parishes and where their records are located. The sacramental records of all parishes are retained and maintained in the individual parishes. The priest or pastoral administrator or designee will obtain the information from the records, issue a certificate if desired or provide the information sought.
  • Contact the local parish to request records.

The diocese includes the counties of: Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Crawford, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Iosco, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon and Wexford.[3]

Diocese of Grand Rapids Archives
660 Burton Street S.E.
Grand Rapids. MI 4950
Phone: (616) 243-0491
Fax: (616) 243-4910

The diocese includes the counties of: Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa.[3]

Diocese of Kalamazoo Archives
215 N. Westnedge Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Phone: (269) 349-8714

The diocese includes the counties of: Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren.[3]

Diocese of Lansing Archives
300 West Ottawa
Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: (517) 342-2440
Fax: (517) 343-2515

The diocese includes the counties of: Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Hillsdale, Ingham, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Shiawassee and Washtenaw.[3]

Diocese of Marquette Archiives
444 South Fourth Street
P.O. Box 550
Marquette, MI 49855
Phone: (906) 225-1141
Fax: (906) 225-0437

The diocese includes the counties of: Alger, Baraga, Chippewa, Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft.[3]

Diocese of Saginaw Archives
5800 Weiss Street
Saginaw, MI 48603-2799
Phone: (517) 799-7910
Fax: (517) 797-6670

The diocese includes the counties of: Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac and Tuscola.[3]

Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:

Next, go to the Wiki article for your ancestors' denomination.[edit | edit source]

There are frequently additional, nationwide or regional archives and online collections for each denomination. Find the article for your ancestors' denomination and follow the instructions there to access these sources.

Wiki Articles for Records of Major Religious Denominations

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972). FHL Book 973 K2ah.
  2. "Michigan: Religion" in Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan#Religion. Accessed 8 July 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.