Sunday, May 5, 2013


ast night I attended the annual Lock-in event sponsored by the Waterford Genealogical Society and Waterford Township Public Library in Waterford, Michigan.  For details see my prior post at

Attendees were allowed to choose three classes on a variety of topics.  One of the classes I attended was called “Michigan Roots: Genealogy Research in the Great Lakes State” by Kris Rzepczynski, Senior Archivist at the Archives of Michigan in Lansing. I have heard Kris speak before so I was eager to hear him again. His presentations are fact-filled, humorous and fast paced. He knows how to keep the ball moving.

Kris said that the genealogical records in Michigan are “bountiful” compared to many states. For example, Michigan, unlike many states, conducted its own census. For more information on census information in Michigan see


Kris’ presentation started with a discussion of how many of the Michigan town and city names reflect where their inhabitants came from.  I am from New York and know that New York has a Troy, Utica, Ithaca and Rochester. Well, so does Michigan. Michigan has a Genesee County and so does New York (see,_Michigan).  It makes me free right at home.   Of course, Michigan was populated by other states too (Pennsylvania and the New England states, for example).


Then Kris discussed the importance of the opening of the Erie Canal in New York in 1825 ( This allowed people to more easily move west into Michigan and other states. I grew up in a town located on the Erie Canal, and my ancestors lived in Utica, also on the Erie Canal (see


Kris went on to talk about the various industries in Michigan—the lumber industry in Northern Michigan, the mining in the Upper Peninsula and the furniture industry in Grand Rapids.  And, of course, everyone knows about Detroit and the car industry.  He said that if your ancestor was from one of those cities, it is very likely that they were involved in the local industry.


Kris brought to our attention the importance of the Michigan Pioneer programs. These programs encouraged people to apply for a certificate of lineage by virtue of their having descended from an early settler of Michigan. The applications and supporting documents are a goldmine of information for people seeking genealogical information.  Kris noted that there were three state level programs: The Michigan Sesquicentennial Pioneer Files (you must show lineage from 1837), the Centennial Family Certificates (you must show lineage from 1876), and the Michigan Pioneer records (vaguer date guidelines on this one). He emphasized that you should check the records from all three programs.  For information on reviewing these files, see

See a discussion of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections at the Michigan State University website ( Links to the digitalization of the multi-volume set can be found at  and

Many counties in Michigan also have pioneer programs.  These are a few I found through a Google search:

I also found a few of the county pioneer records online:


Kris went on to talk about vital records in Michigan. We are lucky here because mandatory statewide record keeping started in 1867, earlier than in many states. For more information see


Kris said that Michigan City Directories can be of great assistance in helping you learn about your ancestors.  For more on this topic see,2351,7-160-18635_51181-117864--,00.html.


There were book recommendations. Here are a few Kris mentioned:
  • DeBoer, Shirley. NGS Research in the States Series: Michigan. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2008.
  • Dunbar, Willis F. Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
  • McGinnis, Carol. Michigan Genealogy: Sources & Resources. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2005. (I have this book and concur that it is a wonderful source.)


For a list of the 50 best genealogical resources in Michigan see,2351,7-160-18635_51181-50180--,00.html.


You’re probably hoping by now that you have Michigan ancestors.  Don’t despair if you think all your ancestors were from other parts of the country. As you drill down deeper into your history, you will very likely find someone who migrated to Michigan. I now have at least 50 known Michigan ancestors, and I was not born here.


I would like to extend a big thank you to the following:
  • Waterford Genealogical Society
  • Waterford Township Public Library
  • Kris Rzepczynski
  • Archives of Michigan

There were many more speakers and organizers, but they are too numerous to mention. The Lock-in was a fabulous event, and I look forward to attending it again next year.


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, 1200 Ornamental Letters, 2007.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, Old-Fashioned Nautical Illustrations, 2002.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, 1565 Spot Illustrations and Motifs, 2007.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, Decorative Silhouettes, 2003.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, 1268 Old-Time Cuts and Ornaments, 2006.


  1. Greetings, from WCNY Public TV in Syracuse. We have an interest in utilizing the black and white art of the canal you've used in your May 5, 2013 post for a documentary we are producing on the Erie Canal. Where did you find it and would you know who owns the rights to it? Thanks. Jim.

    1. Hi Jim,
      The second footnote refers to the canal illustration. I purchased a book and CD from Dover Publications containing nautical illustrations.
      Hope that helps. Good luck on your documentary!