November as Native American Heritage Month

In recent years, we have had Columbus Day thankfully replaced in many places within the United States with Indigenous Peoples Day. While, welcome in the attention it focuses on Native and First Nations peoples across North America, it comes with negativity and necessary information.

Columbus and his journey to “discover” America from Spain resulted in, not only the beginning of the invasion of the continent by Europeans seeking freedom and land, but also in the massacre, rape and pillaging of Indigenous peoples – by Columbus and his crew and then the onslaught of settlers in the colonies, the stripping of forests, myriad diseases that dessimated tribal peoples and land grabs that are notable for their violence and disrespect.

So while Indigenous Peoples Day is ONE day of recognition and writings about these first peoples of the Americas, the month of November is meant to offer 31 days of information too. Is it fully respectful, honoring, inclusive and informative? Sometimes. Is it meant to fulfill some goal of assuaging feelings of guilt or shame among European descendants as movements for cultural diversity, inclusion and equity proliferate around the world? Perhaps.

It IS an opportunity for all of us to assess our relationship to, contact with, and possible friendships among the populations of the Indigenous cultures and tribal groups. Mostly invisible to many, Native peoples in recent United States census enumerations give some perspective, as there are 2.9% that have identified as Native/Indian according to recent reports (CNN – Why the jump in the Native American population may be one of the hardest to explain:,according%20to%20the%20Census%20Bureau.). That’s a small percentage of the overall population of our country AND it is believed to be a low count of the actual population of people with full Native identities and those with mixed racial families. And it is also representative of some of the isolation and invisibility of tribal people broadly. While the vast majority of Native people live in urban areas, others are very isolated on the remote reservation systems across the country. The likelihood is that you actually KNOW and perhaps work with Native people but you don’t even know it.

Which speaks to the classic comment heard often: “You don’t LOOK Indian!” as if there is a physical “type” or “look” that all should be. Yes, television and media generally don’t help in this case, as the stereotypical images in cowboy westerns or depictions in movies (think Dances with Wolves) confuse many with historical imagery. Where are the “modern” images that are as diverse as the multiracial communities in which we all live? The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian released a documentary, A Thousand Roads, depicting four modern Indigenous people as they cope within modern communities with the challenges of retaining their identities. The popularity of the Hulu series Rez Dogs (remarkably an entire cast, writing and directing group that is virtually all Indigenous!) gives us a glimpse too of the humor and stories of some young adults and the often hilarious and difficult lives they are negotiating.

Good reading can be found through some great writers.

Books that are especially good for Native history, with extensive footnotes to further works, include Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and for a sweeping history of the North America, please read The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere by Paulette F.C. Steeves.  All of these books include bibliographies, source notes and/or citations that will lead the reader to even more resources. A fundamentally good resource book, that offers frequently asked questions with answers, comes from the National Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian Institution) – Do All Indians Live in Tipis? by a group of contributors from the museums’ tribal specialists, Elders and leaders.  It’s just a starting list but can help you to move into more study as you are ready. A book that should be mandatory reading for anyone claiming indigeneity based on their DNA is Native American DNA:  Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science by Dr. Kim Tallbear.

As a genealogist and family historian, in my own family research, I have encountered much of the worse of the stereotypes and the outcomes of negative encounters between the White/European worlds with Indigenous peoples and organizations. I recently wrote articles, hoping to guide researchers in their pursuit of genealogical information about researching among our Native peoples, archives, libraries and tribal governments. Family Tree Magazine has published The Do’s and Don’ts of Respectful Native American Research ( and an earlier article in the Family Tree Magazine, November/December issue covered some of the same information.

So as you may be considering Native American Heritage Month and perhaps activities that will guide you in learning about or studying various tribal peoples, please consider respectful ways of engagement that will help to build good relationships for all of us.

#Native #Indigenous #Heritage #LineageJourneys

Cousins, Memories and Pictures – a Genealogy “Happy Dance”

My recent visit to my cousin’s home and his collection of photos from his mom, gave me this and more!

How many times do we say “let’s get together!” or “can I see what you have?” to a cousin or other relative? Well, I’ve done it and then not followed up. But this time I DID!

AND what a find!! Thanks to two of my nearest first cousins, Gary and Karen, with time to catch up and share memories, we dug through a box of old photo albums, lose pictures, carefully wrapped snippets of hair, and incredible old and valuable Bible (with items tucked inside!), and more. The enjoyment began with Cousin Karen picking me up from my home and our hour-long drive to Cousin Gary’s – her older brother. Gary is older than me, Karen is much younger and my now-done brother Mark was between me and Karen in age. The four of us spent SO much time together as children, as our mothers – sisters Catherine and Delores – were the tightest of sisters. So I knew that what Gary inherited when his parents passed would be important to me.

