This post was prompted by a private message sent to me today on Facebook. The inquiry concerned where to find Michigan death in the 1900’s.
I answered the inquiry and that resulted in a couple of more questions about death records in Michigan.
So, here is a quick reference on what records you can find and where you can find them.
Michigan began keeping death records, by law, in 1867. Registration of these records was not enforced until a 1905 law made the filing of records much more effective.
WHERE TO FIND RECORDS ONLINE
You can find an index for these records on the website
Genealogical Death Indexing System (commonly referred to as GENDIS) http://www.mdch.state.mi.us/gendisx/search.htm
(See the update below regarding viewing images of these records)
-- REMEMBER CLICKING ANY IMAGE ON THIS PAGE WILL ENLARGE IT--
Once on this page you can enter the descendant's name, father’s last name, county of death, and a range of years from 1867-1897. You can sort by any of those criteria using the drop down list in the lower right hand corner.
NOTE: My experience in using this database is that you can usually just enter a last name and click on search. Unless, of course, your searching for Smith or Williams or another fairly common name. There are few enough records on this site that entering just a last name will give you the biggest result. If you find there are too many records (or the site tells you there are too many), then narrow your search by entering more information, such as a first name. As with any search, less is usually better, so that you don’t miss anything. I throw a big net and then narrow. Some people like to throw a narrow net and then enlarge it. Whatever you are comfortable with will work.
When I entered the last name HART, I got a page full of hits. And, the site told me the query was too broad to show all matching records. In that case you’d want to enter more criteria.
Here is a sample from that page.
Let’s click on the first name on the list, Abigail Hart.
Here is our result.
As you can see this is some really good genealogical information. Everything from the date of her death to her cause of death to her father’s name and much more.
UPDATE: Thanks to reader Deidre who reminded me that the images to these records from 1867-1897 are now available on familysearch.org. This link will take you directly to the death records search page https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1452402
Once you have entered the search criteria for the person you are looking for you will see a screen like this.
As indicated above, click on "View Document" to bring up the image.
NOTE: Be sure to go to the next page in the record in order to view all the data available. Many times the first page you see will not contain everything.
These records came online slowly, but steadily, until they were finished a couple of years ago. We waited with great anticipation, knowing that they were loading images as well as the data.
These records can be located on the website
Here is what you’ll see when you open the site.
See the search bar at the top of the page?
Click on the “Advanced Search” on the right hand side.
This opens a screen that looks like this:
Now it’s up to you to enter the criteria for the search. Here are the steps to follow in order to have a more successful result:
- Be sure that the only box on the far right that is checked is “Death Records.”
- In the box directly under “Find results with:” you should use the drop down arrow and change the selection to “any of the words.”
- Now enter something in the next box. I usually enter the last name.
- Go to the next box that has a drop down arrow and choose the appropriate item, in this case “last name.”
- Leave the box that says "and” alone right now. You can change it to “or” if you need to at a later time.
- In the next box be sure you use the drop down arrow and change the choice from “all of the words” to “any of the words.” Why is this important? Because it will give you a broader search. You can play around with the choices once you’re more familiar with how the site works.
- Now enter a first name, or any number of other choices. Use the drop down arrow next to “all fields” to see what your choices are. You could even enter a year of death or the county of death if you wanted.
- Again, play around with your choices.
- If you think it’s necessary there is an option to “add another field.”
- Now click on SEARCH and see what you get.
But, for our purposes, let’s take a look at the very first entry for Luther W. Hart who died in 1913 in Oceana.
When I click on the thumbnail of the certificate here is what comes up first. This is a transcription of some items on the death certificate, which may help you decide if this is the correct person.
WAIT! I thought we could see the actual image of the death certificate.
You can. At the top of the page above are options to “download” or “print.”
Note: You will also see, in the upper right, the word “results” and two arrows. This allows you to scroll through the data one by one, looking at each entry, if you choose to do that.
I will select the download option. I can save the image to my computer once I’ve looked at it.
Here it is.
Isn’t it wonderful to see an actual image, online? Now you can use your own skills to determine what each entry says. Transcribers don’t always get it right, do they?
NOTE: Before I would save this image to my computer and add it to my database, I would want to get rid of that awful black border, maybe darken the image a bit and possibly straighten it just a tad. I do this ALL the time with images from Ancestry, familysearch or other sites where I find images.
Here is my blog post about the method I use for making the images look great:
EASY DOCUMENT EDITING http://www.michiganfamilytrails.com/2013/11/easy-document-editing.html
Here is the image after I cleaned it up.
The index for these records is available on familysearch.org. There are 1,681,256 as of 29 Apr 2013. No images have been added yet, but at least there are transcriptions of a portion of the death certificate.
NOTE: Thanks to reader, Sonja, for letting me know that the images for this group of records will be gradually added to the seekingmichigan.org site. Due to restrictions on the release of death information, they will only show those that are over 75 yrs. ago. So, as of 2013 they would be able to post images back to 1938. Looking forward to seeing them.
Go to familysearch.org, Search, then click on United States, then on Michigan and you will get all the Michigan selections.
You can see the fourth selection from the top is Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952.
Another place to check for vital records is at the county level. Many counties throughout the U.S. have websites. Some, like West Virginia and Missouri have indexes and images.
That’s it. Those are the available online death records for Michigan. I hope you’ll have great success in using these resources. I know I have.
Copyright © 2013 Diane Gould Hall