Archives of Michigan – 1921-1939 Death Certificates Available Online

April 22, 2015

The Archives of Michigan today made available images of Michigan death certificates from 1921 to 1939 for free on its website www.seekingmichigan.org.

The certificates join others from 1897 to 1920 that were previously made available. The Michigan collection now contains 2.6 million death certificates for researchers. Genealogy researchers, in particular, find death certificates useful while tracing family history.

State Archivist Mark Harvey said that the index of death certificates from 1940 to 1952 will be made available in about a month, with certificates from that period becoming available as privacy restrictions are lifted. For example, images of the certificates from 1940 will be made available online in January 2016. The death records represent a partnership between the Archives, the Vital Records Section of the Michigan Department of Community Health and FamilySearch.org.

“This collection of death certificates covers a period in Michigan history of significant growth and development,” Harvey said. “In these records, researchers will find evidence of the influx of Eastern European immigrants, the emergence of Detroit as the automotive capital of the world and the impact of the Great Depression.”

Researchers can search four different data fields. The certificates are indexed and searchable by an individual’s last name, first name, county and township/village/city of death, birth year, age and parents’ names. Additional information that can be found in death certificates includes the person’s occupation, cause of death, burial location and birthplace.

Among the death certificates in this group is that of illusionist and stunt performer Harry Houdini, who died in Detroit Oct. 31, 1926, of internal injuries after being punched multiple times in the abdomen by a fan at a show in Montreal several days earlier.

The Archives of Michigan is responsible for preserving the records of Michigan government and other public institutions. With documents dating back to 1792, the Archives of Michigan houses much of Michigan’s record heritage. More than 80 million state and local government records and private papers, 300,000 photographs and 500,000 maps, plus films and audio tapes are available for research. A growing number of materials in the Archives are available on its website at www.seekingmichigan.org.

The Michigan Historical Center is part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Its museums and archival programs help people discover, enjoy and find inspiration in their heritage. It includes the Michigan Historical Museum, 10 regional museums, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve and the Archives of Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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