Unfortunately, Gary related that there was much that had been thrown out. Aunt Catherine had died first and she was/is the beloved auntie who got this family historian started at the age of 12 with her stories, notes, pictures and more. When Uncle Eddie died years later, he had thrown out things that Aunt Catherine had kept but he had to clean out a home that he needed to move from. Gary was with him in the cleaning but it was a hard effort to get Uncle Eddie to keep some of what Gary could tell was valuable.

So when the boxes and bin of photos and albums was put on the kitchen table and we dug through, my heart was pounding. Gary and Karen had some idea that there would be items of value but they weren’t sure who the people were and we worked to identify them. Karen had spent a lot of time with her mom and dad and the relatives in these pictures, so she was the best at identifying people. I was good at identifying the homes and couches, and sometimes the beautiful doilies (Grandma and Aunt Catherine had made beautiful doilies as they did tatting; Karen and I both have some).

The picture about contains the gems that we found! A picture I had NEVER seen of my great-grandmother Louise Villeneuve Elliott from when she was older. I have a group family photo from around the 1914 timeframe with 13 of the 16 kids, showing Louise in a younger time. The photo above, in the collection, of the older woman in the chair with a patterned dress is her at an older age – she was a widow by 1919 with all of these kids (the older girls were key in this huge family!). She later suffered from a stroke that left her dependent on those daughters. She apparently lived with her daughters in sort of a rotational way – 6 months perhaps with each one, as they helped her to cope with her failing health and frailties. She died at the age of 60 so this picture may have been not too long from that time.

The other marvelous pictures found were one of my grandmother Elsie Elliott Sutinen (later Niemi), the largest colorized image seen above. She was Louise’s fourth daughter and the picture represents a timeframe for which I had no images. I have a very much younger image of her perhaps in her 20s, one from her 60s, so this one is perhaps in her 40s – an active mother with five children, my mother being the youngest daughter.

The baby picture at the top is me … awww . The “little rascals” in the middle between Grandma and Great-Grandma are Aunt Catherine and her brother Doug – and I’m wondering what they were up to when the picture was snapped (they look like they are planning some mischief). My Uncle Jerry is stretched out on the picnic table bench as a young man that is in the young adulthood of his life and feels joyful to me. He was my mom’s youngest brother. The handsome man in the black and white photo below great-grandma is my step-grandfather, William “Bill” Niemi – the grandfather I so loved and grew up knowing. A quiet Finn man, this is a picture of him probably around the time that he married my Grandma Elsie as her husband Warner (Waino) had died from tuberculosis and Grandpa Bill became a loving presence in our lives.

Tucked into a beautiful and valuable special commemorative Bible of Aunt Catherine’s, this paper!

The piece of paper here, full of notations familiar to all family historians, were dates of faily and extended family connections and births. BUT at the top right – some rather fun notations! “Aunt Eugenie – old maid – never had a hair on head ever” and “Mary Laura died of Black Diptheria hair was so long had to pull it out of …”. And interesting family fact – most of the women in this family had dark brown or black hair, never turning gray, until they died. Karen, of my matrilineal line, has undyed brown hair in contrast to my white hair. Her mother died with nearly black hair and my grandmother also died with dark hair. My mom and I clearly have some different genetics in our hair going on as we’ve both had gray for … well, let’s just say a while. :::::::::::grin:::::::::::::

For those who are genealogists, family historians, finds like these mean more than money, fame and more. They put my family into my mind in new ways, in new timeframes that inform what I know about them and they give me a fuller sense of who they were. The conversation with Gary and Karen about them was so fun and interesting. They knew things that I didn’t know and vice versa. And our shared time of family memories will be cherished.

Elmer AND Bill Died the SAME Day!

Obituary Notice, Lansing State Journal (Lansing, MI), 24 May 1971, pg 2

Having made a commitment to be more active here in my blog, and being really behind on SO many things, I decided that I would work at putting up family information more regularly. As I’ve written about RootsTech and other conferences, I’ve decided also to include content about our families – mine and Den’s – and information about my work in genealogy, I made the commitment.

So I truly KNOW and believe that our ancestors want us to find them (their information, records, photos, etc.) and know them – from what they did, what the records say, how their lives progressed and more …. it came as no surprise to me that, having made this commitment to myself and these ancestors, my return home from the National Genealogical Society’s 2022 Family History Conference included a discussion with my husband about my “take aways”.

The “take aways” is understandable for most folks … “what did you take away from that experience?”. Den and I, when completing a trip (the plane ride home or the final part of a drive home), will often have a conversation …. like “what were the top 3 things you will remember?” or “what are the top 3 images that will stick in your mind?” – that sort of thing.

