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, November 20, 2013

Researching in the Detroit City Directories

Some time back, I posted the residential chronology of Evelyn Hauer Kerr as she remembered and wrote it in a notebook in 1943. Today, with the help of the Detroit city directories online at, I'm going to fine-tune her accounting of the years from 1911 to 1920.

I chose to begin with 1911 because this story is not just about Evelyn, but about the Scheele family as well, with whom Evelyn's story intersects.

Evelyn turned 17 on April 1, 1911. She lived with her family at 116 Townsend Avenue. George T. Corneilson, her step-father, worked as a molder at the stove works. The manufacture of stoves was an important industry in Detroit, and George had started work at Michigan Stove Company by the time he was sixteen in 1886. He continued to work as a molder until about 1915, when he was no longer listed as such in the city directories.

Evelyn had her own listing in the city directory in 1911 and subsequent years. She was working as a cashier, and directories from 1911 through 1913 indicate she boarded at 116 Townsend with her mother, stepfather, and half-sister Marceline.

In 1911, Jacob H. Scheele was listed in the Detroit city directory as a confectioner living and working at 631 Mount Elliott. There was nothing at all listed for 443-447 Concord Avenue. But in the 1912 city directory, Jacob H. Scheele was listed at 443-447 Concord, along with the (presumably new) Odeon Theatre (odiously misspelled Odion in this edition of the directory). Jacob and his wife, Elizabeth Mary Cawthorne, were the parents of three little girls by then: Aileen (born in 1904), Marguerite (born in 1906), and Felice (born in 1908).

The Scheele family lived at this address on Concord Avenue, between Kercheval and St. Paul, for about ten years. They were enumerated there in the 1920 census, in which Jacob was listed as the manager and owner of the Odeon.

By 1922, Jacob had gotten out of the theatre business and was breeding poultry on the north side of Windemere Avenue in Royal Oak, as shown in this entry from the Royal Oak city directory that year:

In Evelyn's residential chronology, she wrote, "1922 - July 19 - Moved to Room over Odeon Theatre - with Mrs. Scheele - on Concord (445)." I'd noted in my earlier post that she probably meant 1912. But I now find it was not until the 1914 city directory that she was listed at the Concord address.

Oddly, however, the 1913 city directory had a new listing for Evelyn's mother:
Corneilson, Eliz, Mrs, confr [confectioner], 445 Concord av, h 116 Townsend av
Elizabeth Corneilson's listing continued in the 1914 city directory, the same edition in which Evelyn's read thus:
Hauer, Evelyn, cashr, bds 445 Concord av
Meanwhile, a few miles to the east, also in the 1914 city directory, a new listing appeared at 2605 Jefferson near Lycaste, across from Joseph Platte & Sons grocery store. The new listing was for the (presumably new) Plaza Theatre. Prior to 1914, there'd been no listing at all for 2605 Jefferson.

What makes the Plaza Theatre interesting to me is this listing in the 1915 city directory:
Corneilson, Geo T, confr, 2607 Jefferson av, h 1116 [sic] Townsend av
Retired from his career as a stove molder, Evelyn's step-father opened a business as a confectioner next to the Plaza. His wife's listing as a confectioner at the Odeon Theatre address disappeared from the city directories at this point, as she probably transferred her services over to her husband's business.

The Plaza Theatre, 2605 Jefferson
Above the hood of the car, you can see a curved line of print. 
You'll have to trust me on this: it says G T CORNEILSON 
and the straight line below it says CONFECTIONER.

Evelyn was also listed in the 1915 city directory:
Corneilson, Evelyn, clerk, b 116 Townsend av
To my knowledge, Evelyn didn't use Corneilson as her surname, so I'm not sure how it happened to appear that way in the city directory, and I'm not sure her address is correct in this entry either, because the next year, in the 1916 city directory, she was listed back at the Scheele family's address:
Hauer, Evelyn, cash, b 445 Concord av
I can't imagine that she would have moved out and then back to the Concord address, nor did she suggest anything of that sort in her residential chronology. I believe the 1915 listing is incorrect. In any case, Evelyn married Rosmer P. Kerr on 12 June 1916 and left the Scheele home to live with her husband at his mother's address, 525 Crawford. And then, according to her notes, she and Rosmer moved on 15 December 1916 to a place of their own on Dragoon.

