2017-02-09 / News

Unique Genealogy Resources Available at Library

The St. Ignace Public Library offers a genealogy resource room, where people can access records through a card file that serves as an index of some longtime St. Ignace family information, digitized archives of the St. Ignace newspaper dating to 1888, and some local cemetery records. A partial index of St. Ignace family names mentioned in the Cheboygan newspapers years ago is also available there.

The focus of the library’s collection is to offer information not otherwise available online. (See related story on this page.)

A local group interested in furthering genealogy research meets at the library on Wednesday evenings, and meetings are on hiatus currently but are expected to resume in March. Everyone is welcome.

A common place to start with a research project is a written newspaper obituary, which often names other family members, birth, marriage, and death dates, and place of burial.

Among the library’s resources are records of Mackinac County cemeteries, including a comprehensive book detailing the plots and families at Gros Cap Cemetery, and the three cemeteries on Mackinac Island, which include the historic Fort Mackinac Post military cemetery.

“These are some of the oldest white European graves in this county,” said Judy Gross, who helps maintain and organize the genealogy room at the library. One book about the Gros Cap Cemetery includes not only records of names and dates on graves, but anecdotes and family connections helpfully recorded by someone familiar with the local families. “If your relative is there, you’ve hit the jackpot,” in terms of available information, she said.

The Gros Cap Cemetery book is also available at the Moran Township office.

Sometimes, cemetery or family lineage information can also be found in church records. Old family Bibles often were used to record family information such as births and deaths.

Other information useful to researchers, such as birth, marriage, and death records, and records of land ownership, is available at the Mackinac County Courthouse. Deed registrations, tax records, and plat books can offer helpful information. Military service records can also be informative.

Emerson Smith’s book, “Before the Bridge,” records dates when various families arrived at St. Ignace.

Information about Native American families can often be traced through government rolls, such as the Durant Roll, recording annual annuities paid to these families, which were their right by treaty. Those collecting the annuities came to Mackinac Island, then the county seat, to do so, and their names were recorded by the Department of Interior. Sometimes the names were Americanized, and sometimes not.

For people interested in researching their family tree, talking to relatives is a good first step, said Ms. Gross. And particularly in St. Ignace, “A lot of people here are related to a lot of other people here.”

“Go to your family and ask them what they know,” she said. “You can get dry statistics in lots of place, but the real stories are lost, unless you talk to people or read the old newspaper accounts. The newspaper can help you get a flavor of what life was like in those days. People then didn’t live in black and white, just like we don’t. Those newspaper archives are a fountain of information. Our library, for a small town library, has a wealth of stuff. I’m always impressed by what you can put your hands on there.”

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