Yes Researchers. There are $3 Detroit Death Certificates!

With several unanswered questions I had pertaining to the $3 uncertified Detroit death certificates, I decided to check it out myself.

640 Temple Street

640 Temple Street



I headed down to 640 Temple Street yesterday and parked on the street in front of the building. Wayne County also provides a secured free parking lot, left of the building.





When you walk in the building, a city worker will give you the form below and a numbered ticket. You will fill out the form(s) at one of the many tables in the lobby before you proceed to the security desk, in front of the elevators.


Detroit UDC search


At the security desk, you will sign the visitor register and the security officer will give you a visitor sticker. You’ll then proceed to the elevators behind you and head to the sixth floor. When the elevator opens, you’ll turn left and head down to room 626. You shouldn’t miss it on your right because a security officer will be standing next to it most of the time. This room (waiting room 1) is like a large conference room with TVs and large windows. You’ll wait until your number is called and you’ll proceed to the clerk’s office (waiting room 2), right across the hall. After finding a seat (there were maybe 15 chairs) in this small office, you’ll wait for one of the busy clerks to call your number. I’d say it took about 30 minutes from the time I walked into the building to having a clerk call my number.

Since I requested several death certificates between 1955 – 1971, they had to fax my requests to “the archives”, which I was told is Lansing’s Michigan Vital Records Office. The friendly clerk said they should be ready within the hour. Since I had an hour to spare and haven’t cruised Woodward Ave in the daytime since working at the State Theater (now The Fillmore) back in 2001, I cruised around and took in the sights.

I returned 45 minutes later to the clerk’s office (waiting room 2) and asked one of the clerks if my records were ready. After checking, she said “almost” and to take a seat in either waiting room for my name to be called by the security guard. I eagerly waited for my name to be called and within a few minutes I heard the security guard call out “McConville? Keller? Koch?”. Those were the surnames of the records I ordered. They were ready!

I merrily strolled up to the security guard, checked my death certificates on plain white copier paper, said “Thank you! Have a great weekend!” and headed toward the elevator. Receiving three death certificates for $9 out the door instead of $22 or $34 each like I’m used to, there was definitely a skip in my step on my way out of the building.


While “uncertified” is not an option on the form you fill out, it is an option on the paperwork the clerk fills out when you pay.
Detroit UDC receipt
The clerk I asked said to check the $3 search fee option and write “Uncertified Copy” on your death record search form. If you do not state you want an uncertified copy on the paperwork or when you talk to the clerk, they will issue you a certified copy.
* The death had to be in DETROIT

* You can only receive the $3 uncertified Detroit death certificates at the Temple Street building.

* All requests MUST be submitted and picked up in person on the same day. They will not accept requests by email, fax, or by phone.

* I wasn’t asked to prove my relationship to the deceased but you might be if the death was somewhat recent.

I hope this answers any questions you might have

Happy Hunting,
Deidre Erin

Allen County Public Library Bus Trip – 14 Mar 2015 – Register Now!

The Detroit Society for Genealogical Research is sponsoring its 28th Annual Research Trip to the Ft. Wayne / Allen County Public Library on Saturday, March 14, 2015. ACPL is the 2nd largest genealogical research library in the U.S. The cost of the charter bus trip is $35.00 per member ($40.00-non-members). If you wish to purchase a boxed meal, please add $10.00 and indicate when registering.

ft allenThe National Trails bus will leave from the Lawrence Technological University parking lot in Southfield promptly at 6:30 a.m., so please arrive by 6:15 a.m. A second pick-up stop will be made about 7:15 a.m. at the Chelsea Park & Ride at Exit 159 off I-94 (please indicate on the attached form or when checking out using PayPal).

The trip takes approximately 3 ½ hours each way. There is also a rest stop each way. You are responsible for your own transportation to and from the designated parking area. Please note: We will return to Southfield between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. There is neither a phone nor an inside waiting area at the University parking area. Breakfast is not provided. A letter or email with further details will be sent to all confirmed applicants. Registrations are limited to the first 52 persons – so don’t delay! We will maintain a waiting list in case of cancellations. Please duplicate the application form for additional persons. One check may be sent to cover all persons in your party, but separate Application Forms must be included.

