Sunday, November 11, 2012


Yesterday I attended the Michigan Genealogical Council ( and Archives of Michigan (,1607,7-153-54463_19313---,00.html) Fall Family History Seminar at the Michigan Historical Center in Lansing, Michigan.

There was an excellent selection of seminars/activities you could choose from:
  • Using Township Records
  • Family Trees—Fact or Fiction?
  • What Did Grandma Do?
  • Genealogical Treasures at the Bentley Historical Library
  • Tiptoeing Through the Tombstones
  • New York State Genealogy
  • The Peasant and the Palace: Researching Manor Records in Europe
  • Seeking Ancestors with Seeking Michigan & Other Online Resources
  • Deciphering Early Handwriting
  • What’s In Your Grandfather’s Trunk
  • Tour of Archives
  • Getting Around the Brick Wall
  • Scot-Irish Migrations to Canada and the USA
I chose Using Township Records, Genealogical Treasures at the Bentley Historical Library, New York State Genealogy, Seeking Ancestors with Seeking Michigan and a Tour of the Archives.

Township Records

Shirley Gage Hodges ( gave a fascinating talk on township records, a topic that could easily have been dull.  I learned about many documents that I would never have thought to investigate, such as a Certificates of Stillbirth, Justice of the Peace docket ledgers and marriages, Permits for Disposition of Human Remains, Absent Voters, Cemetery and Sexton Records, Indentures and Apprenticeships, Overseers of Highways Work Logs, Accounting of the Poor Fund, Dog Census cards, School District Reports and Estrays Marks and Brands. She also gave tips on how to prepare for a visit to a township hall and warned us that often the records are in disarray and dirty.  Bring gloves and hand sanitizer.  Call ahead. Bring a camera in case they don’t have a photocopier.

Genealogical Treasures at the Bentley Historical Library

Karen Jania, Head of Reference at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan (, enlightened us about the many resources available in the Bentley Collection.  Examples of these items are assorted census records and city directories, church baptism records, church membership lists, cemetery records, Early Settlers of Washtenaw County, historic maps, civil dockets, Civil War letters, funeral records, DAR records, obituaries and manuscripts.  If you have an ancestor who attended the University of Michigan, you can obtain a great deal of information about them (pictures, dates of attendance, classes attended and much more). My great grand uncle, GEORGE ROBERT TAYLOR, attended the University of Michigan in the 1800s. I’ll have to see what I can find on him.

New York State Genealogy

William Ruddock, editor of the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research Magazine (, spoke about finding ancestors from New York State. I was especially interested in this talk since I grew up in New York and have plenty of ancestors from there.  He recommended the LDS Research Outline for New York (  It was his opinion that it is not nearly as easy to find vital records in New York State as it is in New England, and so he recommended that we look for substitute records (bible records, cemetery records, biographies, census records, church records, town clerk records, city directories, naturalization records, military records, newspapers, periodicals, tax lists and land records). He stated that probate records, in particular, could be of enormous value.  He showed a land record of James Crandall on the overhead. This got my attention since I have a JAMES CRANDALL in my family tree. After class I asked him if he was related to James Crandall. He informed me that he was not related but that he has done a great deal of research on the Crandall Family and recommended I look at an article from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record from April 2004. When I returned home I found the article entitled “Connecting Parker Burdick Crandall to the Rhode Island Crandall Family” by Larry Crandall-Wood. (1)  It was pure serendipity that I learned about this; that is why I love attending genealogy conferences.

Seeking Ancestors with Seeking Michigan

Jessica Miller, an archivist at the Archives of Michigan, gave a very helpful presentation on the use of the website Seeking Michigan ( I have used this website in the past and love it because you can find copies of original death certificates. Jessica showed us tricks to searching, such as clicking on the words “Seeking Michigan” whenever you are stuck.  The site also includes detailed subject guides on the holdings of the Archives of Michigan. In addition, there’s a Soldiers and Sailors link ( where you can look up an ancestor who served in the Civil War. I looked up my second great grandfather, AARON M. CUTLER, and found information on his side (North), regiment name, his rank and the film number.  You can also search the Graves Registration Database ( In addition to military information, you can look at Michigan Census records ( This website is loaded with information. Check it out.

Union Soldier

Archives Tour

At the end of the day we were given a tour of the Michigan Archives and were even permitted to peek inside the “vault” area.  We were instructed on the procedures for reviewing documents held in the closed stack portion of the archives—pencil only; coat, bags and pens in a locker, no photocopying, no photography, etc.  There are also many books available, such as surname studies and county histories, for review in the open area. I spent the last 30 minutes of the day photographing books on some of my surnames (BEALL, MAGRUDER, SCRIPTURE and BOWIE).

With so many states threatening lack of access to their state archives, we are especially blessed here in Michigan to be able to visit this fine facility. 


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Civil War Illustrations," 2003.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Holiday Vignettes," 2001.


(1) Crandall-Wood, Larry. "Connecting Parker Burdick Crandall to the Rhode Island Crandall Family." The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. 135. no. 2 (April, 2004): 92.

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