Locality Guide: Judy Nimer Muhn
Research in Wayne County, Michigan
Early history of the region now known as Wayne County, Michigan reflected the changing of hands between the French, British and American – this fact being represented in the City of Detroit’s flag.
The area of Michigan that became Detroit and SE Michigan, was the home of thousands of Indigenous peoples – the Anishinabewek (Chippewa/Ojibwe), Wyandot, Sauk and Fox, Miami and more (note – these names are those of the European settlers, not those that the Indigenous people used for themselves). While the area now known as Detroit, in Wayne County, Michigan was originally settled by the French in 1701 (founded by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac at Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit on the north side of the Detroit River), the area was under French control until 1763. In 1763, New France was defeated in the French and Indian War and the boundaries of the United States were expanded to include the region of Michigan within the “Old Northwest”. From the French in 1701, transitioning after the French and Indian War to the British until the American Revolution when this region became part of the early formation of the United States of America, the area of Wayne County even reverted back to Britain briefly during the War of 1812. From 1787 to 1800, Michigan was part of the Northwest Territory and Wayne County was created in 1796 as part of the Northwest Territory but it encompassed most of the what became the State of Michigan (a far longer history of the Michigan Territory can be found in Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Territory).
From 1800 to 1805, the region that was to become Wayne County and Michigan was attached to the Territory of Indiana. Further changes occurred after the War of 1812, when the Michigan Territory came temporarily under British rule after the defeat of the Americans, but the area was later organized in 1815 as a county in the Michigan territory. When Michigan became a state in 1837, Wayne County’s boundaries were again changed to reflect the more current configuration.
When the early territory of what was to become Michigan was laid out, Wayne County encompassed a larger area as the sixth county of the Northwest Territory, including the lower peninsula of Michigan, much of the upper peninsula and portions of what became Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.
Wayne County is bordered by Macomb and Oakland Counties to the north, Washtenaw County to the west, Monroe County to the south and west, with Essex, Ontario, Canada bordering the county to the east/northeast (portions of Ontario are actually south of part of Wayne County). The county encompasses 673 square miles and, according to 2014 population data, has over 1.7 million residents.
Maps of the progression of the development of the Michigan counties, including Wayne County, can be found at Maps of the US, providing an interactive way to visualize the changes over the centuries.
The location of Wayne County now, in 2021.
Current map of the counties of SE Michigan, from Family Search, Research wiki: https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Wayne_County,_Michigan_Genealogy
The historic Guardian Building is the current location of the Wayne County Governmental offices.
Wayne County is the most populous county in the State of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, its population was 1,820,584, making it the 19th-most populous county in the United States. The 2014 Census update listed the county’s population at 1,764,804. The county seat is Detroit, the most populous city in Michigan and 18th-most populous city in the United States. The county was founded in 1796 and organized in 1815.
A wealth of genealogical and historical resources is available across Wayne County and the State of Michigan. The main repositories and their holdings are:
Obtain Detroit Birth & Death Certificates at:
Wayne County Clerk’s Office
400 Monroe Street (6th Floor)
Hours of Operation Will Be:
8:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Monday – Friday
Additional researchers’ note, per the Wayne County’s website: The Satellite Offices only have same day certificate service for a Marriage that took place from 1996 to the present. An order for a Marriage that took place before 1996 at our Westland Satellite Office can be picked up the following business day after 1:00pm or mailed. An order for a Marriage that took place before 1997 at our Northville Twp Satellite Office can either be picked up the following Thursday or mailed. Our main office in Downtown Detroit, located on 2 Woodward Ave, has same day certificate service for all years of Marriage Licenses issued by Wayne County.
One certified copy of a marriage license is $24.00 and $7.00 for each additional copy purchased at the same time. A Marriage License search for an uncertified copy is $11.50 for years 1937 to present, whether found or not, and $11.50 for before 1937 and for each 3 year interval, whether found or not. Personal checks are not accepted. Please click here for the Marriage Certificate Order Form.
