Family History Festival at the Detroit Public Library

Saturday, September 27
Family History Festival at the Detroit Public Library
10:00 am to 5:00 pm – Friends Auditorium, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Michigan

This year’s featured speakers are: Kimberly T. Powell, who will make two presentations entitled DNA Testing for Family Historians and Digging Deeper into Local Land Records and Dr. Deborah A. Abbott who will make two presentations entitled The Gift of Legacy: Who’s Writing Your Story? and Vital Records: The Cornerstone of Genealogical Research. The festival will be held in the Friends Auditorium and is free and no pre-registration required. The Burton Historical Collection will be open for research from 10am-6pm. For further information please visit

Deadline for lunch orders to reach the library is September 20, 2013. Do not wait. The order form is on the bottom of the brochure.

Note: Free fenced-in parking is available for all Saturday Library events on the south (Putnam Street) side of the Library.

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Mark your Calendar for the 9th Annual Family History Festival (Free)

9th Annual Family History Festival – Not Far From the Tree

Saturday, September 27, 2014 - 10:00am - 6:00pm


5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit MI 48202


Detroit Society for Genealogical Research
Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society
Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation
Louisa St. Clair Chapter
Daughters of the American Revolution

10:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Registration and refreshments
Receive your packet with the day’s schedule and other handouts (and your lunch ticket, if you pre-ordered from us) and then go to the  Staff Lounge for refreshments provided by the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research.

All sessions will be held in Friends Auditorium. 

10:45 a.m. – Noon

Kimberly T. Powell
DNA Testing for Family Historians

12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Dr. Deborah A. Abbott  The Gift of Legacy:  Who’s Writing Your Story?

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Lunch Break

If you pre-ordered a lunch, please come to the Staff Lounge.  All lunches must be pre-ordered. 
Click here to register for lunch.

2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.

Kimberly T. Powell
Digging Deeper into Local Land Records

4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Dr. Deborah A. Abbott
Vital Records:  The Cornerstone of Genealogical Research

PLEASE NOTE: The Burton Historical Collection will be open with full reference service from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Hotel Paul Revere

While reading through some of her great-grandfather’s letters written to her great-grandmother, Sarah C., found one written from the Hotel Paul Revere in Detroit, dated 1941. He writes to his wife about visiting Belle isle and how it’s the place “everyone goes to get away from home.”

Thank you, Sarah, for giving us a glimpse into your family’s history and sharing a piece of Detroit history with us at the DSGR.

Hotel Paul Revere Envelope


Hotel Paul Revere Map

Where do I find Detroit and Wayne County (Death) vital records online? – Part 3 – Seeking Michigan

Seeking Michigan ( has been a wonderful resource for 1897-1920 Michigan death certificates since its launch on March 17, 2009. The surge of researchers, clamoring to find their Michigan ancestors, crashed the servers before the website was one day old.

I’m sure many of you have used this website to break down some brick walls. Most Genealogists/family historians will happily share where fellow researchers can obtain Michigan death certificate images for free (Thanks to the Archives of Michigan).

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Typical information found on 1897-1920 Michigan death certificates:

• First and last name of deceased
• Date of death
• Place of death
• Age in years, months and days
• Birthplace
• Race
• Whether married, single, widowed, or divorced
• If married, age at first marriage
• Disease or apparent cause of death
• Occupation, if over 10 years of age
• Parent of how many children
• How many children are living
• Full names of both parents
• Birthplaces of both parents
• Proposed place of burial
• Signature and address of reporter certifying above facts
• Signature and address of undertaker
• Date of record


Rather than regurgitate what other reviewers have said about Seeking Michigan on webpages, blogs, etc  (feel free to Google though), I rather discuss a few ways to whittle down the results from 100 possible records to under 20 records in most cases.



You can never have too many search fields! I adore that I have many options (in advanced search) to choose from and can mix them up to narrow the search. Searching state death records by given name, surname, year of death, and place of death are pretty common search options. Seeking Michigan allows us also to search by day of death, month of death, county of death, age at death, father’s given name, and father’s surname. These are wonderful field options when the death certificate was filled out by someone with illegible handwriting or if your ancestor has a hard to spell and/ or uncommon first name/surname.


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Day and/or month of death
This option is useful when a relative mentions in passing that an ancestor died on New Year’s Eve a few years before WWI but couldn’t recall the year

County of death
Love this option when a family lived in the same county for multiple generations. You can learn of children that were born and died between censuses, what cemeteries were primarily used by a family, or flush out Great Uncle Ebenezer Willis, who was born, resided, and died in one county but was indexed under Ebenezer Williams.

Father’s given name and surname
A wonderful search option when you are looking for the death certificate of a married female ancestor. It is also helpful when trying to learn how many children your scalawag Great Grandfather may have conceived.


