Michigan History

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Brief History[edit | edit source]

The following important events in the history of Michigan affected political jurisdictions, record keeping, and family movements.

  • 1668: Sault Ste. Marie, the oldest community in Michigan, was founded by the French.
  • 1701: Detroit was founded.
  • 1763: The British took possession of the area but discouraged settlers.
  • 1763: (June 4,) A deadly game of Lacrosse played by two large teams of Indians outside Fort Michilimackinac at what is now Mackinaw City, Michigan, when English troops manning the fort had gathered to watch the game, Indians got their concealed weapons and attacked, slaughtering all occupants and burning the fort.
  • 1787: Michigan became part of the U.S. Northwest Territory, but the British still controlled Detroit and Mackinac.
  • 1796: The British withdrew from their remaining posts, including Detroit.
  • 1800: The area became part of the Indiana Territory.
  • 1805: (January 11,) Congress created Michigan Territory.
  • 1812: Fort Dearborn massacre- Indians drove whites out of Lake Michigan region
  • 1818–1832: Settlement was encouraged by improvements in transportation, including the establishment of steamship operation on the Great Lakes from Buffalo to Detroit in 1818, and the completion of the Erie Canal to Buffalo in 1825. The Chicago Road linking Detroit to Chicago was completed in 1832.
  • 1833:: Treaty of Chicago between the Indians and the U.S. Government
  • 1835: As a result of the Toledo War with Ohio, Michigan lost land along its southern border to Ohio and gained the Upper Peninsula.
  • 1837: (January 26,) Michigan became a state.
  • 1842: Treaty; Indians surrendered all property rights in the state.
  • 1861–1865: 90,000 men served the Union in the Civil War. Of these, 14,000 died in the war.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Facts[edit | edit source]

Michigan's rich rich soil, mineral resources, timber, wildlife, as well as borders touching four of the five Great Lakes, attracted native tribes, the French, the British, and later Americans. [1]

Beginning about 1620, the French began exploring the area that became Michigan. In 1668, Jesuit missionary Père Jacques Marquette established the first permanent settlement of Europeans and named it Sault Ste. Marie. In 1671, Marquette also founded St. Ignace. From both Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace, the Jesuits missionaries extended their work with local Native Americans.

The French built Fort Michilimackinac at present-day Mackinaw City in 1715 as a base for trade but lost the area during the French and Indian War with the British. The United States of America technically obtained the land of Michigan following the American Revolution but didn’t gain control of the area until 1796.

In 1840, immigrants moved to Michigan from Cornwall, Scandinavia, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. Eastern Europe immigrated to Detroit in large numbers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. Many histories contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search.

Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies.

  • Sourcebook of Michigan Census, County Histories, and Vital Records [2]
  • County Evolution in Michigan, 1790–1897 [3]
  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [4] [5]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [6][7]
  • Michigan County Histories and Atlases. The Michigan County Histories and Atlases Digitization Project is comprised of 428 digitized titles (many composed of multiple volumes) published before 1923.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

State Histories Useful to Genealogists[edit | edit source]

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Michigan:

  • The Red Book of Michigan: A Civil, Military, and Biographical History[8]

Michigan History Websites[edit | edit source]

United States History[edit | edit source]

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • The Almanac of American History, [9] [10] This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [11] [12] This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [13] [14] [15] This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

Draper Manuscript Collection. Look for Michigan ancestors 1740-1830 in the Draper Manuscript Collection. These manuscripts cover the history of the "trans-Allegheny West," a region including the west Carolinas and Virginia, all the Ohio River Valley, and part of the upper Mississippi Valley. There are 491 volumes of partially-indexed manuscripts, papers, and books.

To find more books and articles about Michigan 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Michigan history." FamilySearch Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Michigan Resources. Ancestry Learning Center: Ancestry.com, 2016.Michigan Resources.
  2. Callard, Carole, ed. Sourcebook of Michigan Census, County Histories, and Vital Records. Lansing, Michigan: Library of Michigan, 1986. FHL Book 977.4 A3sm; Fiche 6101261.)
  3. Welch, Richard Warren. County Evolution in Michigan, 1790–1897. Lansing, Mich.: Department of Education, 1972. FHL Book 977.4 A1 no. 7; Film 896902 item 3.
  4. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  5. Worldcat
  6. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. FHL Book 973 A3ka.
  7. Worldcat
  8. Lanman, Charles. The Red Book of Michigan: A Civil, Military, and Biographical History. Detroit, Mich.: E. B. Smith, 1871. FHL Film 1425611 item 1.)
  9. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. FHL book 973 H2alm.
  10. Worldcat
  11. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. FHL book 973 H2ad.
  12. Worldcat
  13. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G C Merriam, 1971. FHL book 973 H2v.
  14. Limited view at Google Books
  15. Worldcat
  16. Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w.
  17. Worldcat