Detroit Public Library, Burton Historical Collection
5201 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202
Begun as a collection of the late Clarence Monroe Burton, this collection holds documents of the history of Michigan and Detroit, including Wayne County, including photographs, original manuscripts, city directories, history books, pamphlets, newspapers, atlases, personal papers, archival materials, collections from other historians or archivists, business records and extensive map collections. Genealogical materials include microfilms of federal censuses, church records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, family histories and scrapbooks, military records, immigration and land records, Sanborn fire insurance maps and much more. Over the years, special collections documenting ethnic groups such as French-Canadian, Polish, Jewish and other populations have been acquired.
Wayne County Courthouse (all departments listed below are located here unless otherwise noted)
Address: 201 City-County Building, Detroit, MI 48226
Births & Deaths: 1867
Marriage Records: 1842
Address: 400 Monroe, 7th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: (313) 224-5854
Land Records: 1703
Address: 1307 Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, 2 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: (313) 224-5706
Probate Records: 1797
Address: 421 Madison Ave., Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: (313) 224-5261
Court Records: 1818
Genealogical Societies In/Around Wayne County:
P.O. Box 87362 Canton MI 48187-0362; 734-397-0088.
Historic documents, archives, family surnames and compilations, land-tax-cemetery-church records and more.
P.O. Box 1112
Cemetery records, ancestor charts; this society is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Dearborn Historical Society
Detroit Society for Genealogical Research
c/o Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202
Quarterly publication includes transcriptions of documents, stories of the region and local cities ; annual indexes available for purchase or available on members-only portion of website. Extensive list of publications for purchase includes Mt. Elliott Cemetery Burial Records, 1845-1861; Elmwood Cemetery Register 1862-1874; Wayne County Newspaper Marriage and Death Notices, 1809-1868, 1998; Passage to America 1851-1869: The Records of Richard Elliott, Passenger Agent, Detroit, MI; Cadillac’s Village or Detroit Under Cadillac, 1701-1710 (reprint of 1896 edition); Marriage Records of Ste. Anne Church Detroit 1701-1850; microfilmed Catholic church records from 1701, Protestant records from the 1820s (also at Ann Arbor’s Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan).
Founded in 1921, the Museum was opened in 1928 with holdings including the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. Thousands of artifacts, exhibits and documentation of the history of the region and events are exhibited and rotated through the two facilities. Educational programs.
P.O. Box 476
Lincoln Park 48146
Materials on 17 “downriver” communities including cemetery records, family charts, death records, research materials and local high school yearbooks.
P.O. Box 337
Flat Rock MI 48134; (734) 782-1269
Collection includes historical buildings, archives and papers of the area.
Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society
c/o Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Avenue Detroit MI 48202
The first genealogical society in the State of Michigan dedicated to the research and preservation of African-American history. Newsletters, educational programs, publications and SIG (special interest groups) are part of this active society.
French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan
P.O. Box 1900, Royal Oak, MI 48068-1900
This society was founded to promote awareness, research, educational and social connections for those of French-Canadian descent. The Society’s website includes extensive resources, original research, historical information and photographs and detailed information about Acadians, French-Canadians, Native/First Nations, Fille du Roi and Carignan Regiment surnames and stories, and more. Extensive research focused on historical Detroit, and nearby communities. Monthly educational programs, books and more.
Irish Genealogical Society of Michigan
Gaelic League of Detroit
2068 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48216
Assistance, educational information and resources supporting Irish genealogical research.
Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan
The Gayle Sweetwine Saini Memorial Library of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan is located inside the library of the Holocaust Memorial Center. The materials are non-circulating and a catalog is available for download from the website (below).
Holocaust Memorial Center
28123 Orchard Lake Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48334-3738
(248) 553-2400 ext. 16
P.O. Box 476
Lincoln Park 48146
Collections and artifacts of early French and German settlements; documents include articles about old families, historic photographs and more.
P.O. Box 932
Northville MI 48167
Meeting at the Northville District Library, the group includes neighboring cities and the collection includes obituaries, indexes, cemetery records, historical and church publications.
155 S. Main St.
Plymouth 48170; (734) 455-8940
Census data, information about old Plymouth families, manuscripts, old photographs and an anthology of Abraham Lincoln (unusual!).
5201 Woodward Ave.
Public and members-only databases; books, past publications/newsletters, surname lists and more.
Romulus Historical Society
11121 Wayne Rd.
P.O. Box 401175
Redford Michigan 48240-9175
No updates since 2009/2010 so it is not clear if they are still active.