Well, on this particular Sunday afternoon of Memorial Weekend, with the washing machine running after my unpacking the suitcase, Den and I were taking a moment for me to process the NGS conference and my experiences there. And our talk then moved further into “do we want to go to Ludwig’s grave tomorrow to honor him?” He’s Den’s Civil War ancestor who is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery here in Detroit. While we decided not to go, it began a conversation about ancestors in his family.

It evolved into this discussion about his grandfather Elmer and uncle Wilson/Bill. As the obituary pictured here states, they died the same day. I didn’t remember it that way …. and that’s a story!

You see, I met Denny in college, Michigan State University. It was in our sophomore year, and his Grandfather Elmer had died two years before, as had Wilson or Bill, Den’s uncle. As I got to know him and his family, I heard the story of Elmer’s death because Den and his parents and two brothers all lived on the same family farm in Alma, Michigan. When Elmer died, he had a heart attack in his home right next door to Den’s family’s home. Den actually heard his Grandmother Vera scream when Elmer dropped in the house and Den ran over to see what was wrong. He performed CPR on his grandfather but Den knew that Grandpa was gone.

The way I REMEMBERED the story was very different, although with parts of it factual and the same. BUT – and this is the key – even when someone tells us the story from their actual presence and knowledge, we can remember it wrong!

The thing about my memory was that there were parts that I remember coming from other people. So Den’s older brother Van and possibly Den’s mom, Melba, had told me their memories of what happened. Now, Van was not in the home or on the farm when Bill and Elmer died, so perhaps that is where my memory got jarred in the wrong direction. What I remember, was “someone” told me that Bill committed suicide and that, after his funeral, Elmer had come home, took a walk around the farm and then had his heart attack.

Well …. parts of that are true. Elmer DID take the walk around the farm just before the heart attack. Den knew that and had actually see Elmer walking around. Den remembered thinking that his grandfather perhaps was thinking through, reflecting on the fact that his eldest son had just passed away and what was the future of the farm? While the family had sold their dairy cows back in the mid-1960s, the farm was still operating but, since 1969, was leased to another farmer to plant, harvest while the family retained ownership and received annual checks from the crops sold. ANYWAY, I digress …

So what was TRUE was that Elmer died after taking that walk around the farm. What was NOT true – Bill died from lung cancer and Elmer died the same day, as you can see in the obituary. Where had I gone SO wrong on these memories? Did Van or Melba tell me elements that I confused? Apparently!

My point in offering this is that we can’t and shouldn’t fully trust our memories! Documentation of the elements of stories really helps and it provides some interesting lessons. In my case, I never documented the stories that I was told (by Van or Melba or whomever!) AND I clearly messed up parts of it. Suicide is awful and so is cancer but they carry a much different trajectory both physically and emotionally in a family! AND the fact that they died on the same day was totally missed by me until I found this obituary. While I have Elmer’s death certificate from our family, I didn’t have Bill’s (and yes, I could connect with his family). That said, I learned a lot on Sunday!

A genealogists, family historians or even just members of an extended family that tells stories and “embellishes” perhaps as the story evolves, please DO keep in mind that finding the key facts, documents and information is important in documenting our families’ lives and stories. I’m so glad that I dug into this more after that conversation with my husband as he was amazed by how much I had wrong. Good to be stopped before I’d shared it SOOO far off from the facts! Keep digging!

I LIVE for This Kind of Learning! RootsTech 2022 has ended … sort of.

RootsTech 2022 is now officially over … well, not really!

It is still possible to watch classes, review what happened on the Main Stage, you can still visit vendors tomorrow, and there are Relative Connections to make (you have to register for a free account at FamilySearch – but it is SO worth it!), and so much more.

I think I spent about 9 to 10 hours online today – live presentations, recorded classes, practicing where to look in the various DNA sites (how many tabs can you have open on your computer!!!), and listening along as I tried out some of the sites and offerings that were shared.

While ALL of the classes, vendor presentations and Main Stage offerings were great, I have to give a shout out to Roberta Estes at DNAeXplained who gave a series of presentations on finding out if you have Native American DNA and from whom, a sequence of DNA presentations that showed how to use the various companies’ (Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, FamilySearch, etc.) DNA and family tree tools to help you with your research. She had a great presentation style and offered a lot of information – and I’m STILL working through all those open tabs on my computer!

And, while I’m exhausted and my brain is about to explode, I am SO happy that I dedicated myself to this time for the last three days. While I miss everyone in person in Salt Lake, the learning and comfort of doing this from home was not something that I would have passed up. SUCH a great gift for ME! I figure that I’ll be learning for a while, doing more with the tips, tricks and resources that were shared, and I’m really happy with the time spent.

