The Family History Index consists of over 15,500 records of Chelsea residents from its founding in 1834 to the present. Records include name information about the decedent, parents, spouses, and children, as well as dates of birth and death, places of birth and death, cemetery, funeral home, date of obituary, and an image of the complete obituary where available.
Formerly known as the Obituary File, the Family History Index offers those seeking out family history an extensive and thorough historical collection of all those that died in Chelsea as far back as the early 1800s, including some from Ann Arbor, Jackson, and other surrounding locales.
Started in the 1950s by community leader Harold A. Jones, the Family Index now holds entries in 50 drawers. Throughout his years, Jones often walked many of the western Washtenaw cemeteries, gathering information from gravestones and transcribing them onto index cards. The bulk of his collection was entrusted to the library upon his death in 1987.
Spearheaded by Betty Marsh, the Chelsea District Library’s 2002 Volunteer of the Year, the collection has been completely updated and reorganized. Her efforts and the dedication of other volunteers, have created an extremely valuable resource for both the Chelsea community and genealogists around the country. Completed in 2004, the updated collection was celebrated with a talk by Library of Michigan genealogy specialist Carol Callard.
In 2005, the library embarked on a project to digitize these records. More than 50 volunteers assisted with entering information into an online database, which provides search capabilities and images of obituary cards for those researching their family history. A small corps of volunteers continue to work to create and enter new obituary cards into the database.