Three of my four grandparents immigrated to Detroit, Michgian as teens or young adults. Dad’s ancestors are all French-Canadian and can be traced back in some cases to the 1600s fairly easily (not that I’ve very much research of my own) because of the Catholic church records and 17th century French ship manifests. My maternal grandfather’s side is Jewish and from all around Western and Central Europe—using existing family trees and doing a little of my own research, I can trace this line to my third great-grandparents. I have city names, so I’m in good shape to focus my research and dig deeper when I’m ready for that.
All of my Detroit-born grandmother’s grandparents (my great-great grandparents) immigrated to the United States between 1892 and 1903, her mother’s side directly to Detroit and her father’s side to Adams, Massachusetts via Plainfield, New Jersey. I decided to learn what I could about the earliest American roots that I have, figuring that would be a good starting place to start my genealogical research. Records in the United States had to be the easiest to find since I live here, right? Haha, well, sort of.
I have death dates and burial sites in Detroit for my great-grandmother Hedwig’s parents, Anna (Wenorski) Schulz and August Schulz, but I don’t know their exact birth dates, where exactly they were born, or anything about their parents except their names. Well, I know that Anna and August were born in roughly 1877 and 1873 in Germany, but that doesn’t narrow it down much since half of Western Europe was part of Germany during the latter half of the 19th century. And though I know that they were most likely Catholic, without knowing where they born, I don’t have any leads on learning more about their parents.
I have an immigration record from 1903 for Anna and little Hedwig, but not for August. I don’t know if he was already in the US or if he came later. Hedwig was born in Danzig (which was a free city-state but and has been part of Poland since after World War II, and is now called Gdansk) so I presume that her parents are both from that region of Europe. At least I know that they spoke German, though I must consider that Anna’s maiden name sounds Polish. Add to the confusion that her maiden name could be Wensorski, not Wenorski, based on names I’ve seen in formal wedding portraits attached to people whom I assume are cousins. I’m pretty certain, from photographs, that Anna had at least two sisters who lived near her in Detroit, but I don’t know their names. I don’t know about any brothers, but if the Wensorski name was passed down, there is probably a brother involved.
There are some potential long-shot leads, but I’m facing a brick wall in researching Anna and August without knowing where they were born. But because I know the dates that they were buried in Detroit, and I assume that they also died there, there’s a good chance that Michigan recorded some additional information on their death certificates. I first contacted the Detroit vital records division, but for records dating back to 1906 (August’s year of death) they referred me to Michigan’s state records archive.
I mailed my request in last week with a check and am really excited about receiving information, even if it takes over a month as estimated. There’s a possibility that the records have been lost, so I’m crossing my fingers. I’m more confident about Anna’s record since she died more recently in 1937. I’m hoping to document Anna and August’s birth dates, birth cities, and mothers’ maiden names. Maybe I’ll get lucky and cause of death will be included, too. August died pretty young, either shortly before or shortly after the birth of his third daughter.
Anna then married Paul Schulz, a man ten years her junior and most likely August’s brother, and had five more children. But that’s another story for another day.