Yes, your story and that of your family matters – please take the time to share it! Make a video, a book of ancestry, or share pictures from an ancestral location. I have such a deep appreciation for what I learned …. and I hope that if you are reading this, you will make every effort to research and share your family’s history.

After a bit of rest and processing, watch for more as I grow in understanding what I learned … I have TONS of ideas and websites to go through and analyze on my family. Wish me luck!

Whew …. BUSY Day at Roots Tech 2022

RootsTech 2022 – SOOOOO much to do, see, learn!

What a day! The Friday of Roots Tech is always a busy one for me – I’ve been to RootsTech three times in person and as a presenter. The last two years of course have been virtual which certainly saves on costs but the learning is still a bit overwhelming! There are SO many courses – over 1,000 in English alone! And I know there were hundreds in other languages – French, German, Spanish, Polish … I don’t know all of them, but truly a bit overwhelming.

So today I watched the live Main Stage sessions and learned about peoples’ journeys in their own families; I learned about the upcoming additions to some of the popular websites to help us with our DNA, building our family trees, learning about how to find the origins of our families, and SO much more. My brain is about to explode!!

I’ve taken notes, printed out items offered by vendors, tried my hand at some of the DNA tools that I heard about from classes, took time (while I listened) to add to my own family tree and figure out some next steps. And I spent ‘way too much time sitting in this chair at the computer when there was actually sunshine outside – but I couldn’t help myself. THIS. IS. WHAT. I. LOVE. Gads, I can’t get enough.

OK, so it’s time to get to bed and get ready for tomorrow – the “last” day of the event. That’s for the “live” content – as the class recordings are available to us for a while and I plan to take advantage! So … bedtime……

Babies are always cute sleeping …. me, not so much!

ROOTS TECH 2022 is ON!!!

Roots Tech 2022 is on, open ….. ready, set, GO!!!

SOOO excited, I can’t stand it! Yes, Roots Tech 2022 – FREE and VIRTUAL – is open and there is much to do, see, hear and experience.

FIRST – Pace Yourself! Here’s a marvelous post from Miles Meyer that I found to be really helpful (thanks, Miles!) – you may want to check this out:

Some easy explanations on Miles’ page that will help. AND be sure to go through each days’ offerings and create your own list of presentations to watch, Keynotes, Main Stage and the Expo Hall. In the Expo Hall there is an opportunity to not only learn so much, but also an opportunity to win! Yes! If you visit 20 booths and do a variety of activities (chat, watch a video, explore their presentations), you can be entered to win a prize. It’s fun AND an opportunity to get more.

As an Influencer (that’s the title for those of us who are writing and sharing about our experiences at Roots Tech), you will see posts from me every day with my thoughts about what I’m hearing and seeing. My first experience was to check out the Expo Hall and the sponsor booths. Did you know about all the cool stuff at the Family Search site? Yes, the site – the one that you can access from home, put your family tree on, find documents and SO MUCH MORE!!!

Exploring around this site, you can watch a bunch of great videos, learn about new features on the FamilySearch website (amazing stuff … I hadn’t been on it in a while and WOW!) and find out about your family in new ways. I checked out “Where am I from?” and “Famous Relatives” (yes, I’m related to royalty!! ) and there is also the really fun Roots Tech tool “Relatives at RootsTech” which helps you to meet your relatives who are signed into the RootsTech event – showing your relationship to them (check it out here) – I have 9,045 relatives today and I know from previous RT experience that it will grow! SOOO Cool!!!

Well, I’m off to do more exploring! Join me?

News Release – Roots Tech 2022 Registration goes LIVE!

Ready to Connect? RootsTech 2022 Registration Is Now Open!

RootsTech 2022 is free, fun, worldwide celebration of family discovery and connection. The online event is March 3-5, 2022.SALT LAKE CITY, UT–FamilySearch opened registration today for RootsTech 2022, the largest family history event in the world held online March 3–5, 2022. It offers a forum where people of all ages across the globe are inspired to discover and share their memories and make meaningful connections. Register for free at today. RootsTech 2022 will be a virtual-only experience, with some enhancements and improvements.

A new set of educational classes will be featured during 2022, along with new technologies to explore in the virtual expo hall, and inspiring stories shared by a fascinating line-up of keynote speakers.

“RootsTech 2022 is sure to be an incredible experience once again” said Jen Allen, event director for RootsTech. “Earlier this year, we organized our first-ever virtual event amid a pandemic—something we never thought would happen. But as we watched the participants come together to provide joyful learning experiences in many different languages, we knew something special was taking shape.”

