Creating A Locality Guide – Wayne County Michigan

Locality Guide:  Judy Nimer Muhn

Research in Wayne County, Michigan

Historical Background:

The City of Detroit Flag (see below)

While David E. Heinman created the Flag of Detroit in 1907, it was not officially adopted by the city until 1948. The background of the flag commemorates the countries that have controlled the city over the years, and it is divided into four different sections. The lower left features the fleur-de-lis to represent France, who founded Detroit in 1701.  The upper right includes the gold lions of Great Britain, who controlled the city from 1760-1796. The upper left and the lower right sections represent the United States, the thirteen stripes and thirteen stars stand for the thirteen original colonies. 
The seal in the middle of the flag represents the fire that destroyed the city in 1805. Two women stand in the foreground while the city burns in the background.  The woman on the left weeps over the destruction, while the woman on the right consoles her by gesturing to a new city that will rise in its place.  Two Latin mottos read “Speramus Meliora” (meaning “We hope for better things) and “Resurget Cineribus” (meaning “It will rise from the ashes").
Description obtained from:

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 

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

The location of Wayne County now, in 2021.

Current map of the counties of SE Michigan, from Family Search, Research wiki:,_Michigan_Genealogy

The historic Guardian Building with exceptional architecture and a spectacular lobby.

The historic Guardian Building is the current location of the Wayne County Governmental offices.[4]

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.

Wayne County is included in the Detroit-WarrenDearborn, MI Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is one of several American counties named after Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne.[5]


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

For Further Assistance, Please Call:
(313) 833-2887 or (313) 833-2881 [6]

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

Phone: 313-224-6262

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[7]

Genealogical Societies In/Around Wayne County[8]:

Canton Historical Society 

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.

Dearborn Genealogical Society 

P.O. Box 1112

Dearborn 48121

Cemetery records, ancestor charts; this society is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Dearborn Historical Society 

915 Brady

Dearborn 48124

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).

Detroit Historical Society 

5401 Woodward

Detroit 48202

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.

Downriver Genealogical Society 

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.

Flat Rock Historical Society 

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
2nd Floor
28123 Orchard Lake Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48334-3738
(248) 553-2400 ext. 16

Lincoln Park Historical Society 

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.

Northville Genealogical Society 

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.

Plymouth Historical Society 

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!).

Polish Genealogical Society Of Michigan 

5201 Woodward Ave.

Detroit 48202-4007

Public and members-only databases; books, past publications/newsletters, surname lists and more.

Romulus Historical Society 

11121 Wayne Rd.

Romulus 48174

Redford Township Historical and Genealogical Society 

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. 

West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society 

3245 Junction Street

Detroit MI. 48210

Oral interviews and articles about people, history and culture are featured on the website.

Wayne County Irish Society 

31975 Cowan

Westland 48185

Western Wayne County Genealogical Society

 P.O. Box 530063

Livonia 48153-0063

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.

Wyandotte Historical Society 

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) 373-1408,4726,7-282-61083—,00.html  (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.

Library of Michigan

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.

Historical Society of Michigan

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: 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 A special commemorative brochure was compiled in honor of the collection’s 100th anniversary: 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.   Jewish Beth-El Archives 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).   Seeking Michigan 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.       

[1] Wayne County, Michigan.  Wikipedia History at,_Michigan

[2] Ibid.

[3] Maps of the US.

[4] By Funnyhat at English Wikipedia – Self-madeTransferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Werewombat., Public Domain,



[7] Website – Genealogy Inc.

[8] Crediting Genealogy Inc. at for this list of genealogical and historical societies.

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