Historical Facts of Michigan Counties

Michigan County records differ extensively from county to county both in quality as well as quantity. Some happen to have been carefully conserved while others have been significantly abused and mistreated. Many Michigan records have simply vanished. For genealogists carrying out research in Michigan there is no valuable substitute to have an on-site search of county courthouse records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia

The creation of counties generally occurred in two stages.

  1. First the boundaries of a county were declared and given a name. The county appeared on maps, even though this may have been the entire extent of a county’s tangible existence for several years. During this period, the as yet unorganized county was attached to another already organized county for administrative purposes. The legislature frequently changed the administrative attachment of these unorganized counties.
  2. Residents of such an attached county could petition the legislature for organization, which was the granting of full legal recognition to the county.

Michigan Counties

Different offices hold county records in each county. For example, land records can be found in the office of the register of deeds, while probate records can be found in the office of the probate judge. Vital records are generally held by the county clerk. Circuit court records are sometimes held at circuit court offices, but some counties file them with the county clerk as well.

Researchers should check county websites, since some of them provide online search tools for vital records.

Michigan is divided into 83 counties. Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders. The boundaries of these counties have not changed substantially since 1897. Michigan State Government is located in Lansing.

The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Michigan county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database.

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Alcona 1840 (boundaries declared)
1869 (organised)
From unorganized territory (named Negwegon County until 1843) Harrisville
Alger 1885 Schoolcraft County. Munising
Allegan 1831 (boundaries declared)
1835 (organised)
Barry County and unorganized territory. Allegan
Alpena 1840 (boundaries declared)
1857 (organized)
Mackinac and unorganized territory (named Anamickee Counties until 1843) Alpena
Antrim 1840 Mackinac County (named Meegisee County until 1843) Bellaire
Arenac 1831 From unorganized territory (Annexed to Bay County in 1857 and reinstated in 1883) Standish
Baraga 1875 Houghton County. L’Anse
Barry 1829 From unorganized territory. Hastings
Bay 1857 Arenac, Midland and Saginaw Counties. Bay City
Benzie 1863 Leelenau County. Beulah
Berrien 1829 From unorganized territory. St. Joseph
Branch 1829 From unorganized territory. Coldwater
Calhoun 1829 From unorganized territory. Marshall
Cass 1829 From unorganized territory. Cassopolis
Charlevoix 1869 Antrim, Emmet and Otsego Counties. Charlevoix
Cheboygan 1840 Mackinac County. Cheboygan
Chippewa 1827 Mackinac County. Sault Ste. Marie
Clare 1840 Mackinac and unorganized territory (named Kaykakee Counties until 1843. Harrison
Clinton 1831 From unorganized territory. St. Johns
Crawford 1840 Mackinac and unorganized territory (named Shawano Counties until 1843. Grayling
Delta 1843 Mackinac County and unorganized territory. Escanaba
Dickinson 1891 Iron, Marquette and Menominee Counties. Iron Mountain
Eaton 1829 From unorganized territory. Charlotte
Emmet 1840 Mackinac County (named Tonegadana County until 1843) Petoskey
Genesee 1835 Lapeer, Saginaw and Shiawassee Counties. Flint
Gladwin 1831 From unorganized territory. Gladwin
Gogebic 1887 Ontonagon County. Bessemer
Grand Traverse 1851 Omeena County. Traverse City
Gratiot 1831 From unorganized territory. Ithaca
Hillsdale 1829 From unorganized territory. Hillsdale