St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit “Charles S. Low Memorial Library”
Kilgour Scottish Centre
2363 Rochester Road
Troy, MI 48083
Scottish books, artifacts, culture and information about clans & tartans, history, biographies and genealogies submitted by members for membership and more.
3245 Junction Street
Detroit MI. 48210
Oral interviews and articles about people, history and culture are featured on the website.
Wayne County Irish Society
P.O. Box 530063
Meeting at the Livonia Civic Park Senior Center, the website offers surname research list, cemetery research and the Society sells publications that are compilations of cemetery and other records.
2624 Biddle Avenue
Wyandotte Michigan 48192; 734-324-7299
Genealogy, historic buildings and businesses can be researched at the Burns House; must schedule an appointment.
Michigan History Center/ State Archives of Michigan
702 W Kalamazoo St, P.O. Box 30738
Lansing, MI 48909-8238; (517) 373-1408
http://www.michigan.gov/hal (website wasn’t working when checked)
1870 Michigan Census Index and Images, Michigan Cemetery Sources, Michigan Naturalization Records, Vital Records, State and Local, Public Land Grants and Private Claims, Circuit Court Records, Michigan Local Histories and Biographies, and more.
702 W. Kalamazoo St,
Lansing, MI 48909
Newspapers, law library, rare books, genealogical materials and online databases, family histories, county indexes and directories, and more.
1305 Abbott Rd,
East Lansing, MI 48823; (517) 324-1828
Hosts history conferences and education events; tours; support to county/regional historical societies.
Record Losses/Extant Records:
There are no known record losses in Wayne County.
LDS Family History Centers
The following family history centers in Michigan offer the most comprehensive genealogy resources, including census records, death records, family history records, obituaries, marriage records, vital records, court records, and various other public records.:
Closest to Wayne County, Michigan are:
|Ann Arbor Michigan |
914 Hill St
Ann Arbor, Michigan (734) 995-0211 Bloomfield Hills Michigan
425 Woodward Avenue
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (248) 647-5671
|published sources/ Online resources and databases/ digital collections: Ancestry.com www.ancestry.com Census records for Wayne county, from 1820 as well as regional and state census from 1799 to 1894. 1906 to 1957 immigration arrival records in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) record group 85. Many other Wayne County records found by typing “Wayne County, Michigan” in Ancestry’s search box. Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/burton/burton_index.htm A special commemorative brochure was compiled in honor of the collection’s 100th anniversary: http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/sites/default/files/Burton_Historical_Collection_100.pdf An extensive digital photo collection can be searched and copies ordered from the website. The Detroit Death Index (1920 to 2009) includes records from the Detroit Health Department but is not entirely searchable online. Cemeteries, Death Records, Obituaries See “Seeking Michigan” for Library of Michigan indexes. Most Detroit and Wayne County churches and cemeteries have compiled their own indexes and burial records. And the following website has links for indexes, cemeteries and obituaries. https://www.deathindexes.com/michigan/wayne.html Jewish Beth-El Archives http://www.tbeonline.org/cemetery The oldest synagogue in Detroit has shared it’s records online – of those of Blessed memory are recorded with birth date and death date in the synagogue’s cemetery. Newspapers The oldest paper in Wayne county is the Detroit Free Press. Previous newspapers include the Detroit Tribune, Detroit Times, Detroit News, Detroit Journal and there are several historically ethnic newspapers. The Detroit Public Library has clippings on file or microfilm and DPL staff will do look ups for a fee ($15-25; call for information). detroitpubliclibrary.org/services/services Seeking Michigan www.seekingmichigan.org Provides access to nearly a million death records, indexes, military records, Michigan census and maps, cemetery indexes and more. Immigration and naturalization records are now being indexed with the help of thousands of volunteers.|
 Wayne County, Michigan. Wikipedia History at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_County,_Michigan
 By Funnyhat at English Wikipedia – Self-madeTransferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Werewombat., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4381767
 Website – Genealogy Inc. https://www.genealogyinc.com/michigan/wayne-county/
 Crediting Genealogy Inc. at https://www.genealogyinc.com/michigan/wayne-county/ for this list of genealogical and historical societies.