In the WWI draft records from 1917-1918, in Michigan, we find entries for two very interesting men. Richard Michigand and William Meshigand, both from Menominee Co. Of course, seeing these two surnames, I have to wonder if perhaps if the surname and the fact that they live in Michigan in coincidence. Let’s see what we can find.
Is the word Michigan Native? Turns out that it is, indeed, of Native origin. The word Michigan is a French derivative of the Ojibwe misshikama (read [mish-ih-GAH-muh] “big lake” (compare kitchikama “great lake”, pronounced [gitch-ih-GAH-ma] or Gitchee-Gumee as rendered by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (Reference) Indeed, the French were the first Europeans to explore Michigan.
Death records for Menominee County, located in Michigan’s upper peninsula shows a group of Indians living in Cedarville, Michigan in the late 1800s, even though the Menominee Tribe had ceded their lands in Michigan in the 1830s. During the draft registration in 1917-1918, many men registered in Menominee County who were Indian.
Today, the Sioux St. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is headquartered in Cedarville in Minominee County.
But back to Mr. Michigand and Mr. Meshigand. Perhaps the word Michigan was influential in how their surnames were spelled. If they were spoken in a phonetically similar way to Michigan, it would be natural to spell them that way as well. And after all, they did indeed, live on one of the “big lakes,” Lake Superior.