Kalamazoo Sources

Local Information Database

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.

County Histories

Three county histories that also contain biographical sketches of prominent residents are:

Censuses

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).

Land Records

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.

Vital Records

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 Avenue (birth records are legally closed in Michigan for 100 years).

Cemeteries

Books in our collection that deal with Kalamazoo County cemetery records are:

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.

Newspapers

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.

City Directories

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.

Genealogies

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.

Clipping Files

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. 

Photographs

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

Special Collections

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.

Meader Collection

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.