Collection Spotlight: City of Ishpeming Cemetery Records

Life was precarious in the early part of the twentieth century. Many babies were either stillborn or premature, and children died young from scarlet fever, whooping cough, influenza, and infantile paralysis, better known as polio. Pneumonia was a huge killer in adults, as was tuberculosis, diabetes, heart diseases and cerebral hemorrhage.  Alzheimer’s was not known, but people did die from senility.

Death also came from suicide, accident and workplace hazards, which in mining towns such as Ishpeming were the result of falling rocks, cage malfunctions and other causes. In February of 1911, an explosion of powder, probably from the Hercules powder plant, killed some of the workers.  

Last summer, workers from the archives ventured into the dank, dusty depths of Ishpeming’s City Hall to rescue most of their old records. These records are now being processed, beginning with the Ishpeming Cemetery Records, which gives information about causes of death such as those described above. Some of the records are not very legible, as they are copies and the city clerks did not always change the carbon paper when it was needed. Reading the handwriting is often challenging. Damp conditions damaged many of the records.

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The City of Ishpeming records shortly after retrieval from the basement of City Hall.

The cemetery records can give such information (if known) as name, date of birth, date of death, cause of death, where the deceased lived and names of parents. This information can be helpful to genealogists. There are gaps in the records, as some of the books may have been tossed out at an earlier date.  The archives also has coroner’s inquest records and CCI mining accident records which may have death dates and causes of death. If coming to the archives to look at the cemetery records, it is best to have a death date.

If looking for a burial site in the Ishpeming cemetery there are two additional places to go for information, the sexton’s office, which has records and maps of the cemetery and the Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library. To contact the city sexton, go to the City of Ishpeming website, which has a map of all the blocks in the city cemetery.

In addition to the cemetery records, there are voter registration records from the 1890s through the mid-1930s, which give a voter’s name and address. They are organized by ward, however, and we have so far been unable to find useful descriptions of the boundaries of the wards. For someone looking for an address of where an ancestor lived, they may be helpful. Census records were usually organized by wards and may be of help to determine which ledgers to look through. Because women were not allowed to vote until 1919 (in Michigan and 1920 nationwide), they aren’t listed until that year. There are separate ledgers for female voters through the year 1927.

Other ledgers contain minutes of the City Council, committee minutes, payroll details, and more. The assessments for the first sewer and water lines are there (these records may also contain names, but not addresses),  and there are also several boxes full of loose documents which will be processed.   

Interested in learning more about the City of Ishpeming records? Come in and check them out or email us for more information at archives@nmu.edu.

Written by Karen Kasper

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