Information Throughout the Kalamazoo Region
Any genealogical search in Kalamazoo County should start with an inquiry of the Local Information Database for each individual being searched. The search will retrieve items from the Kalamazoo Gazette Index, local magazines, the clipping files, and brief biographical information from a variety of other sources. While this database does not index everything we own, it grows every day, and is an excellent short-cut way to begin a search.
A detailed list of the contents of this index, frequently updated, is usually available in the literature rack near the Local History Room desk, and is also available on this web-site.
Three county histories that also contain biographical sketches of prominent residents are:
- History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: Everts & Abbott, 1880.
- Fisher, David and Frank Little, editors. Compendium of History and Biography of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., .
- Fuller, George N. Historic Michigan, Land of the Great Lakes. Vol. 3, An Account of Kalamazoo County, Its Life, Resources, Industries, People, Politics. National Historical Association, [c1924].
The Local History Room owns all of the population schedules of the federal censuses for Michigan from 1820 through 1930. Printed indexes that include Kalamazoo County are available for 1830 through 1890 (only the Veterans Rolls exist for 1890). We also own the soundexes for 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920.
Printed indexes are housed in the Local History Room itself. All microfilm is kept in the Tech Center next door, where reader/printers are also available. Online indexes to all open censuses, including 1930 can be found on ancestry.com, to which the library has a subscription (must be used in the library).
The collection holds microfilmed deeds for the county from 1831 through 1903, including grantee and grantor indexes. A useful transcription of original land purchases in the county can be found in First Landowners of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, first published in Michigan Heritage Magazine in installments between 1961 and 1965 (further details of these original transactions can be searched on the Bureau of Land Management’s Web page). Plat maps or atlases that show land ownership are available for 1853, c1855, 1861, 1873, 1890, 1910, 1913, c1919, 1928, 1953, 1958, 1960, 1964, 1966, 1969, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1993, and 1996. Even the earliest of these rarely shows ownership of town lots.
See Microfilm for a list of Kalamazoo County Vital Records that we hold. Later records are kept at the Kalamazoo County Clerk-Register’s office at 201 W. Kalamazoo Ave. (birth records are legally closed in Michigan for 100 years).
Books in our collection that deal with Kalamazoo County cemetery records are:
- Brewer, Robert L. Kalamazoo’s First Cemetery, 1833–1862. Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society, c1987.
- Ferrara, Joe. Tombstone Inscriptions of Catholic Riverside Cemetery. The Author, 2001.
- Fitzpatrick, Rosemary. Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery Index December 1888–December 1936. Typescript, 1971. For later burials, contact the Mt. Olivet office at (269) 342-9585.
- Kalamazoo City Cemeteries, 1953 [Mountain Home and Riverside]. For burials in city-owned cemeteries after 1953, contact the city cemetery office at (269) 337-8227.
- Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society. Burials in Kalamazoo County, Michigan: Richland Township, Prairie Home Cemetery. Published by the Society in 2001.
- Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society. Tombstone Inscriptions in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Published by the Society in 1980.
- Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society. Cemetery Readings in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, Cooper Township: East Cooper Cemetery, West Cooper Cemetery. Elmer Sanborn, 1999.
- Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society. Cemetery Readings in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, Ross Township: Augusta Cemetery, Day Cemetery, Howlandsburg Cemetery, Ross Center (Stoney Lake) Cemetery, Yorkville (Lakeview) Cemetery. The Society, 1999.
- McCreary, Jennie Virgo. Virgo Cemetery: Corner of R.S. Ave., & Van Kal Street, Texas Township, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. 1969.
- Monteith, Ruth Robbins. Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Kalamazoo, MI: Genealogical Association of Southwestern Michigan, 1959.
- Smith, Sydney. The Oak Grove Cemetery & Old City Cemetery, City of Galesburg, Kalamazoo County, Michigan : a Compilation of Interments with Biographical and Genealogical Notations. 1999.
Some county cemetery records, including those from Mountain Home and Riverside, appear on a website called Kalamazoo County, Michigan, Cemeteries on the Web, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mikccem/. The only major cemetery in the county for which we do not have at least partial records is Mount Ever-Rest. Contact their office at (269) 343-6820.
Kalamazoo is fortunate to have a wealth of county newspapers preserved on microfilm, including an almost complete run of the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1834 to the present.
The History Room has a complete run of Kalamazoo city directories from 1860, most in paper copy, a few on microfiche. Directories were not published every year, but with only a few exceptions, were generally published at least in alternate years.
We have a small collection of published family histories, primarily concerning county families. To locate them, do a subject search in the Catalog, using “[surname] family” as the search term. Some of these are in fragile condition and are kept in History Room Storage. Please ask desk staff for assistance in retrieving them.
We maintain an extensive file of newspaper clippings about local residents. The collection is richest from 1928 to 1968, but does contain some materials from other periods of time. The 40-drawer subject file also contains much useful information about individuals, if you know what businesses or organizations people were associated with. In addition to clippings, the subject files also contain newsletters, programs, annual reports, and other non-book information. Both the personal name files and the Kalamazoo subject files are indexed in the Local Information Database.
There is only a small portrait file in the History Room. These have been cataloged and appear in the Local Photographs Database. Most have now been scanned and are available to view on this web site. Other pictures can be retrieved from published books by consulting the Local Information Database.
Vital Records File
This is a large card file located in the card catalog cabinet in the History Room (pink-labeled drawers). It abstracts information about baptisms, marriages and burials from some county church records, cemeteries, newspapers and other sources. It is a useful source for early county families, but care should be taken about spelling variations, and the cards are sometimes abbreviated to the point where they are not self-explanatory. Please feel free to ask the staff for help. The key to the source codes is in the front of the first drawer of that file. Joe Ferrara, a Kalamazoo area genealogist, scanned the entire vital records card file and made it available on his website, www.kalamazoogenealogy.org.
World War Records
This 27 volume manuscript collection chronicles the service of more than 10,000 Kalamazoo County men and women in World War I and World War II. The records often give the date and place of birth, names of parents, spouses, and children, and details about the military service. Most also include newspaper clippings about service experiences and war-time weddings. This set is indexed in the Local Information Database.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Robert E. Meader and others collected biographical information about county families, and compiled it into a 36-volume set of manuscripts known as the Historical Directory. The sketches included in it are usually three or four pages long and often contain information about the ancestors, spouses, children, and sometimes in-laws of the subject, and usually give colorful personal details of a sort not often included in obituaries. Almost all the sketches are accompanied by an 8 x 10 black and white portrait of the subject. All of the main subjects in this set are indexed in the Local Information Database.
Updated September 9, 2009.