Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Michigan State Census Records

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Michigan conducted its own population census about every ten years during the latter half of the 19th century. The bad news is that most of these records were either destroyed or have vanished. However, depending on where your ancestors lived you may be able to find some of these records for your family.

The first time Michigan attempted to enumerate its inhabitants was in 1827, before statehood, but very few of the early records still exist. With a few exceptions, the ones you are most likely to find are for the years 1845 (head of household only, transcription available at, 1884 and 1894 (transcription available at And now, thanks to Seeking Michigan you can find images for existing state censuses from 1827 to 1894 on their website.  Their website lists which years are available by county.

The Library of Michigan holds many of these state census records. Coverage is spotty so you will definitely want to go to this website to see which records exist for which counties.

For Kalamazoo county the records available at the Library of Michigan are 1837 (abstract of records, with an index), 1874 (no index), 1884 (incomplete, no index), 1894 (no index). The Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society has 1884 census pages for Kalamazoo county available for Pavilion, Portage, Prairie Ronde, Ross, Schoolcraft, Texas and Wakeshma townships (I believe the records for the rest of the county are missing). These records can be found by searching the KVGS database.

The WMU Archives has state census records for Kalamazoo county (1837, 1884, 1894), Ottawa county (1884) and St. Joseph county (1845, 1884, 1894). The Van Buren District Library also has some state census records: Allegan (1894, incomplete), Kalamazoo (1884, Pavilion through Wakeshma), St. Joseph (1884 or 1894) and Van Buren (1845).

If you have military men in your tree who may have served in the Civil War (or possibly Mexican or Indian wars) you should also check the 1883 census of pensioners. Note that only men who were receiving a pension in 1883 are on the list. Some veterans may not have begun receiving benefits until later. If that is the case, you can look in the 1890 union veterans/widows schedule, which you can find at

It is unfortunate that many of the state census records no longer exist, but you may get lucky and find them in one that remains. Why bother looking if you already have your family pegged in the US Federal census? Don't underestimate the power of your ancestors to surprise you? Some of them moved around quite a bit and you may be able to track them to a new location with additional records you can pursue. Another good reason is because you may find a child who was born and died between federal censuses. You never know what you might find, but you'll certainly never find anything unless you turn over that stone and look.

Fortunately, the fine people at Seeking Michigan have scanned the existing census records and have made them available on their website. 

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