Houghton 1845 Marquette and Ontonagon Counties. Houghton
Huron 1840 Sanilac County. Bad Axe
Ingham 1829 (boundaries declared)
1838 (organised)
Shiawassee and Washtenaw Counties and unorganized territory. Mason
Ionia 1831 Mackinac County and unorganized territory. Ionia
Iosco 1840 From unorganized territory (named Kanotin County until 1843) Tawas City
Iron 1885 Marquette and Menominee Counties. Crystal Falls
Isabella 1831 Mackinac County and unorganized territory. Mt. Pleasant
Jackson 1829 (boundaries declared)
1832 (organised)
Washtenaw County and unorganized territory. Jackson
Kalamazoo 1829 From unorganized territory. Kalamazoo
Kalkaska 1840 Mackinac County (named Wabassee County until 1843) Kalkaska
Kent 1831 Mackinac County and unorganized territory. Grand Rapids
Keweenaw 1861 Houghton County. Eagle River
Lake 1840 Mackinac County (named Aischum County until 1843) Baldwin
Lapeer 1822 Oakland and St. Clair Counties. Lapeer
Leelanau 1840 Mackinac County. Suttons Bay Township
Lenawee 1822 Monroe County. Adrian
Livingston 1833 (boundaries declared)
1836 (organised)
Shiawassee and Washtenaw Counties. Howell
Luce 1887 Chippewa and Mackinac Counties. Newberry
Mackinac 1818 Wayne County (named Michilimackinac County until 1837) St. Ignace
Macomb 1818 Wayne County. Mt. Clemens
Manistee 1840 Mackinac County. Manistee
Marquette 1843 Chippewa and Mackinac Counties. Marquette
Mason 1840 Mackinac County (named Notipekago County until 1843) Ludington
Mecosta 1840 Mackinac and Oceana Counties. Big Rapids
Menominee 1861 Delta County (named Bleeker County until 1863) Menominee
Midland 1831 Saginaw County and unorganized territory. Midland
Missaukee 1840 Mackinac County. Lake City
Monroe 1817 Wayne County. Monroe
Montcalm 1831 Mackinac County and unorganized territory. Stanton
Montmorency 1840 Mackinac County and unorganized territory (named Cheonoquet Counties until 1843) Atlanta
Muskegon 1859 Oceana and Ottawa Counties. Muskegon
Newaygo 1840 Mackinac and Oceana Counties. White Cloud
Oakland 1819 (boundaries declared)
1820 (organized)
Macomb County. Pontiac
Oceana 1831 Mackinac County. Hart
Ogemaw 1840 From unorganized territory (Annexed to Iosco County in 1867 and reinstated in 1873) West Branch
Ontonagon 1843 Chippewa and Mackinac Counties. Ontonagon
Osceola 1840 Mackinac County (named Unwattin County until 1843) Reed City
Oscoda 1840 Mackinac County and unorganized territory. Mio
Otsego 1840 Mackinac County (named Okkudo County until 1843) Gaylord
Ottawa 1831 Mackinac County and unorganized territory. Grand Haven
Presque Isle 1840 Mackinac County. Rogers City
Roscommon 1840 Mackinac and unorganized territory (named Mikenauk County until 1843) Roscommon
Saginaw 1822 Oakland County. Saginaw
Sanilac 1820 Macomb County. Sandusky
Schoolcraft 1829 From unorganized territory. Manistique
Shiawassee 1822 St. Clair County. Corunna
St. Clair 1843 Chippewa and Mackinac Counties. Port Huron
St. Joseph 1822 Oakland and St. Clair Counties. Centreville
Tuscola 1840 Sanilac County. Caro
Van Buren 1829 From unorganized territory. Paw Paw
Washtenaw 1822 (boundaries declared)
1826 (organised)
Oakland and Wayne Counties Ann Arbor
Wayne 1815 All lands within Michigan Territory that had been ceded by Native Americans through the 1807 Treaty of Detroit. Detroit
Wexford 1840 Mackinac County (named Kautawaubet County until 1843) Cadillac


Interactive Map of Michigan Counties Formation

(Michigan maps made with the use AniMap Plus 3.0 & with the Permission of the Goldbug Company)

Michigan Extinct Counties

Michigan seems to have counties that no longer exist. They were recognized by the state, provincial, or territorial government. A lot of these counties were established and disbanded in the 19th century; county borders have changed little since 1900 in the great most of states. These counties should be looked at when you are conducting genealogy research. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or combined with a different county.

