Michigan Vital Records Guide

 Beginning April 5, 1867, the State of Michigan required cities and townships to take an annual assessment of births and deaths. Statewide registration of marriages also started in 1867. Michigan instituted a statewide divorce registration in 1897.

Michigan Vital Records Division

The Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services processes over 100,000 requests for vital records copies each year.

There are tens of millions in the state’s vital records system now. Births account for the largest number of records, followed by death records and then marriage and divorce records.

Information about Michigan vital events were captured in ledger form through 1905 for births, 1897 for deaths, 1925 for marriages and 1923 for divorces.

The ledger entry process was replaced with designated certifiers immediately filing individual certificates at the time of the event. The immediate filing of death certificates signed by the attending physicians and funeral director started in 1898. The filing of birth certificates signed by the attending physician or midwife started in 1906. The immediate filing of certificates for divorces started in 1924 and for marriages in 1926.

Microform indexes can be used to find death records from 1867-1914, marriage records from 1867-1921 and 1950-1969. And divorce records from 1897-1941 and 1948-1969. Index cards or books must be utilized for locating the other records.  Michiganology.org digitizes Michigan death certificates from 1897 to about 1943, with indexing to 1952.  It is a work in-progress so these dates are subject to change.  Ancestry and Family Search have also added many Michigan vital records to their systems.

All birth records from 1989 and forward are processed electronically.  The “electronic index is only available for locating the oldest death records (1867-1897). The Divisions for Vital Records and Health Statistics Web site Michigan Vital Records has the Genealogical Death Indexing System (GENDIS) as well as vital records applications and information.

Source: Adapted from a Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics Open House handout.

Michigan Vital Records Historical Facts

1867 Public Act 194: “An Act to Provide for the registration of births, marriages and  deaths.” This was Michigan’s first vital records registration law. Each township or city had to take an “annual assessment by actual inquiry or otherwise, of the inhabitants thereof, the births and deaths…."

1869 Public Act 125: Moves the reporting year from April through March to January through December starting with 1870. The returns for 1869 are from 5 April to 31 December. A new column was added to each record for the color of the child, bridegroom and bride, and the deceased. The column for the deceased parents was changed to the “residence of the parents, if known”.

1887 Public Act 128: Required a civil license in order to marry and the registration of them beginning in 1888. Parents of the parties are listed for the first time.

1897 Public Act 9: The beginning of statewide recording of divorces. Public Act 180: Private marriages by the Probate Court. Public Act 217: Provided for the registration of deaths and the issuing of death certificates that began in 1898.

1905 Public Act 330: Provide for the immediate registration of births and the issuing of birth certificates beginning with 1906.

1921 Public Act 170: Responsibility for Michigan vital records was transferred from the Secretary of State to the State Commission for Health.

1925 Public Act 343 First major revision of the vital records laws.

1931 Public Act 35: The first provision for delayed birth records.

1933 Public Act 105: Illegitimate births are no longer recorded in the county records, the only records of such births are kept by the State Vital Records Office in a file that’s closed to the public.

1953 Public Act 100: Adoption is no longer mentioned on birth certificates starting from 21 May 1953.

1968 Public Act 213: Original certificate of births and records of adoption shall not be subject to public disclosure except by court order or permission of the Public Health Director.

1978 Public Act 368 (also known as the Public Health Code): The second major revision of the vital record laws. Birth records are made more restrictive, the term illegitimate birth is dropped and such births are again recorded at both the state and county level.

1997 Public Act 54: Birth records 110 years or more can be release to any applicant.

2002 Public Act 544: Birth records 100 years or more can be release to any applicant.

Source: Michigan Public and Local Acts Michigan Documents KFM 4225 .A25

 Vital Records at the Library of Michigan

 From the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Births

Index Only       LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.I5 1960                      1867-1915

Marriages

Index               LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.I54 1960                    1867-1921

Index               LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.I54 1950                    1950-1969

Returns            LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.I54 I54 1867a            1867-1925

Records           via Ancestry Library Edition                                           1867-1952

Compiled         via Ancestry Library Edition                                           1817-1850

Divorces

Index               LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.D58                           1897-1969

Records           via Ancestry Library Edition                                        1897-1952

Summary         LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.D57 1897                  1897-1922

Deaths

Index               LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.I532                           1867-1914

Returns            LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.I53 1868                    1867-1897

Certificates     LIB OF MICH MICROFILM F565.I53 1960                    1897-1920*

Index               via Ancestry Library Edition                                        1897-1952

*Michiganology contains searchable certificates for 1897-1939 and indexing through 1952

Many groups have created local vital record compilations.  They may be found by searching Answer, our online catalog, using key word searches or by doing subject searches such as: Registers of births, etc.—[state]—[county, city or township ] For example,  ‘registers of births etc Michigan Alma’ identifies the Church Register of the First United Presbyterian Church of Alma, Michigan published in 1983 and the Records of Interments, St. Mary’s Church, Alma, Michigan and Missions done in 1983.

What Information is in Michigan Vital Records

In Michigan, the purpose of vital records has changed with time, as informational needs of the state evolved. Consequently, the amount of genealogical information found on these birth, death, marriage and divorce records varies. Below are lists of the type of information a researcher can expect to find with each type of Michigan vital record up to 1906. 

Births:

  • Date of birth
  • Name of child
  • Sex of child
  • Color of child %
  • Place of birth
  • Christian and surname of both parents
  • Residence and nativity of parents
  • Occupation of the father
  • Date of record
  • Whether a twin, triplet, or plural child *
  • Whether legitimate or illegitimate *
  • Color or race of mother and father *
  • Birthplace of mother and father *
  • Age of mother and father at last birthday *
  • Maiden name of mother *
  • Occupation of mother *
  • Number of child of this mother *
  • Number of children of this mother now living *
  • Physician attending or midwife *

% = Effective 1869  *= Effective 1906

Marriages:     

  • Date of marriage
  • Place of marriage
  • Christian and surname of the bridegroom and bride
  • Color of bridegroom and bride %
  • Age and place of birth of each
  • Residence of each at the time of marriage
  • Occupation of the bridegroom
  • Name and official station of person by or whom married
  • Names and residences of at least two witnesses to marriage
  • Date of record
  • Father’s name and mother’s maiden name of bridegroom and bride @
  • Number of times previously married @

%=Effective 1869  @=Effective 1888

Deaths:           

  • Date of death
  • Christian and surname of deceased
  • Sex
  • Color %
  • Whether married or single [widowed or divorced #]
  • Age in years, months and days
  • Place of death
  • Disease or apparent cause of death
  • Nativity of the deceased
  • Occupation, if over 10 years of age
  • If under that age, the names and residence of the parents, if known
  • Date of record
  • If married, age at first marriage #
  • Parent of how many children #
  • How many children are living #
  • Birthplace (state or country if not born in Michigan) #
  • Full names of both parents #
  • Birthplaces of both parents #
  • Proposed place and time of burial #
  • Signature and address of reporter certifying above facts #
  • Signature and address of undertaker #

%=Effective 1869   #=Effective 1898

Divorces:        

  • Record number
  • Full name of each party
  • Age of each in years
  • Date of marriage by month, day, and year
  • Place of marriage
  • Number of children in family
  • Complainant: husband or wife
  • Date of filing application by month, day, and year
  • Date of final action by month, day, and year
  • Alleged cause for divorce
  • Was the case contested or not
  • Whether granted, refused, withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, or pending at year’s end
  • Whether divorce was absolute or if any conditions

Updated 10/22/2019