Classes for the event will have a mix of on-demand, livestream, and interactive sessions that will allow attendees to learn, grow and connect to people all over the globe. Participants will also be able to connect with fellow attendees, speakers, experts, and enthusiasts. In 2022, the planners of RootsTech are looking to take that experience to the next level.

RootsTech is a place of connection. “We witnessed incredible connections [in 2021] between participants all over the world,” said Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch. “As they connected to their homelands and ultimately to their families, they then connected to each other. At FamilySearch, we choose connection, and we witness every day the ways family history transcends all walls of separation and unites us as the true story of humanity unfolds.”

While there will always be some differences between the in-person and online experiences, RootsTech will continue to expand its online experience while working towards a time when the hybrid model of both can once again be offered.

“We are busy creating innovative ways to capture and share messages of culture, unity and connection that push the boundaries of what a virtual conference can be. We can’t wait to share what we’ve got in store,” added Allen.

The event will take place March 3–5, 2022, and you can register for RootsTech right now by The conference is free and open to anyone. For updates, be sure to follow RootsTech on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Creating A Locality Guide – Wayne County Michigan

Locality Guide:  Judy Nimer Muhn

Research in Wayne County, Michigan

Historical Background:

The City of Detroit Flag (see below)

While David E. Heinman created the Flag of Detroit in 1907, it was not officially adopted by the city until 1948. The background of the flag commemorates the countries that have controlled the city over the years, and it is divided into four different sections. The lower left features the fleur-de-lis to represent France, who founded Detroit in 1701.  The upper right includes the gold lions of Great Britain, who controlled the city from 1760-1796. The upper left and the lower right sections represent the United States, the thirteen stripes and thirteen stars stand for the thirteen original colonies. 
The seal in the middle of the flag represents the fire that destroyed the city in 1805. Two women stand in the foreground while the city burns in the background.  The woman on the left weeps over the destruction, while the woman on the right consoles her by gesturing to a new city that will rise in its place.  Two Latin mottos read “Speramus Meliora” (meaning “We hope for better things) and “Resurget Cineribus” (meaning “It will rise from the ashes").
Description obtained from:

Early history of the region now known as Wayne County, Michigan reflected the changing of hands between the French, British and American – this fact being represented in the City of Detroit’s flag.

The area of Michigan that became Detroit and SE Michigan, was the home of thousands of Indigenous peoples – the Anishinabewek (Chippewa/Ojibwe), Wyandot, Sauk and Fox, Miami and more (note – these names are those of the European settlers, not those that the Indigenous people used for themselves). While the area now known as Detroit, in Wayne County, Michigan was originally settled by the French in 1701 (founded by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac at Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit on the north side of the Detroit River), the area was under French control until 1763.  In 1763, New France was defeated in the French and Indian War and the boundaries of the United States were expanded to include the region of Michigan within the “Old Northwest”.    From the French in 1701, transitioning after the French and Indian War to the British until the American Revolution when this region became part of the early formation of the United States of America, the area of Wayne County even reverted back to Britain briefly during the War of 1812.  From 1787 to 1800, Michigan was part of the Northwest Territory and Wayne County was created in 1796 as part of the Northwest Territory but it encompassed most of the what became the State of Michigan (a far longer history of the Michigan Territory can be found in Wikipedia at 

From 1800 to 1805, the region that was to become Wayne County and Michigan was attached to the Territory of Indiana.  Further changes occurred after the War of 1812, when the Michigan Territory came temporarily under British rule after the defeat of the Americans, but the area was later organized in 1815 as a county in the Michigan territory.  When Michigan became a state in 1837, Wayne County’s boundaries were again changed to reflect the more current configuration.

When the early territory of what was to become Michigan was laid out, Wayne County encompassed a larger area as the sixth county of the Northwest Territory, including the lower peninsula of Michigan, much of the upper peninsula and portions of what became Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.[1]

Wayne County is bordered by Macomb and Oakland Counties to the north, Washtenaw County to the west, Monroe County to the south and west, with Essex, Ontario, Canada bordering the county to the east/northeast (portions of Ontario are actually south of part of Wayne County).  The county encompasses 673 square miles and, according to 2014 population data, has over 1.7 million residents.[2]

Maps of the progression of the development of the Michigan counties, including Wayne County, can be found at Maps of the US, providing an interactive way to visualize the changes over the centuries.[3]

The location of Wayne County now, in 2021.

Current map of the counties of SE Michigan, from Family Search, Research wiki:,_Michigan_Genealogy

The historic Guardian Building with exceptional architecture and a spectacular lobby.

