Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Searching the Detroit Free Press Archives Online

A comment from Greta Koehl on my previous post led me to discover that the Detroit Free Press archives from January 1831 through December 1922 are available for searching online.

Little or nothing is given away for free though. The search results indicate only that your search term was found in an article on such-and-such a date, and you might get the headline of the article and, if the article is more than a couple hundred words, you might get the first sentence or two. You won't get the part that includes your search term unless it happens to be in either of those two snippets.

You must purchase access to see the full article. A single article is $3.95, and there's a range of other purchase options. I purchased the right to access 10 articles during a 24-hour period for $11.95, but before I did so, I had searched and chosen all ten articles, leaving each search result open in a browser tab. I then made my purchase and returned to each tab to download the PDF of each article.

Three of them were exactly what I had expected (two marriage notices for which I already had documentation and a real estate transaction around the time of my great-grandfather's death); four were shot-in-the-dark (sort of) research about other possible descendants of my ancestors which turned out to be pretty interesting; the rest seem to be irrelevant so, while I did keep a digital copy of each, I did not bother to print those out for my hard files.

On the whole, I found this less than user-friendly for general info-hunting, considering the cost. If you don't know exactly what you're looking for and when it happened, you could pump a small fortune into this method of finding out, and still not find out. If you have a small fortune to spend, I will say it's quicker than reeling through ninety years of microfilms scanning every page for names of interest to you. If you have more time than money and free access to microfilms of these archives, you could certainly search here first and take notes on what dates to look up in the microfilm, because these search results include do the page numbers.

The marriage notices I found were simply announcements of marriage license applications. They included nothing but the names and ages of brides and grooms.

The real estate transaction was something I did not expect. Although the article title was "Real Estate Transfers," the date was a week or two after the death of my great-grandfather, Felix Hauer, so I suspected I would find a death notice in the same column directly below the real estate transactions. However, there were indeed not one but two real estate transactions between Felix and J. N. Wolfslayer, the first and last in a list of sixteen:
  • Felix J. Hauer to J. N. Wolfslayer, lot 22 of Wesson's sub of p. cs. 644 and 723 (April 20)... $400
  • J. N. Wolfslayer to Felix Haure [sic], lot 22 of Wesson's sub of p. cs. 644 and 723 (April 24)... $400
These two transfers were recorded 4 June 1897, and were published in the Free Press the next day. The transfers had taken place in April though, less than a month before Felix's death from tuberculosis on May 19 of that year.

I'm not sure, but I think J. N. Wolfslayer was John Wolfschlager, the brother of Felix's mother, i.e., his uncle. [Update: I now think J. N. Wolfslayer was Felix's cousin John N., son of Andrew Anton Wolfslayer, another of Felix's uncles.]

Over the years, I've seen a number of these back-and-forth real estate transfers in my family history research. I'm not sure what's accomplished by them. Leave a comment if you can enlighten me!

This is my first encounter with Detroit real estate records--I've never looked for deeds in Detroit, despite having several ancestors who lived there. Reader, if you've done any deed research in Detroit, I'd like to hear about your experience, particularly pertaining to deeds in the 1800s-early 1900s.


Jasia said...

I wish I had some great info to share with you on Detroit deed research. I don't. But I'm interested in the very same subject from the very same time period, so I'll be hoping to see some good info shared here!

I didn't realize the Free Press Archives were searchable online. I knew they were available at the Library in Lansing but online is even better. :-) Thanks for the info!

T.K. said...

Jasia, Wayne County Deeds is online but not for the early deeds. It says you can go in person and search but they charge $5 per name and $1 per page to make copies. I got the impression they won't just let you have access to the books and do it yourself, and that the $5 covers only one document, not all documents for the name in question. Owie!

Jasia said...

Yeah, I've been there (Wayne County Deeds office) and tried that. It was a total waste of time. I was looking for a deed related to my grandparent's bakery from the 1916-1936 time period. They told me they only store records that old "off site" but wouldn't tell me where or how I could access them. I met up with a lot of attitude in that office, if you know what I mean.

T.K. said...

I suspect I do, Jasia. Good to know. Wayne County deed research is rapidly slipping down to the bottom of my priority list.

What about getting vital records from Herman Kiefer--have you gone there? I've been putting it off, but there are a number of documents I'd like to go get... one o' these days...

Greta Koehl said...

Oh, wow, you made my day! I'm so glad that checking them out did turn up something. It's funny, but when I was going through Dallas Morning News online archives, some of the real estate reporting ended up being the most significant information I found at the time. (Two brothers had been in a speculation scandal, and the transfers of real estate provided some back story to that.)

T.K. said...

Interesting, Greta. Sometimes the old newspapers lead you down some pretty unexpected trails. I do wish I could just go down to Wayne Co. and pull those big heavy libers off the shelf myself and surf for familiar names... I have quite a few in old Detroit, and you never know what might turn up. But at $5 a pop for someone else to check the book... that's just not gonna do it for me!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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