Seeking Michigan allows you to use wild cards “*” in your search. This is a delightful option when sibling ancestors alter their surnames by one or two letters. While assisting a friend with her Kraft/Kreft/Craft/Creft ancestors, we found some relatives were listed as Kroft/Croft on their death certificates (or the “o” was actually an “a” or an “e” but accidentally transcribed incorrectly…It happens).
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And lastly (what I believe to be the most overlooked option), the drop-down menu on the left side of the data field. This allows you to choose “all of the words,” “any of the words,” “the exact phrase,” or “none of the words” within each search field. “All of the words,” is the default option but I have found “any of the words,” is very helpful when an ancestor had a nickname or several. Jozef is one name that comes to mind when I’ll use “any of the words” since Jozef could also be written down as Joseph, Josef, Joe, etc.

sm 3Happy Hunting!

Next post: Find A Grave & Billion Graves

Where do I find Detroit and Wayne County (Death) vital records online? – Part 2 – Other Family Search collections for Detroit and Wayne County Deaths

I completely understand the frustration Detroit researchers feel when their ancestor is not found in the Family Search Michigan death (and burial) record collections. These are a few other collections on Family Search that can help you zero in on a death date for your Detroit and Wayne County ancestors.

United States Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
308,492 Detroit Death Records
716,450 Wayne County Death Records
This collection is the master index file of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration from 1962 to September 30, 2012. There are even a few deaths from 1937 to 1961 thrown in.

Typical information found on SSDI files

  • Name of the deceased
  • Birth date
  • Death date
  • Age
  • Social Security Number
  • State or territory where the Social Security number was issued
  • Last place of residence on file, zip code and corresponding localities


United States Deceased Physician File (AMA), 1864-1968
If you had a doctor in the family, these physician bios might help fill in some of the blanks. This collection contains record images from the American Medical Association (AMA) deceased physician card file. Usually, the front of the card has a obit-like typed bio and the back has hand written notes from over the years. Now these records you have to work a bit for since they are not indexed but may be a goldmine.

Typical information found on AMA’s deceased physician cards

  • Name
  • Death date
  • Where practiced

The cards may also list

  • Where they attended school
  • Where they were stationed during a war
  • Where living at the time of death
  • Cause of death
  • Professional affiliations

Phy bio 1- side 1

Phy bio - side 2


United States Headstone Applications for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1949
1,212 Detroit Death Records
This collection contains applications for headstones received by the Cemeterial Division of the Quartermaster General during 1925-1949. It is a wonderful resource especially when the veteran’s Michigan death certificate is transcribed incorrectly on Family Search.

Tombstone order Record


Next post: Seeking Michigan (

Where do I find Detroit and Wayne County (Death) vital records online? – Part 1 -Michigan & Ontario Family Search Death Record Resources

Ahh… Death records. Many family historians will or already have altered out-of-state family vacations to obtain death information on their ancestors. Whenever I travel, I locate county clerk offices, courthouses, cemeteries, and state archives along the way, just in case I might need to stop for records I cannot obtain online or in my home state.

Fortunately, Michigan researchers are only a click away from unearthing Detroit and Wayne County death information ranging from 1800–1996. Better yet, Detroit and Wayne County death record images are available from 1867 – 1920 online for free thanks to Family Search and the Archives of Michigan – Seeking Michigan ( Just in the past year, researchers have been able to view indexed Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952 information and request image copies from Family Search for free.  How to receive free Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952 images on Family Search will be covered shortly.

Typical information found on Michigan death records
(Varies by record collection)

  • Name of deceased
  • Death date and place
  • Birth date and place
  • Age
  • Residence
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Name of spouse
  • Names of parents
  • Cause of death
  • Name and relationship of informant
  • Burial date and place

With so many resources at our disposal, the topic of Detroit death records will be spread out over several posts (Michigan & Ontario Family Search death records, Other Family Search death records, & Seeking Michigan, etc.) over the next few weeks. Today, we’ll be looking at Michigan & Ontario Family Search death record resources.

Family Search

Michigan, Deaths and Burials, 1800-1995
140,196 Detroit death records
268,302 Wayne County death records
A random collection of indexed Michigan deaths and burials from 1800-1995


Michigan, Death Index, 1971-1996
382,644 Detroit death records
622,675 Wayne County death records
The collection is an index is provided by and consists of indexes to deaths for the years 1971 – 1996 from the Michigan Department of Vital and Health Records (Lansing, MI).


Michigan, Deaths, 1867-1897 **With Images**
73,042 Detroit death records
94,096 Wayne County death records
Registration of Michigan deaths began in 1867 and continued until 1897 when the state required a death certificate be issued. This collection covers deaths registered by county clerks from 1867-1897. With only a smidgen over 500,000 records in the entire collection, Family Search estimates that nearly half of Michigan deaths were not recorded.

I have learned from personal experience that when you order a death certificate from the State of Michigan during this time period, they take the exact data off these records to fill in the certificate. They have no more information that what you see on the Family Search images so you might want to save yourself $36+ unless you’d like death certificate with the raised seal from the State of Michigan.


Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952
454,692 Detroit death records
592,534 Wayne County death records
The collection consists of an index of death records from the Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics (Lansing, MI) and was indexed by Family Search volunteers in 2012 & 2013. If you were researching your Michigan ancestors at the time, you anxiously awaited (and constantly checked Family Search) for the release of this collection.
(Lansing, MI)

So how do I receive free Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952 images on Family Search?