The historic Guardian Building is the current location of the Wayne County Governmental offices.[4]

Wayne County is the most populous county in the State of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, its population was 1,820,584, making it the 19th-most populous county in the United States. The 2014 Census update listed the county’s population at 1,764,804. The county seat is Detroit, the most populous city in Michigan and 18th-most populous city in the United States. The county was founded in 1796 and organized in 1815.

Wayne County is included in the Detroit-WarrenDearborn, MI Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is one of several American counties named after Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne.[5]


A wealth of genealogical and historical resources is available across Wayne County and the State of Michigan.  The main repositories and their holdings are:

Obtain Detroit Birth & Death Certificates at:
Wayne County Clerk’s Office
400 Monroe Street (6th Floor)

Hours of Operation Will Be:
8:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Monday – Friday

For Further Assistance, Please Call:
(313) 833-2887 or (313) 833-2881 [6]

Additional researchers’ note, per the Wayne County’s website:  The Satellite Offices only have same day certificate service for a Marriage that took place from 1996 to the present. An order for a Marriage that took place before 1996 at our Westland Satellite Office can be picked up the following business day after 1:00pm or mailed. An order for a Marriage that took place before 1997 at our Northville Twp Satellite Office can either be picked up the following Thursday or mailed. Our main office in Downtown Detroit, located on 2 Woodward Ave, has same day certificate service for all years of Marriage Licenses issued by Wayne County.

One certified copy of a marriage license is $24.00 and $7.00 for each additional copy purchased at the same time. A Marriage License search for an uncertified copy is $11.50 for years 1937 to present, whether found or not, and $11.50 for before 1937 and for each 3 year interval, whether found or not. Personal checks are not accepted. Please click here for the Marriage Certificate Order Form.

Detroit Public Library, Burton Historical Collection

5201 Woodward Avenue

Detroit, MI  48202


Begun as a collection of the late Clarence Monroe Burton, this collection holds documents of the history of Michigan and Detroit, including Wayne County, including photographs, original manuscripts, city directories, history books, pamphlets, newspapers, atlases, personal papers, archival materials, collections from other historians or archivists, business records and extensive map collections.  Genealogical materials include microfilms of federal censuses, church records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, family histories and scrapbooks, military records, immigration and land records, Sanborn  fire insurance maps and much more.  Over the years, special collections documenting ethnic groups such as French-Canadian, Polish, Jewish and other populations have been acquired. 

Wayne County Courthouse (all departments listed below are located here unless otherwise noted)

Address: 201 City-County Building, Detroit, MI 48226

Phone: 313-224-6262

Births & Deaths: 1867

Marriage Records: 1842

Address: 400 Monroe, 7th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226

Phone: (313) 224-5854

Land Records: 1703

Address: 1307 Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, 2 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226

Phone: (313) 224-5706

Probate Records: 1797

Address: 421 Madison Ave., Detroit, MI 48226

Phone: (313) 224-5261

Court Records: 1818[7]

Genealogical Societies In/Around Wayne County[8]:

Canton Historical Society 

P.O. Box 87362 Canton MI 48187-0362; 734-397-0088.

Historic documents, archives, family surnames and compilations, land-tax-cemetery-church records and more.

Dearborn Genealogical Society 

P.O. Box 1112

Dearborn 48121

Cemetery records, ancestor charts; this society is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Dearborn Historical Society 

915 Brady

Dearborn 48124

Detroit Society for Genealogical Research

c/o Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

5201 Woodward Avenue

Detroit, MI  48202

Quarterly publication includes transcriptions of documents, stories of the region and local cities ; annual indexes available for purchase or available on members-only portion of website.  Extensive list of publications for purchase includes Mt. Elliott Cemetery Burial Records, 1845-1861; Elmwood Cemetery Register 1862-1874; Wayne County Newspaper Marriage and Death Notices, 1809-1868, 1998; Passage to America 1851-1869: The Records of Richard Elliott, Passenger Agent, Detroit, MI; Cadillac’s Village or Detroit Under Cadillac, 1701-1710 (reprint of 1896 edition); Marriage Records of Ste. Anne Church Detroit 1701-1850; microfilmed Catholic church records from 1701, Protestant records from the 1820s (also at Ann Arbor’s Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan).

Detroit Historical Society 

5401 Woodward

Detroit 48202

Founded in 1921, the Museum was opened in 1928 with holdings including the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.  Thousands of artifacts, exhibits and documentation of the history of the region and events are exhibited and rotated through the two facilities.  Educational programs.

Downriver Genealogical Society 

P.O. Box 476

Lincoln Park 48146

Materials on 17 “downriver” communities including cemetery records, family charts, death records, research materials and local high school yearbooks.

