2018-01-04 / Life in Leelanau


Death, divorce, marriage stats all increased in 2017
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

County vital statistics did an about-face last year with increases in three of four demographic areas tracked.

The Leelanau County Clerk’s office is the register of county vital statistics, maintaining and indexing life’s milestones on the peninsula.

Increases were recorded in deaths, marriages and divorces in 2017. But births, the smallest demographic group, got a little smaller. The last time there were increases in three of the four areas was 2010.

The most activity in 2017 was in the recording of applications to marry but it isn’t what it appears to be on the surface.

Some 216 marriage licenses were issued last year, up from 199 in 2016 but seven short of the record of 223, recorded in 2015.

However, more than half the licenses — 124 — were issued to out-of-state applicants, up from 104 in 2016.

Out-of-state marriage licenses and same-sex applicants were added as sub-categories to the demographics in 2015.

“A lot of people want to come here to marry,” county clerk Michelle Crocker said. “We’ve become quite a wedding destination and I see this number only growing.”

Last year, the number of same sex couples to whom licenses were issued fell to nine from 13 the previous year.

The total number of 216 is up 22 from the 10-year average of 194 recorded since 2008.

The most popular month to was September with 52 applications granted. The second most active month for matrimony was August at 38.

To provide a little perspective, in 2016 Leelanau County had the highest rate marriage recorded in the four-county area that includes Benzie, Grand Traverse and Antrim counties.

This according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

That year, 18.4 marriages occurred per 1,000 population. Benzie County followed with 16.3; Grand Traverse 14.3 and Antrim came in at 13.

However, the county had the lowest divorce rate in the four-county area at 3.4 per thousand — well below the rate of Antrim (6.6), Benzie (6.8) and Grand Traverse (7).

Figures for 2017 have yet to be released by MDHHS.

Recorded marriage licenses in the county reached a high of 223 in 2015. The low — 94 — took place in 1992.

Locally, 42 divorces were recorded last year, up from 39 in 2016, when the number of couples parting ways reached a 32-year low.

It’s also comes in below the 10-year average which is 55.5.

“This is a hard area to anticipate from one year to the next,” Crocker said. “It all depends on who files and when it’s recorded.”

The highest number of divorces recorded in Leelanau was 105 in 1999.The fewest in recent history was 35 in 1984.

Births and deaths are the other demographic statistics recorded in the county.

Last year, 12 babies were born on the Leelanau peninsula down from 14 in 2016 but significant as the area’s regional hospital is located in Grand Traverse County.

Prior to 1989, a good number of births took place at Leelanau Memorial Hospital in Northport.

“I’m always surprised at the number of home births we have,” Crocker said.

The highest number of birth in county was 28 in 1983. The low was one child born in 1994.

Deaths always outweigh the number of births in the county and last year was no exception. Some 147 deaths were recorded in the county during 2017, up from 132 the previous year.

Death certificates are recorded for each person who passes in the county whether accidental or anticipated.

“It seems a lot more ill people are choosing to pass at home,” Crocker said. “This, plus the fact that we have an aging population and don’t have a hospital keeps this number high.”

The highest number of deaths in the past three decades was 158 recorded in 2013. The fewest deaths were recorded in 1988 when 64 people passed locally.

Return to top