Sign up online at and use Paypal to reserve your seat.

Detroit Death Certificates For Only $3? Tell Me More!

Huge thank you to Joseph W on the Detroit Genealogy Facebook page for sharing how to receive uncertified Detroit death certificates for $3.00.

Researchers can request uncertified Detroit death certificates at the Wayne County Clerk’s office on Temple Street (address information below). The record is printed on plain white paper which it fine for me since I’m using the record for genealogy purposes anyway. I was kinda surprised that the County Clerk’s website doesn’t mention the availability of uncertified death certificates or I would have saved quite a bit of money last year for my own clients. As far as I knew, I could only receive certified Detroit death records after 1921 for $22 from Wayne County or $34 when ordered from the State of Michigan Vital Records Office in Lansing. Thankfully, Seeking Michigan has 1897 – 1921 Michigan death certificates online.

Anytime Michigan researchers can receive vital records at a reduced fee, we (or maybe just me) order records for collateral kin or people that we might be able to confirm or rule out as possible family members.

Since I haven’t submitted my already growing list (of collateral kin) yet, I cannot say whether your request has to be in person or you can mail/fax/email requests but I think you’d have to pick them up in person. I’ll give an update when I find out more.

Happy Hunting,
Deidre Erin

The Office of the Wayne County Clerk
C/o City of Detroit Birth & Death Records Division
640 Temple Street; Suite 625
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 833-2887 & (313) 833-2881

DSGR’s January Meeting: Exploring Your English Roots

Exploring Your English Roots with Kathryn Lake Hogan

Saturday, January 10Brit Detroit

Explorer’s Conference Room
Detroit Public Library,
5201 Woodward Ave.,
Detroit, Michigan


klhKathryn Lake Hogan, professional genealogist and author, will conduct a session for family historians who are beginning to explore their roots in England. Census records of England and Wales, birth, marriage and death registrations, and parish registers will be introduced and discussed.


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

Huge Update to Wayne County (& Michigan) Probate Records on Family Search

mi proHuge update a week ago to the Michigan probate records collection on Family Search, including Wayne County. From a handful of county records available to most of the counties in Michigan, many of us are going to be busy researching this collection far into 2015 .

Michigan, Probate Records, 1797 – 1973

Here is a general date range of available county records:

Alcona County – 1868 – 1972
Alpena County – 1872 – 1974
Antrim County – 1864 – 1910
Arenac County – 1883 – 1904
Baraga County – 1883 – 1904
Barry County – 1860 – 1901, 1936 – 1937
Bay County – 1858 – 1916
Benzie County – 1869 – 1922
Berrien County – 1889 – 1903
Branch County – 1833 – 1927
Calhoun County – 1835 – 1976
Cass County – 1832 – 1904
Charlevoix County – 1882 – 1905
Cheboygan County – 1789 – 1910
Chippewa County – 1834 – 1930
Clare County – 1872 – 1923
Crawford County – 1879 – 1964
Delta County – 1872 – 1901
Dickinson County – 1891 – 1912
Eaton County – 1838 – 1972
Emmet County – 1857 – 1901
Genesee County – 1857 – 1883
Grand Traverse County – 1853 – 1902
Gratiot County – 1855 – 1900
Hillsdale County – 1835 – 1915
Houghton County – 1872 – 1904
Huron County – 1866 – 1920
Ingham County – 1842 – 1933
Ionia County – 1837 – 1958
Iosco County – 1876 – 1906
Iron County – 1886 – 1900
Isabella County – 1859 – 1976
Jackson County – 1832 – 1901
Kalamazoo County – 1833 – 1940
Keweenaw County – 1866 – 1938
Lake County – 1872 – 1910
Lapeer County – 1838 – 1900
Leelanau County – 1889 – 1973
Livingston County – 1895 – 1905
Luce County – 1888 – 1900
Mackinac County – 1821 – 1900
Macomb County – 1825 – 1869
Manistee County – 1855 -1968
Manitou County – 1873 – 1885
Marquette County – 1840 – 1904
Mason County – 1835 – 1976
Mecosta County – 1820 – 1920
Menominee County – 1872 – 1900
Missaukee County – 1871 – 1900
Monroe County – 1800 – 1878
Muskegon County – 1859 – 1935
Oakland County – 1822 – 1911
Oceana County – 1859 – 1935
Ogemaw County – 1877 – 1912
Ontonagon County – 1853 – 1914
Osceola County – 1870 – 1915
Oscoda County – 1881 – 1954
Otsego County – 1875 – 1928
Ottawa County – 1844 – 1975
Presque Isle County – 1871 – 1974
Roscommon County – 1874 – 1917
Shiawassee County – 1837 – 1901
St. Clair County – 1828 – 1975
Tuscola County – 1850 – 1966
Van Buren County – 1837 – 1912
Wayne County – 1797 – 1901
Wexford County – 1869 – 1901