Flat Rock Historical Society 

P.O. Box 337

Flat Rock MI 48134; (734) 782-1269

Collection includes historical buildings, archives and papers of the area.

Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society 

c/o Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

 5201 Woodward Avenue Detroit MI 48202

The first genealogical society in the State of Michigan dedicated to the research and preservation of African-American history.  Newsletters, educational programs, publications and SIG (special interest groups) are part of this active society.

French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

P.O. Box 1900, Royal Oak, MI 48068-1900

This society was founded to promote awareness, research, educational and social connections for those of French-Canadian descent.  The Society’s website includes extensive resources, original research, historical information and photographs and detailed information about Acadians, French-Canadians, Native/First Nations, Fille du Roi and Carignan Regiment surnames and stories, and more.  Extensive research focused on historical Detroit, and nearby communities.  Monthly educational programs, books and more. 

Irish Genealogical Society of Michigan

Gaelic League of Detroit

2068 Michigan Avenue

Detroit, MI 48216

Assistance, educational information and resources supporting Irish genealogical research.

Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan

The Gayle Sweetwine Saini Memorial Library of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan is located inside the library of the Holocaust Memorial Center. The materials are non-circulating and a catalog is available for download from the website (below).

Holocaust Memorial Center
2nd Floor
28123 Orchard Lake Road
Farmington Hills, MI 48334-3738
(248) 553-2400 ext. 16

Lincoln Park Historical Society 

P.O. Box 476

Lincoln Park 48146

Collections and artifacts of early French and German settlements; documents include articles about old families, historic photographs and more.

Northville Genealogical Society 

P.O. Box 932

Northville MI 48167

Meeting at the Northville District Library, the group includes neighboring cities and the collection includes obituaries, indexes, cemetery records, historical and church publications.

Plymouth Historical Society 

155 S. Main St.

Plymouth 48170; (734) 455-8940

Census data, information about old Plymouth families, manuscripts, old photographs and an anthology of Abraham Lincoln (unusual!).

Polish Genealogical Society Of Michigan 

5201 Woodward Ave.

Detroit 48202-4007

Public and members-only databases; books, past publications/newsletters, surname lists and more.

Romulus Historical Society 

11121 Wayne Rd.

Romulus 48174

Redford Township Historical and Genealogical Society 

P.O. Box 401175

Redford Michigan 48240-9175

No updates since 2009/2010 so it is not clear if they are still active.

St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit “Charles S. Low Memorial Library”

Kilgour Scottish Centre

2363 Rochester Road

Troy, MI  48083


Scottish books, artifacts, culture and information about clans & tartans, history, biographies and genealogies submitted by members for membership and more. 

West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society 

3245 Junction Street

Detroit MI. 48210

Oral interviews and articles about people, history and culture are featured on the website.

Wayne County Irish Society 

31975 Cowan

Westland 48185

Western Wayne County Genealogical Society

 P.O. Box 530063

Livonia 48153-0063

Meeting at the Livonia Civic Park Senior Center, the website offers surname research list, cemetery research and the Society sells publications that are compilations of cemetery and other records.

Wyandotte Historical Society 

2624 Biddle Avenue

Wyandotte Michigan 48192; 734-324-7299

Genealogy, historic buildings and businesses can be researched at the Burns House; must schedule an appointment.

Michigan History Center/ State Archives of Michigan

702 W Kalamazoo St, P.O. Box 30738

Lansing, MI 48909-8238; (517) 373-1408,4726,7-282-61083—,00.html  (website wasn’t working when checked)

1870 Michigan Census Index and Images, Michigan Cemetery Sources, Michigan Naturalization Records, Vital Records, State and Local, Public Land Grants and Private Claims, Circuit Court Records, Michigan Local Histories and Biographies, and more.

Library of Michigan

702 W. Kalamazoo St,

Lansing, MI 48909

Newspapers, law library, rare books, genealogical materials and online databases, family histories, county indexes and directories, and more.

Historical Society of Michigan

1305 Abbott Rd,

East Lansing, MI 48823; (517) 324-1828

Hosts history conferences and education events; tours; support to county/regional historical societies.

Record Losses/Extant Records:

There are no known record losses in Wayne County.

