The Company of Fort Mackinac Descendants

Fort Mackinac ca. late 1890s

Genealogy, the study and tracing of one’s lines of descent or ancestry, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Document-rich sites like,, and, contain billions of records that help individuals discover their family roots. The resources created to serve genealogists are extremely useful to professional historians looking to learn more about the human history of their fields of research.  In writing The Soldiers of Fort Mackinac, An Illustrated History, Phil Porter, Mackinac State Historic Parks Director, spent countless hours on looking for information about the men who served at the island fort.  

While writing the book, he discovered that more than 4,500 British and United States soldiers served at Fort Mackinac during its 115-year period occupation. It is safe to say that there are hundreds of thousands of lineal descendants from those soldiers living today. While the vast majority are unaware of their Fort Mackinac connection, there are some, including several who live on the island and in the Straits of Mackinac region, who know about their Fort Mackinac connection. Mackinac State Historic Parks would like to add to that list.

Lieutenant Calvin Cowles

Ordnance Sergeant William Marshall

In an effort to identify and recognize those direct, lineal descendants we are creating an exclusive group called “The Company of Fort Mackinac Descendants.” Membership in this group is reserved for those who have a direct line to an ancestor who served at the fort; in other words, a child, grandchild, great grandchild, etc. For example, even though Porter shares a common ancestor with Lieutenant Calvin D. Cowles, who served at Fort Mackinac in the 1880s, he is not eligible through Cowles as he descended through a different line of the family. On the other hand, Mackinac Island resident Candy Smith is eligible as she is a direct descendant of Ordnance Sergeant William Marshall, who served at Fort Mackinac from 1848 to 1884.

Membership in “The Company of Fort Mackinac Descendants” offers something more than a family tree diagrammed on a piece of paper. It provides a connection with a real place. Members have a unique opportunity to walk the grounds and inspect the buildings used by their ancestors. They can see where their forebears fired cannons, marched sentry beats, assembled for reveille at dawn, performed fatigue duty, and visited the post surgeon. Staff historians will provide access to our archival resources, including muster rolls, rosters, military correspondence, diaries, letters, and photographs, that will provide meaning and context to their ancestor’s service at Fort Mackinac. Membership benefits include a certificate documenting the member’s ancestry connection to Fort Mackinac, access to archival materials for additional research, and complimentary admission to Fort Mackinac. If you have an ancestor that you think might have served at Fort Mackinac, do not hesitate to contact us. We have information on almost every United State soldier who served at Fort Mackinac.


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