Happy Hunting!

Deidre Erin

Helpful post: How to search Wayne County Probate Records on Family Search

1895 Detroit Death Certificate?!? Didn’t those start in 1897?

I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t hold it in my own hands.
Horace Gray Death Cert 1895

I had the pleasure of my first visit to the US National Archives in Washington D.C. this week for a wonderful client. After obtaining the records I originally came for, I pulled out my own little list of records that are only housed at “Archives I” (Archives II is in College Park, Maryland a few miles away).

At the top of my list was the Civil War pension file of one of my favorite fourth great grand uncles to research, Major Horace Gray of Grosse Isle, Wayne, Michigan. I’ll share more on Horace in the next blog post: What can be found in a Michigan soldier’s Civil War pension file?


Imagine my utter surprise while flipping through the 158 pages in Major Gray’s file. A Detroit death certificate from 1895, two years before Michigan switched from death registers to death certificates. The certificate is numbered 214. Does that mean the 214th Detroit death certificate issued that year? Maybe a trial run of our current method of registering a death in Michigan?

There were actually two death certificates for Horace in his file. The second certificate looks like it was a practice run.

December 2014 431


Next post: What can be found in a Michigan soldier’s Civil War pension file?

Happy Hunting!
Deidre Erin








Detroit History on Ebay

Have you used Ebay for your Detroit Genealogy? Ebay, one of the world’s largest online marketplaces and a constantly updating resource for genealogists, allows us to view Detroit items that were found in personal homes and at garage sales, in basements, attics, storage lockers, etc around the world.

I adore this website. Every few days, I check out the Detroit history items available and look at the photos (that are usually unmarked) in hopes that one of my ancestors might be there. Among the photo albums, random paperwork, and endless amounts of business swag from yesteryear, you just might find your kin or relics from events they attended and/or participated in.Robert Keller Ink Ad


Ebay has been a goldmine for locating items from my 2nd great grandfather’s ink company, Robert Keller Ink Company. Just after 11 years, I have 37 different bottles, 4 crocks, a jug, and various  nicknacks like a 1903 Mother Goose paint by numbers set . All from Ebay.

This past Veterans Day, I thought I’d see if I could find anything on Fort Custer in Battle Creek, MI during WWI. According to The Michigan Alumnus, my great grandfather, Edwin Keller, attended officers training at Fort Custer.

1904227_10105751703851194_8513382487568179661_nSince the Library & Archives of Michigan was closed for the holiday and I’ve already thoroughly searched the online Michigan military resources, I thought maybe Ebay might have something.

While I didn’t find anything related to my great grandfather’s WWI service, I did come across an original Detroit, Michigan appointment letter for A.H. Gillespie dated Sept 4 1917 with an interesting group photo. Mr. Gillespie was responsible for getting these WWI “conscripts” (aka drafted men) from the second ward to Camp Custer in Battle Creek Michigan.

WWI.1This would be quite a find for Detroit military researchers & descendants of the soldiers or A.H. Gillespie.


Drafted Detroiters from the second ward – September 1917

Family history researchers usually do not like to leave any resource unchecked (or rechecking a resource) for too long.  For those with minimal time available to peruse Ebay for family treasures, you can save your searches saved and have alerts emailed to you.

Det EbayLink: Ebay – Saving Your Searches

Keller Ink Company envelope - f & B

Give Ebay-ing your ancestors a try. You never know what you’ll find.

Happy Hunting,
Deidre Erin

Wayne County Probate Records on Family Search – Part 2

Happy All Saints Day & Day of the Dead!