With Family Search’s Photoduplication Service, you can request photo copy of Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952 or any other record not found online at or at

Diane Gould Hall of Michigan Family Trails posted a wonderful “how to” guide on requesting a Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952 from Family Search’s photoduplication services and where to find the correct information to fill out the request form.
Photo Duplication Requests on Family Search – Plus A Little Bit About Legacy and Evernote


Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947
Being so close, Many Detroiters enjoyed crossing over to Ontario, Canada for various reasons like vacations, business, or to visit family.
This collection is a tad finicky. If you type in the place of death as “Detroit”, anyone who died (1939-1947) or was buried (1869-1937) in Detroit will come up.

I  had one 2nd Great Grandfather retire in Ontario after living in Detroit for 45+ years. Image my surprise to find his death certificate when not one time in the years I researched his life was there a mention of his summer home in Riverside, Ontario.

Robert Keller Ontario Death Certificate

Next post: Other Michigan Death Records on Family Search




Where do I find Detroit and Wayne County (marriage & divorce) vital records online?

Marriage records can either knock brick walls down or reinforce them. Those little slips of paper can hold a treasure trove of family information and Wayne County researchers have multiple online resources at our disposal.

Typical information found on Michigan marriage records
(varies by record collection)

• Name of the bride and groom
• Date of marriage license
• Date and place of marriage
• Age of bride and groom
• Race of bride and groom
• Residence of bride and groom
• Birthplace of bride and groom
• Name of bride’s and groom’s parents
• Occupation of bride and groom
• Number of times previously married
• Name of person performing the marriage
• Witnesses to the marriage and their residence


Family Search

Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1935
22,188 Wayne County marriage records

Michigan, Marriages, 1822-1995
440,926 Detroit marriage records
659,434 Wayne County marriage records
While this electronic index collection is not complete for all of Michigan, it is a wonderful resource for Wayne County.

Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925
596,637 Detroit marriage records
748,724 Wayne County marriage records
Name index and images of marriages recorded in the State of Michigan. This is an excellent resource for Detroit researchers since the collection doesn’t just contain marriage records but marriage licenses, applications, registers, and certificates as well.

Michigan Marriages, 1851-1875
22,006 Wayne County marriage records
The Wayne County records in this database cover the years 1851 through 1869.

Michigan Marriages to 1850
18 Wayne County marriage records
(Eh.. I guess better than none)

U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895
4,513 Detroit marriage records
If you are lucky enough to find your ancestors in this database, you’ll be delighted with the wonderfully detailed documentation.
Information recorded on U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages includes:
• Names of husband and wife
• Whether deaf or hearing
• Age at which deafness occurred and the cause of deafness
• If attended school
• Occupation
• Details relating to the couple’s marriage (including date and place)
• Details relating to couple’s children, parents, and their siblings

  • names
  • number deaf or hearing
  • dates of birth
  • dates of death & cause of death



The Dibean Michigan Marriage Index
Jack and Marianne Dibean collected Michigan marriage information from various places over the years and researchers have sent them their ancestor’s marriage information to be organized into a free index that is available on MIGenWEB



Sometimes marriages just do not work and couples divorce. Usually to find Detroit divorce records information, researchers would most likely have to go to a courthouse or the State of Michigan Archives in Lansing. Not anymore. added Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952 on June 11, 2014 and I’m sure many Genealogists/family historians did little happy dances as they located their ancestors.

Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952
1,089,951 Wayne County marriage records
This database includes divorce records created by the Michigan Department of Health, Bureau of Records and Statistics, as well as court returns of divorces.

Information on the divorce records may include:
• county and court of decree
• names and ages of both parties
• marriage date and location
• number of children
• who filed the complaint and the date of filing
• date of the final action
• alleged cause of divorce
• whether case was granted, contested, refused, or withdrawn
• whether the divorce was granted absolutely or with conditions

The issuing court may have more detailed information on the event.

Where do I find Detroit and Wayne County vital records online?

When you begin researching an individual, it is best to start with the 3 most treasured vital records of Genealogists/family historians: Birth, Marriage, and Death records. Let’s begin with Detroit/Wayne County birth records.

There are several great online resources for Detroit/Wayne County birth records. Please remember that even though all births were to be recorded by the county clerk and forwarded to the state of Michigan starting in 1867, some residents didn’t comply and sometimes paperwork became lost between the county clerk receiving the information and the state actually recording the data. Sometimes the birth was recorded by the state 12 – 18 months after the event.

Family Search
Michigan Births, 1867 – 1902

  • Index and images of Michigan statewide birth registration entries for the years 1867 to 1902.
  • 213,435 Detroit records
  • 267,515 Wayne County records

Michigan, Births and Christenings, 1775-1995

  • A random collection of indexed Michigan births and christenings during the years 1775 to 1995
  • 342,182 Detroit records
  • 446,484 Wayne County records
Michigan, Births and Christenings Index, 1867-1911

  • This database is an index extracted from more than 1.5 million birth, baptism, and christening records from Michigan.
  • 231,502 Detroit records
  • 297,563 Wayne County records