LDS Family History Centers

The following family history centers in Michigan offer the most comprehensive genealogy resources, including census records, death records, family history records, obituaries, marriage records, vital records, court records, and various other public records.:

Closest to Wayne County, Michigan are:

Ann Arbor Michigan 
914 Hill St
Ann Arbor, Michigan (734) 995-0211   Bloomfield Hills Michigan
425 Woodward Avenue
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (248) 647-5671
  published sources/ Online resources and databases/ digital collections: Census records for Wayne county, from 1820 as well as regional and state census from 1799 to 1894.  1906 to 1957 immigration arrival records in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) record group 85.  Many other Wayne County records found by typing “Wayne County, Michigan” in Ancestry’s search box.   Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library A special commemorative brochure was compiled in honor of the collection’s 100th anniversary: An extensive digital photo collection can be searched and copies ordered from the website. The Detroit Death Index (1920 to 2009) includes records from the Detroit Health Department but is not entirely searchable online.   Cemeteries, Death Records, Obituaries See “Seeking Michigan” for Library of Michigan indexes.  Most Detroit and Wayne County churches and cemeteries have compiled their own indexes and burial records. And the following website has links for indexes, cemeteries and obituaries.   Jewish Beth-El Archives The oldest synagogue in Detroit has shared it’s records online – of those of Blessed memory are recorded with birth date and death date in the synagogue’s cemetery.    Newspapers The oldest paper in Wayne county is the Detroit Free Press.  Previous newspapers include the Detroit Tribune, Detroit Times, Detroit News, Detroit Journal and there are several historically ethnic newspapers.  The Detroit Public Library has clippings on file or microfilm and DPL staff will do look ups for a fee ($15-25; call for information).   Seeking Michigan Provides access to nearly a million death records, indexes, military records, Michigan census and maps, cemetery indexes and more.  Immigration and naturalization records are now being indexed with the help of thousands of volunteers.       

[1] Wayne County, Michigan.  Wikipedia History at,_Michigan

[2] Ibid.

[3] Maps of the US.

[4] By Funnyhat at English Wikipedia – Self-madeTransferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Werewombat., Public Domain,



[7] Website – Genealogy Inc.

[8] Crediting Genealogy Inc. at for this list of genealogical and historical societies.

National Genealogical Society 2021 Family History Conference – Virtual Event!

Focus On Societies: Join me for the session – Society Management: Volunteer Motivations – Recruiting & Retaining Volunteers for your Society!

The National Genealogical Society’s Family History Conference is coming! Hope you registered early to get the discount, but register TODAY here: and join one of the most interesting, educational and important conferences of each year.

This year – new – is the fact that the Federation of Genealogical Societies merged with NGS and there is a “Focus on Societies” section, offering help, resources and information to genealogical societies to help them to thrive, grow and engage with their communities and interested researchers. That’s where my session – Society Management: Volunteer Motivations: Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers – appears. Join me?

NGS 2021 LIVE!
 is 19─20 May and continues with NGS 2021 On-Demand! on 15 June. Additional events throughout the week include the Delegate Council Workshop on Monday and the SLAM! Idea Showcase on Tuesday.

#NGS2021LIVE, #NGS2021OnDemand, and #NGSFocusOnSocieties.

Happy birthday to my 2nd Great-Grandfather, Norbert Albert Villeneuve

Here’s Norbert Albert Villeneuve and wife Adele Paquet and their family probably around 1902 in Ishpeming, Michigan (colorized thanks to MyHeritage!).

When Norbert Albert Villeneuve was born on March 3, 1840, in Quebec, Canada, his father, Joseph, was 31 and his mother, Julie, was 33. He married Adele Adelaide Paquet on November 7, 1865, in Maskinongé, Quebec, Canada. They had 11 children in 21 years. He died on May 13, 1914, in Ishpeming, Michigan, at the age of 74.

That doesn’t say a lot about Albert or Al as he was known. He was likely a farmer in Quebec as many in the community of Maskinongé were but we also know from family stories that he made furniture, very solid, functional furniture that was nice looking too. He became a miner in the iron ore mines in and around Ishpeming area. He was a carpenter and worked in and around the mines constructing joists and structures to hold up the rock for the miners, hoping to keep them safer. According to the 1910 census, he was still working for the mining company even at the age of 71. When he died just 4 years later, his obituary stated that he was one of the “early pioneers” and had cut trees to help construct the main road in Ishpeming. The family must have been a bit musical as family stories that I heard over the years about Albert, Adele and the kids included a great deal of music and dancing. And on his death, the inventory of his belongings included a piano that my Great Grandmother Louise Villeneuve Elliot took for her large family. My Grandmother Elsie Elliot Sutinen told me that this family, back in Quebec, were well known formal dancers – participating in waltz and ballroom dancing competitions, often winning. So maybe the family piano helped in teaching the children?!

A recent trip this summer to Ishpeming included driving around the area where the Villeneuve family lived, even finding their home address using the census records. Such a small home for a family of 11 children and 2 adults!

350 South 1st Street, Ishpeming – the Albert and Adele Villeneuve home in 1910.