Happy Halloween

Two major Detroit historical events are well known when Halloween rolls around, Devil’s Night (recently renamed Angel’s night) and the death of Harry Houdini, famous magician & illusionist.

Detroit Free Press – 17 Oct 1926 – Pg 55

During a previous event a few days before arriving in Detroit, Houdini received several “out of the blue” punches to the stomach from a young man. Ever the performer (the show must go on, right?)  Houdini performed the first night in Detroit while in noticeable pain. Shortly after the show, the fearless contortionist was rushed to Grace Hospital


Detroit Free Press – 26 Oct 1926 – Pg 1

















Unfortunately, no illusion or act of magic would allow Houdini to escape one last time.


Detroit Free Press – 1 Nov 1926 – Pg. 1

Source: SeekingMichigan.org

Source: SeekingMichigan.org – Click on photo for a closer look


Since 1927, Magicians around the world continue a long tradition of holding a séance to contact Houdini on Halloween.

Photo Credit: Adam

Photo Credit: Adam




Was Your Detroit Ancestor a WWI Conscript During The First Call?

TGIF & Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

DFP26,384 Detroitiers were to be drafted in the summer of 1917 to fight in WWI. On Jul 21, The Detroit Free Press printed the first 7000 names of service eligible men who were to report to Lansing. By the 26th of July, 30,000 Detroit men were changing their summer plans. Rather than going to the beach and courting their sweethearts, they would be settling their affairs before leaving for boot camp.


Detroit Free Press – 21 July 1917 – Pg. 1

You can check for your WWI first call Detroit ancestors on the following days with a Detroit Free Press subscription.

  • July 21
  • July 24
  • July 25
  • July 26

The Detroit Free Press from 1837-Sept 2015 is available by subscription for either $7.95/month or $59.95/year. For more information or to subscribe, go to www.freep.com and click on Archives at the top of the page.

Happy Hunting!
Deidre Erin

Hidden Death lists!?!

DFPHidden death lists?!? Yes! Unless you read the first few newspapers of each new year,   you may have missed Detroit’s annual “death list” that was published primarily from the early 1900’s until the late 1940’s. To make the list, Detroiters have to of died from an external influence like accidents, homicide, drowning, etc. It’s usually begins on the first few pages but using keywords like “drown”, “homicide”, “deaths”, “shot”, “suicide” can help you zero in on the exact page in a year. Not all deaths are listed and some years are more detailed than other but I’ll take whatever I can get.


One huge bonus about these death lists is the additional details. Street names and addresses might be included where the event occurred. It isn’t uncommon to the see the names of policemen, firemen, and the unfortunate bystanders that discovered the deceased.


1919It would be down right un-Detroitish for the Detroit Free Press (DFP) to forget the Detroiters that gave their lives fighting for their community and country. During WWI & WWII, the military had their own news and social pages that detailed promotions, furloughs, engagements, marriages, births on military bases, and the soldiers that weren’t coming home. I’ve found a few far flung cousins on the Roll of Honor after being MIA on the 1920 census.


1922Lastly, check for special sections just for city employees, business men, fraternal/social clubs, Civil War veterans, and Detroit pioneers. Zero in by using a specific terms like the police station they worked at, the business they were in, or military unit they were in.

FiremanHappy Hunting!
Deidre Erin

A Tip On Death Notices 1850’s -1860’s: Sometimes It’s Not The Person You Want To Look for


Every now and then, you may get lucky and a surname search will pull up a few DFP death notices from 1850’s and 1860’s unless your ancestor was well known in Detroit or Michigan. Usually it will be “just the facts”: name, location, and maybe even a specific death date or day (i.e. Thursday last). After checking the newspapers few days after an ancestor’s death, perhaps you should look for cemetery related articles instead.

I came across a little gem of an article called “City Mortality for <insert month and year> that lists the number of internments at the city cemetery, Elmwood, and Mt. Elliott cemeteries. From 1859 – 1866, the article includes a brief list of Detroitiers that died the month previously. Being that the information was supplied by the cemeteries, I tend to trust the article’s information a bit more. Certainly not enough to stop looking for other death/burial documents though.

Happy Hunting!
~Deidre Erin


Detroit Newspapers – What’s in a name?

DFPWhen searching for your Detroit kin, remember that they might have gone by another moniker or nickname. Some wives can be found by searching “Mrs. <insert husband’s name> ” and Fredericks & Wilhelm could have become Fred and Bill.



My great grandfather, Edwin Keller,was briefly mentioned in the Detroit Free Press until I learned his high school nickname: Rake.



Edwin was a captain of several Central High School teams (football, basketball, & baseball) in his senior year and went by Ed “Rake” Kellar. Now I have 50+ articles on his high school years, 3 newspaper photos, and several team yearbook photos.

Happy Hunting!
~Deidre Erin

Working with Detroit Newspapers

Detroit newspapers have been a goldmine for my personal and professional research. Upon graduaing from Michigan State University in 2010, a fellow graduating roommate gave me the best gift ever… The Detroit Free Press newspaper 1831-1922 on Proquest through our University. Proquest, a Michigan founded company, is an uber expensive subscription platform that is subscription specific for hundreds of journals, newspapers, thesises, random document collections, etc. I’ll come back to Proquest because that is a blog post on its own. We’ll share to gain access to Proquest through your Michigan college and/or university.

