I heard a seasoned genealogy speaker say that if you don’t know “where,” he’s really at a loss to help. I’ve thought about that a lot, and it makes perfect sense. You can search for months or years looking for a marriage record “somewhere” in Michigan if you don’t know what county to search. Without knowing “where?” you’re really fishing in a very large ocean with little hope of success.
Unless. Unless, you are so fortunate to find the rare and illusive statewide index.
Michigan’s Approach to Marriage Records
I was startled to read about Michigan’s approach to recording marriage records. They did a couple of things that were extraordinary and prove very helpful to the genealogist.
- They kept marriage records since 1867. That’s easily 50 years before most counties started keeping marriage records – New England Colonial Records notwithstanding.
- They recorded these same marriage records at the state level. That’s very unusual. Typically, counties are the repository for civil marriage records.
The Michigan State Marriage Index
If you have an ancestor who married in Michigan, you may be chomping at the bit now knowing that there are statewide records. As you should be, this is very exciting. There are up to 100 years of statewide marriage records indexed in one place.
The University of Michigan has an index by year and location, which is better than nothing, but again if you don’t know where the marriage took place, you could be searching for a very, very long time.
Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana is one of the top genealogy libraries in the country, if not the world. They have 1307 microfiche (the 4 x 6 microform sheets) with a Michigan Marriage Index for mostly grooms but some brides by year. The name of the collection is “Michigan Statewide Marriage Index, 1867-1965.” So if you know the married couple’s name and the possible year or years of the marriage, you’re in business!
Now, let’s say you don’t live in or near Fort Wayne, Indiana, nor are you planning a road trip in the immediate future. You have an easy solution. The Library offers search lookups by staff or volunteers for a nominal fee (about $7.50) depending on the nature of the search. The search needs to be fairly focused, i.e. this couple in these years for this record, and not “everything you can find on my family.” To request a search, simply print and complete the Quick Search Request Form. Then send it in with a check. I’d recommend including a self-addressed stamped envelope. They don’t ask for it, but it’s a nice gesture. I’m sure they’d appreciate it.
Before you send in the search form, I recommend pulling up the online card catalog entry for this record group by searching the title, mentioned above, on the home page (Search the ACPL Catalog) and get the fiche number (of the 1307 fiche in the record group) to include on your request. (Again, it’s not requested or required, but it’s a nice courtesy to the person doing the lookup.)
Here’s a sample of what you’ll find in the catalog listing.
- Fiche 948. 1956 Grooms S
- Fiche 949. 1956 Grooms S
- Fiche 950. 1956 Grooms S-T
- Fiche 941. 1956 Grooms M
- Fiche 998. 1957 Grooms L
The Marriage Record
Once you’ve found your ancestor in the index, then the next step is to order the marriage certificate. You can do that at the State of Michigan Department of Community Health. More information on ordering can be found here.
So sometimes you don’t have to know exactly where an event took place to find genealogical answers. You just have to find the perfect workaround.