Seeking Michigan (seekingmichigan.org) has been a wonderful resource for 1897-1920 Michigan death certificates since its launch on March 17, 2009. The surge of researchers, clamoring to find their Michigan ancestors, crashed the servers before the website was one day old.
I’m sure many of you have used this website to break down some brick walls. Most Genealogists/family historians will happily share where fellow researchers can obtain Michigan death certificate images for free (Thanks to the Archives of Michigan).
Typical information found on 1897-1920 Michigan death certificates:
• First and last name of deceased
• Date of death
• Place of death
• Age in years, months and days
• Whether married, single, widowed, or divorced
• If married, age at first marriage
• Disease or apparent cause of death
• Occupation, if over 10 years of age
• Parent of how many children
• How many children are living
• Full names of both parents
• Birthplaces of both parents
• Proposed place of burial
• Signature and address of reporter certifying above facts
• Signature and address of undertaker
• Date of record
Rather than regurgitate what other reviewers have said about Seeking Michigan on webpages, blogs, etc (feel free to Google though), I rather discuss a few ways to whittle down the results from 100 possible records to under 20 records in most cases.
You can never have too many search fields! I adore that I have many options (in advanced search) to choose from and can mix them up to narrow the search. Searching state death records by given name, surname, year of death, and place of death are pretty common search options. Seeking Michigan allows us also to search by day of death, month of death, county of death, age at death, father’s given name, and father’s surname. These are wonderful field options when the death certificate was filled out by someone with illegible handwriting or if your ancestor has a hard to spell and/ or uncommon first name/surname.
Day and/or month of death
This option is useful when a relative mentions in passing that an ancestor died on New Year’s Eve a few years before WWI but couldn’t recall the year
County of death
Love this option when a family lived in the same county for multiple generations. You can learn of children that were born and died between censuses, what cemeteries were primarily used by a family, or flush out Great Uncle Ebenezer Willis, who was born, resided, and died in one county but was indexed under Ebenezer Williams.
Father’s given name and surname
A wonderful search option when you are looking for the death certificate of a married female ancestor. It is also helpful when trying to learn how many children your scalawag Great Grandfather may have conceived.
Seeking Michigan allows you to use wild cards “*” in your search. This is a delightful option when sibling ancestors alter their surnames by one or two letters. While assisting a friend with her Kraft/Kreft/Craft/Creft ancestors, we found some relatives were listed as Kroft/Croft on their death certificates (or the “o” was actually an “a” or an “e” but accidentally transcribed incorrectly…It happens).
And lastly (what I believe to be the most overlooked option), the drop-down menu on the left side of the data field. This allows you to choose “all of the words,” “any of the words,” “the exact phrase,” or “none of the words” within each search field. “All of the words,” is the default option but I have found “any of the words,” is very helpful when an ancestor had a nickname or several. Jozef is one name that comes to mind when I’ll use “any of the words” since Jozef could also be written down as Joseph, Josef, Joe, etc.
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