Sunday, December 29, 2013

MICHIGAN DEATH RECORDS ONLINE–Where can you find them?

collage for mich death records post

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.



You can find an index for these records on the website
Genealogical Death Indexing System (commonly referred to as GENDIS)

(See the update below regarding viewing images of these records)

GENDIS home page


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.

gendis results of hart search

Let’s click on the first name on the list, Abigail Hart.

Here is our result.

gendis abigail hart info

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  This link will take you directly to the death records search page

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:

seekingmichigan search page

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.
Here is my result when I put ONLY the last name Hart in the search field and left all other boxes blank.  You can see there are 697 results (circled in red).   This page is showing you the first 20 results.  In this case you may want to narrow your search.

seeking mich hart results

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.  

seeking mich hart results tex of

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.

seeking mich top of text page for hart

I will select the download option.  I can save the image to my computer once I’ve looked at it.

Here it is.

seeking mich hart image result

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: 

Here is the image after I cleaned it up.

seeking mich hart image result_after cropping


The index for these records is available on  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 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, Search, then click on United States, then on Michigan and you will get all the Michigan selections.

familysearch mich 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.

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright © 2013  Diane Gould Hall


  1. You know that all records listed on GENDIS are fully available on Family Search under Michigan, Deaths, 1867-1897. This is the ledger page 208 for your Abigail Hart

    1. Deidre - Thank you! This is one thing I love about genealogy. We all help one another out. I have used the records on GENDIS for so many years that I hadn't remembered that they'd been added to in the past couple of years. I will make the correction on my post, and of course, let my readers know that you pointed out my omission.

      Thanks Again,

  2. The Family Search index is better because you can do a fuzzy search whereas on GENDIS exact spelling is the only option so if it was indexed wrong you're out of luck. Unfortunately, not all deaths (or births for that matter) were actually recorded. It depended on the supervisor/assessor's diligence and people's memories when he did his yearly rounds to collect the information (if he did at all). As for the images for death certificates 1921-1952, Seeking Michigan will be posting those, not Family Search. But, due to the 75-year limit on making death information public, they'll only upload the ones they are allowed to and then as another year passes they'll add the next available year.
    You might also recommend that people check individual county webpages because many of them have online searchable indexes. You may not get the certificate, but you can at least find DOD.

    1. Sonja - Thanks for your comments. I've been using GENDIS for years and didn't know that they only searched on exact spellings. I did know that I've learned to be quite creative in my searches. Thank you for the information.
      I also did not know that it was Seeking Michigan and not Family Search, that will be posting the images for the death certs from 1921-1952. I guess 75 yrs. is better than not having any of them.
      One thing I've learned over the years is that none of us can know everything. The collaborative nature of genealogy is wonderful and we all seem to help one another. I learn something new all the time. I will add your suggestion about the county websites to my post.
      Thank you for visiting,

  3. Is there some exception for children? I have some 1930s death data from microfilm I took at the Detroit library and none of those records are showing up at familysearch except for the adults. Thanks.

    1. MD - I don't know, to be honest. I haven't heard anything about the index not including children. There is a great Facebook group with many people knowledgeable about Detroit research where you might want to post your question. The page is Detroit Genealogy at this link!/groups/156291504501244/. I'll look for your post and the answers.
      Thank you for visiting,

    2. I wasn't even aware of this group, thanks! I just sent a request to join just now.

    3. Great. There's some good people on that page.

  4. A bit of insight on the GENDIS 1867-1897 index. This was done by volunteers from genie groups around the state back in the late 1990's. Copies of pages were given out and transcription was hand written. I don't remember if they were double checked or not, but given that everything was hand written, the margin for error is huge! Eventuality, the sheets where turned in and forwarded to the state, I think. I think this one of the Library of Michigan projects. Not all counties were done completely. UUmmm Wayne comes to mind! So, remember this database is not the gospel according to [find in your choice]. If you have reason to believe someone should be there, get the films and double check. How do I know this? I worked on this project back then.

    1. Margaret - Thank you for the information about GENDIS. There are many people that I've looked for the "should" be on that list and aren't. Course many of those would have been in Wayne, where the majority of my ancestors lived. I'll keep your tip in mind and make sure I check that film. I can make myself a list and see if the film is permanently stored at our FHC or I could order it.

  5. Great posting!! I will admit that even "creative" searching defies finding someone. I have four or five from the "to 1939" batch that I can't find {even have the indexed spelling and image number] and with the group for 1940 I have seven deaths, one was in Germany and the other six? Well have managed to find one so far. Makes one wonder how the OCR is reading this stuff! One day, hopefully.

    1. Thanks Margaret. I agree about creative searching. I've certainly done my share and also "accidentally" found people at random due to some kind of genealogical luck. LOL!!
      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Iam looking for a possible death record of my sister in law Lisa R. Mattison. How can I locate this? We believe she dued died in 2015

    1. DeAnna,
      Current death records would only be available to immediate family. I would begin by looking for an obituary on sites like Genealogy Bank or Perhaps your brother or other family members have a copy of the certificate? Good luck with your search.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.