Detroit newspapers are scarce online compared to the treasure trove of Detroit newspapers on microfilm at the State of Michigan Library. Even with Newspaper.com hosting the Detroit Free Press (1831 – 2016) and the Detroit News Index on Seeking Michigan, finding information online within Detroit newspapers can be quite tricky as well. Crappy OTC readers, horrible misspellings, and the dreaded “no record found” screen of woe, sometimes it’s just easier to browse the newspaper online like as on microfilm.

I would highly suggest getting a monthly subscription to the Detroit Free Press (1831-2016) for $7.95. Try it for one month with some of my tricks for shaking loose those well hidden ancestors.

Monday we’ll start with tackling the Detroit Free Press. Have some fun this weekend with these free Wayne County Newspapers :)

Northville Record (1869 – 1899 & 1901 – 2011)
Redford Observer 1977-2016
Grosse Pointe Newspapers
– Grosse Pointe Civil News 1923-1934
– Grosse Pointe News 1940-2016
– Grosse Pointe Review 1930-1952
Detroit Gazette (1817-1830) – Google Newspaper Archive

Happy Hunting!
Deidre Erin

A Thread, a Puzzle, a Mystery, a Treasure Hunt? – April 9th DSGR meeting

Join us April 9 for A Thread, a Puzzle, a Mystery, a Treasure Hunt? – April’s DSGR meeting with Bill Priest, a genealogy teacher, nationally known speaker, and member of several Ohio and National genealogical societies. Bill will show examples of four genealogical research methodologies: Assembling a Puzzle – taking pieces with odd edges and assembling them into something that makes sense; Solving a Mystery – using deduction, like Sherlock Holmes, to find the information we need; Finding a Treasurer – using clues to find information that helps us fill in holes in our family trees; Following a Thread – using it to follow a path to find information along the way.

For more information, please see our event wall

Denissen Index Now Available

dsgrThe Detroit Society for Genealogical Research has recently converted The French Families of the Detroit River Region by Rev. Fr Christian Denissen into a digital format.The bulk of the work, 1450 pages of family history, will be made available by the end of the second quarter of 2016 in our Members area.

Index of Genealogy of the French Families of the Detroit River Region by Rev. Father Christian Denissen

This work is being made available for personal research to our members. The copyright is owned by the Burton Historical Collection and it is with their permission that DSGR, as the publisher of the work, is able to place this on our site. This publication was initially a Bicentennial project of the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research and the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library.

This project has been approved by the Detroit Bicentennial commission as an authorized Bicentennial project.

Join the DSGR today to have exclusive access to multiple resources in our Members section

DSGR’s 29th annual Allen County Public Library Bus Trip – 12 Mar 2016 – Register Now!

You are invited to join members and friends of the DSGR for a full day of research at the 2nd largest genealogical research library in the United States.

Cost for DSGR members is $35, non-member guests $40; boxed meals $10 (optional)

ft allenThe cost covers transportation on a full facility (National Trails) bus. We will have donuts and bottled water available during the morning ride to Fort Wayne, Indiana. There are vending machines with pop and snacks at rest stops, and the ACPL has a concession area available for lunch (restaurants are also nearby). For the return trip, optional boxed meals can be purchased.

6:30 AM – Depart: Lawrence Technological University parking lot C (Southfield)
7:15 AM – Depart: Chelsea Park & Ride at Exit 159 off I-94
8:30 AM – Rest Stop
10:00 AM – Arrive at Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Research Time
6:15 PM – Depart: Fort Wayne, Indiana
8:15 PM – Rest Stop
9:00 PM – Arrive back at Chelsea Park & Ride at Exit 159 off I-94
9:45 PM – Arrive back at Lawrence Technological University parking lot C (Southfield)

Reservations limited to the first 55 people – so don’t delay, reserve Today!

Allen County Public Library Bus Trip

Don’t forget the Michigan Censuses!

With the wicked weather today and tomorrow, many of us will enjoy a bit of ancestor hunting. With US censuses being one of the mosted reviewed record collections in genealogy, this is just a friendly reminder to also check the state censuses as well.
State Census 1884


Two of the more popular Michigan censuses, 1884 &1894, are on Seeking Michigan.




The index for the State Census, 1827-1874 is also on Seeking Michigan. Unfortunately, Wayne County records are not included. The collection contains information on the following counties for the years listed:

Census 1827


Branch (1857, 1874)
Clinton (1864)
Eaton (1845, 1854, 1864, 1874)
Houghton (1864, 1874)
Lenawee (1845)
Kalamazoo (1874)
St. Joseph (1845)
Sanilac (1864)
Washtenaw (1827, 1845, 1854)



Both collections are wonderful resources for your research but not very helpful if your ancestors were living in Wayne County before 1884.

Lucky for us, Ancestry.com has a record collection titled Michigan, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1827-1870, which has almost 40,000 Wayne County census, voter, and tax records.

Some of the record years available for Wayne County (not including US censuses):

1769                                    1802           1806        1810

1820                                    1821           1823        1825 Tax List

1827 Territorial Census       1830           1834        1840 Pensioners List

Stay warm and Happy Hunting!
Deidre Erin