Yesterday, we found Samuel Gray’s Wayne County probate record index card.

Samuel Gray
Today, we’ll find his probate record.

We’ll start by returning to Family Search’s Wayne County Probate Records, 1797-1973

Michigan, Probate Records, 1797-1973 > Wayne

After scrolling down, past the “packet index 1797 – 1901…” section, you’ll find “probate packets…” section.

probate pk

This is where the case number comes in handy. Samuel’s probate index card lists his case number as 192. We click on “Probate Packets 1819-1821 no 191-221″ and find scroll until we find probate case #192, which starts on image 57.

sg probate

"Michigan, Probate Records, 1797-1973," images, FamilySearch (,376933101 : accessed 02 Nov 2014), Wayne > Probate packets 1819-1821 no 191-221 > image 58 of 1053.

“Michigan, Probate Records, 1797-1973,” images, FamilySearch (,376933101 : accessed 02 Nov 2014), Wayne > Probate packets 1819-1821 no 191-221 > image 58 of 1053.

Wasn’t that easy? Just find your ancestor’s index card and track down the probate case file.

Feliz Dia De Los Muertos!
Deidre Erin

A hand full of probate indexes & packets are missing along with any probate packet numbered higher than 16980 (1891).

The probate indexes missing:
Packet index 1797-1901 – Cro – Cru
Packet index 1797-1901 – Lom – Millard, J
Packet index 1797-1901 – Williams, U – Z

The full Wayne County index and probate records up to 1901 are on microfilm at the Archives of Michigan in Lansing, MI.

Family History Month – Wayne County Probate Records on Family Search

We have had quite a Family History Month! I hope you have enjoyed the daily fix of Detroit genealogy & history. I figured I’d save the best for last.. Finding ancestors in Family Search’s Wayne County Probate Records.

I love the Wayne County probate records (1797-1901) on Family Search. They not only may hold a wealth of information but you actually have to search for them since it is a “browse only” collection. I’m sorta surprised when fellow Detroit researchers tell me they have never checked them out while on Family Search.

Here is a quick crash course in finding your ancestors in this collection.

Michigan, Probate Records, 1797-1973 > Wayne
 After clicking the link above, you should see that the first 24 links are labeled “packet index 1797 – 1901…”.
Wayne Probate

This is where you start looking for your ancestor’s surname.
Let’s say we looking for my 4th great grand uncle, Samuel Gray (1787-1819). He was the first member of my family tree to live and die in Detroit. we would click on “Packet index 1797 – 1901 Frum – Grissel”
This file has 6890 index cards. I usually start at the middle and start narrowing the search. We finally find Samuel after a few searches on page 5790.

Samuel Gray

“Michigan, Probate Records, 1797-1973,” images, FamilySearch (,378858801 : accessed 31 Oct 2014), Wayne > Packet index 1797-1901 Frum-Grissel > image 5790 of 6890.

Samuel’s Wayne County probate record is #192 and let’s us know that Samuel died 24 Sep 1819 in Detroit and had land in Indiana.

It is always a good idea to look up associated family surnames when you locate an ancestor in this probate record index. Every person mentioned in a probate record will have a index card as well, which may contain more information like death dates of siblings (when nieces/nephews are mentioned in a probate case), current residence (outside Wayne County), and even medical history.

This is another 4th great grand uncle, Elliott Gray, who followed his brother, Samuel, to Fort Detroit around 1812. Elliott was the administrator (executor) of his brother’s estate since Samuel never married or fathered any children.
Elliot Gray
We found Samuel’s probate case information. Now what?

To celebrate All Saints Day (& Day of the Dead AKA the unofficial holiday for genealogists) tomorrow,  we’ll learn how to locate the actual probate record.

Happy Hunting,
Deidre Erin

A hand full of probate indexes & packets are missing along with any probate packet numbered higher than 16980 (1891).

The probate indexes missing:
Packet index 1797-1901 – Cro – Cru
Packet index 1797-1901 – Lom – Millard, J
Packet index 1797-1901 – Williams, U – Z

The full Wayne County index and probate records up to 1901 are on microfilm at the Archives of Michigan in Lansing, MI.