Michigan Court Records
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When Wayne County was organized in 1796 as part of the Northwest Territory, the county clerk handled all legal matters in the area. After the Michigan Territory was established in 1805, the Supreme Court kept probate and other files. Since statehood (1837), several Michigan courts have kept records of genealogical value:
- Circuit courts serve from one to four counties and have exclusive jurisdiction over felony cases, chancery, and major civil, domestic, and equity matters. They have appellate jurisdiction over district courts. They also handled naturalizations prior to 1906.
- District courts operate on a county, district, or municipal level with jurisdiction over misdemeanors, ordinance violations, and minor civil matters.
- Municipal courts have citywide jurisdiction in minor criminal and civil cases. Some also hear small claims cases.
- Supreme Court is the final court of appeal. The Family History Library has copies of the following:
Michigan. Supreme Court. Court Records, 1819–1857: Index to Cases, 1805-1857. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1974. (Family History Library films 955816–29.) An index to supreme court case files for 1805–1857 and court journals for 1819 to 1857.
United States. Territorial Court (Michigan). Records of the Territorial Court, Michigan, 1816–1836. M1111. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1988. (Family History Library films 1601888–96.) Records of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Michigan acting as Circuit and District Court of the United States of America.
County courts were abolished in 1833 and left few records of genealogical value.
You can obtain copies of court records from the clerk's office in the appropriate court. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of a few Michigan court records, notably some circuit court records for some of the northern counties.
National Archives at Chicago hold the archives of court cases for The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Case copies may be requested (for a fee).