  • Aischum County: Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Lake County in 8 March 1843
  • Anamickee County: Formed in 1 April 1840 and renamed Alpena County in 8 March 1843
  • Bleeker County: Formed in 1861 and renamed Menominee County in 19 March 1863
  • Brown County: Formed in 26 Oct 1818 became part of the Wisconsin Terr. in December 7th 1836. Now in Wisconsin
  • Charlevoix(old) County: Formed in 1840 as Keskkauko County and renamed Charlevoix County in 1843. Merged with Emmet Co in 1853
  • Cheonoquet County: Formed in 1 April 1840 and renamed Montmorency County in 8 March 1843)
  • Crawford(old) County: Formed in 1818 from unorganized land became part of the Wisconsin Terr in 1836. Now in Wisconsin
  • Des Moines County: Formed in 1834 from unorganized land became part of the Wisconsin Terr in 1836. Now in Iowa
  • Dubuque County: Formed in 1834 from unorganized land became part of the Wisconsin Terr in 1836. Now in Iowa
  • Iowa County: Formed in 1830 from Crawford County became part of the Wisconsin Territory. in 1836. Now in Wisconsin
  • Isle Royale County: Formed in 1875 from Keweenaw County and attached to Houghton Co in 1885 abolished in 1897 and became part of Keweenaw Co
  • Kanotin County: Formed in 1 Feb 1840 from unorganized land and renamed Iosco County in 1843
  • Kautawaubet County: Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Wexford County in 8 March 1843.
  • Kayakee County: Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County, Saginaw Co and unorganized land; renamed Clare County in 8 March 1843
  • Kautawaubet County: Formed in 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Charlevoix County in 1843
  • Isle Royale County: Formed in 1875 from Keweenaw County and attached to Houghton County in 1885; abolished in 1897and became part of Keweenaw County
  • Negwegon County: Formed in 1840 from Mackinac County and unorganized land; renamed Alcona County in 1843
  • Notipekago County: Formed in 1840 from Mackinac County and Ottawa County; renamed Mason County in 1843
  • Meegisee County: Formed in 1840 and renamed Antrim County in 1843
  • Mikenauk County: Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and Unorganized Land renamed Roscommon County in 8 March 1843.
  • Manitou County: Formed in 13 Feb 1855 from Emmet and Leelanau Counties. In 1861 the county government was disorganized and Manitou was attached to Mackinac County. In 1865 it was attached to Leelanau County then again attached to Mackinac County in 1869. Finally in 1895 Manitou was abolished and was absorbed by Charlevoix and Leelanau Counties
  • Meegisee County: Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Antrim County in 8 March 1843
  • Michilimackinac County: Formed in 26 Oct 1818 from Wayne County and renamed Mackinac County in 8 March 1843
  • Milwaukee County: Formed in 1834 from Brown County and became part of the Wisconsin Territory in 1836; now in Wisconsin
  • Negwegon County: aka Neewago; Formed in 1 April 1840 from Unorganized Land and renamed Alcona County in 8 March 1843
  • Notipekago County: aka Nontipekago; Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Mason County in 8 March 1843
  • Okkuddo County: Formed in 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Otsego County in 1843
  • Omeena County: Formed in 1840 from Mackinac County and abolished in 1853; became part of Grand Traverse County in 1843
  • Okkuddo County: aka Okkudo; Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Otsego County in 8 March 1843
  • Omeena County: Formed in 1840 from Mackinac County and abolished in 1853; became part of Grand Traverse County in 1853
  • Reshkauko County: Organized 1 April 1840 and renamed Charlevoix County 8 March 1843
  • Shawono County: aka Shawano and Shawona; Formed in 26 oct 1818 from Mackinac County and renamed Crawford County in 8 March 1843
  • Tonedagana County: Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Emmet County in 8 March 1843
  • Unwattin County: Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Osceola County in 8 March 1843; Some records in Ottawa County
  • Wabassee County: Formed in 1 April 1840 from Mackinac County and renamed Kalkaska County in 8 March 1843
  • Washington County: Formed in 1867 from Marquette County but declared unconstitutional
  • Wyandiot County: Formed in 1840 from Mackinac County and abolished in 1853; became part of Cheboygan County in 1853

Michigan Counties with Burned Courthouses

The destruction to Michigan courthouses significantly has a bearing on family historians in just about every way. Not only are these types of historic buildings ripped from all of our lifetimes, so are the files they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they are lost permanently. Although they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn up too. The most sad aspect of this is the reason why almost all of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist. Though, not all records were damaged or lost. Many Michigan counties have dealt with a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Montcalm County Courthouse – Courthouse was destroyed by Fire on February 16 1905 although the county records were saved. The present courthouse was built in 1910.
  • Montmorency County Courthouse – County Courthouse burned in 1942 destroying the Prosecuting Attorney’s records. After the fire surviving records were moved to the Community Hall. One year later this building also burned and with it all county documents–the exceptions being Montmorency’s birth death and marriage statistics.