Planning for a Genealogy Getaway

Burton Historical Collection

The Burton Historical Collection (BHC) of the Detroit Public Library began as the private library of Clarence Monroe Burton. The BHC is both a repository of records of the past and a workshop of historical activity in the present, with emphasis on the history of Detroit and Michigan from the time of settlement in the 17th century to the present.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Although by the time you read this I’m sure it will be closer to nueve de mayo.  This week I put my German search to the side and was focused on trying to prepare for my upcoming Detroit trip with my mother and aunt to research my Blake family.  It’s going to be a one-day event packed full of research.

Using Findagrave.com, I made a list of my Blake ancestors buried in Mt. Elliott cemetery, and for some, the specific location of their grave.  Most of them seem to be buried in the same section.  I am hoping that when we visit the cemetery, we will find important information transcribed on the tombstones, and possibly additional family members I don’t know about.  This may also help to lead to more living family members.

After the cemetery, we’re traveling to the Burton Historical Collection within the Detroit Public Library.  This collection contains old newspapers, probate files, vital records and church records.  I know that the family attended St. Aloysius church beginning in 1973, so the church records should hopefully contain my Great-great-grandfather Nelson’s baptism record!  This record could solve the mystery of who Nelson’s parents were, so even if this is the only record I find, I will count the trip a success.  I’m working on a list of important events like births, deaths, etc., so we can better utilize our time while we’re there.  Depending on what we find at the library, we may or may not head to the courthouse.  With my courthouse class recently concluded, I feel a bit more confident I can navigate through the courthouse and find additional records.

Next our plan is to cross the border into Canada to drive past the area where the Blake’s stayed in the summer.  I learned from the woman I mentioned last week that the actual home burned down in 1940, and the area has been modified over the years, but it will still be neat to be in the area.  If we have enough time, we may stop at the Marsh Collection of Amherstburg. Essentially it’s a historical collection of records, newspapers, etc., for the area.  I spoke with their receptionist over the phone and she said they have a large file on the Rosebank farm.  They close around 4:30pm though, so we may be crunched for time.  Following up on last week’s find that the Van Dyke family owning the property in Rosebank may be the same family to which the Blake’s pastor belonged: I found them in the 1860 census, but the father is listed as James Van Dyke, while on pastor Earnest Van Dyke’s obituary, it lists his father as Peter.  Still looking into this one.

It’s an awful lot to pack into one day, I know, but it’s all we have so we’ll need to make the most out of it.  Having three of us working together should definitely help, but I still get tired just thinking about it.

I decided to subscribe to Fold3.com recently, and I must say it’s a pretty cool site!  They have tons of military records, but what I’ve been focused on is the city directories.  For Detroit they have from 1861 to 1923. So far I’ve covered up until 1872.  I was able to find my Third-great-grandfather in these directories, see his profession listed, as well as his address.  It also lists members of different organizations, so I’ve been able to see him listed in his role on the board for Mt. Elliott Cemetery and of St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society, which was responsible for organizing the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration and helping to relieve Irish immigrants wherever there was need in the city.  Using the addresses with Google Earth, I’m able to plot out where he and his family lived through the years.

Finally, I requested some records through the Family History Library.  My cousin works at a local library that doubles as a Family History Center, and she put through the order for me.  One of the records is Nelson’s marriage record to his wife, Matilda.

Lots of things going on this week, and waiting on multiple replies and inquiries, so it’s an exciting time in my research!  Time to get at least a few hours of sleep.  Have a great week!


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Brian Parotto of Hampshire, Ill.


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