Archives of Michigan hacks into history

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Genealogists and others interested in Michigan's rich heritage can help the Archives of Michigan hack into history by indexing naturalization records that previously were unavailable online.

Naturalization records, which document the process of immigrants becoming United States citizens, are among the most valuable records available to family historians. The Archives of Michigan holds hundreds of thousands of these records, dating from the 1830s to the 1980s. In a major effort to make its naturalization records available in a searchable online format, the archives is looking for volunteers to help in a new project just launched with partner www.FamilySearch.org.

Volunteers participate by downloading FamilySearch indexing software and electing to work on Michigan records. Then, FamilySearch provides the volunteers with digital images of naturalization records to transcribe key genealogical information from the records. Once the long-term project is completed, the collection – including both the images and index – will be available at no charge only at the Archives of Michigan Seeking Michigan website.

With Michigan’s long and distinguished history as an immigrant state, these naturalization records have significant ethnic research and genealogical value for dozens of ethnic groups from across the world, said State Archivist Mark Harvey. Each record potentially provides information on the immigrant’s birth, marriage and children, plus the date, ship name and port of arrival.

“Few states rivaled Michigan as a destination for immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries," Harvey said. "These records reveal the personal stories of immigrants who came to Michigan, settling in Upper Peninsula mining communities, working in Detroit automobile plants, farming in rural western Michigan.

"Even more important, these records help tell the larger story of our state’s rich and diverse history. Once online, the searchable information will be invaluable to the general public and researchers alike.”

The naturalization records indexing project is designed for volunteers to work from home without a great demand for time. Additional information about this project, including instructional material for using the FamilySearch indexing software, is available at seekingmichigan.org/naturalization.


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