In the 1917 city directory, both Evelyn and Rosmer were listed, as was Rosmer's mother, Kate Pettis Kerr:
Kerr, Evelyn, cash, b 115 Dragoon av
Kerr, Kate E Mrs, h 525 Crawford av
Kerr, Rosmer P, polisher, h 115 Dragoon av
Evelyn had remembered that address as 111 Dragoon rather than 115. Whatever the address, a far more significant point for her was that it was here that she lost her first baby.

From 1917 through 1919, George Corneilson's listing read:
Corneilson, Geo T, confr, 2607 Jeff av h 116 Townsend av

In mid-September 1917, Rosmer and Evelyn moved to 1079 E. Jefferson. From the 1918 city directory, we have:
Kerr, Rosmer P, stock tracer h 1079 Jeff av 
On 21 March 1918 while living at that address, Evelyn gave birth to her second baby, Mary June Kerr. Mary June lived only two days. Around the first of May, Rosmer and Evelyn moved to 1077 E. Jefferson (upstairs).

"Our Jefferson Ave. Home" was the caption Rosmer gave the photo above in his album, and the one below he identified as "The inside." He didn't identify the girl in the picture, but it may have been Evelyn's cousin Josephine, who would have been in her early teens at that time.

The 1919 city directory entries indicate that Rosmer's mother lived with them on Jefferson:
Kerr, Kate (wid Milton E) b 1077 Jeff av
Kerr, Rosmer P stock tracer h 1077 Jeff av
(Essentially, the h indicates that this home was headed by Rosmer, and the b indicates that Kate boarded there. In the old city directories, you find adult children who are still living at their parents' home (or in this case, vice versa) listed as boarders. I don't think this necessarily meant that they were paying rent, only that they were not the head of the household.)

  In 1920, television was still decades away. For entertainment,
there were about 150 movie theaters in Detroit. (click to enlarge)
Today there are only two operating movie theaters within the city limits.*
The 1920 city directory indicates that, while Jacob Scheele continued to run the Odeon Theatre, George Corneilson moved his business from the Jefferson address adjoining the Plaza Theatre to Park View Avenue, which was about a mile closer to the center of Detroit and to his home on Townsend,  just off Jefferson. The Kerrs continued to live at their Jefferson address, about a quarter-mile west of Mount Elliott, until the first of August:
Corneilson, Geo T, confr 1280 (old no. 286) Park View av, h 534 (116) Townsend av
Kerr, Kate, slsldy, Ernst Kern Co, b 2413 ( 1077) Jeff av [2413 is incorrect, it was 3413]
Kerr, Rosmer P, buyer, h 3413 (1077) Jeff av
Scheele, Jacob H, prop Odeon Theatre, h 1805 (445) Concord
One of my reasons for addressing this topic today is that I would like the charming photo of the Scheele girls shown in this post to find its way to a Scheele descendant. The original, kept by my grandmother, is now in my possession and, while it is not in the best of condition, I believe there may be someone who would like to have it. The scan does not do it justice, especially after being resampled for on-screen display. In any case, if you are a descendant of one of these little girls, I invite you to use my Contact form to let me know of your interest in having the original photograph, and please tell me how you are related.

And for my genealogically inclined friends who have Detroit ancestors, I've created a PDF which will help you navigate more quickly through the online version of the 1920 Detroit City Directory. In 1920, Detroit's street addresses were renumbered, and this edition of the city directory shows both the old and the new address numbers. The Stoves and Furnaces article above is also from this city directory. Furthermore, this was the 50th Anniversary Edition. I found the Dedication and Introduction to be worth reading, and was interested to see that a photograph of R. L. Polk (Ralph Lane! Who knew?) was included. Those pages are included in the downloadable PDF below, along with the General Index, the Index to Miscellaneous, and the Index to Advertisers.


*Hallman, Philip and Nicole O. Scholtz. "Mapping the Motor City's Cinemas: A Collaborative Digital Humanities Project." ALA Association of College and Research Libraries, April 2013.

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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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