Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Successful Day of Research

Saturday was a downtown Detroit day for me. I spent a few hours at the Detroit Public Library looking at microfilms and city directories. I also caught up on the most recent issues of the journal put out by the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research. Those of us who have done genealogical research for any length of time know that some days our research is more successful than on other days. Saturday, was a very successful day for me.

I began by first ordering the microfilm for Mount Elliott Cemetery. My goal was to try to determine if in fact the two LIPA children buried in the cemetery in 1887 were In fact my grand aunt and uncle. To the best of my knowledge there was only one L IPA family living in Detroit at that time. As we know it can be dangerous to make assumptions when it comes to genealogy.

Jim TYE, genealogist and Detroit historian extraordinaire, has an index of Mount Elliott Cemetery burials from Saint Albertus Church. He is the one who first told me that there were two children with the surname Lipa buried there. The two children were unknown to me previously.

The microfilm record for the two children was easy to locate. And while it didn't list the names of the parents it did give their home address, which was the same as my great grandparents home. The records also indicated that both children died of scarlet fever. The name of the undertaker was also given and it was not the one I expected it to be. It was an undertaker I had never heard of before. That was a bit of a surprise.

I was very happy to have found these two records. The one I was most excited about was the record for CATHERINE LIPA. According to this record, Catherine was born in Detroit and died at the age of three years. That meant she was born in Detroit about 1884. I had previously searched for a baptismal record for any children with the surname LIPA in the Saint Albertus parish records prior to 1886 with no success. But I decided to check one more time since I was at the library where the Saint Albertus parish records were available on microfilm.

I ordered the microfilm for Saint Albertus parish from the librarian and and while I waited for it I looked at the city directory for Detroit for the year 1888. I was hoping to find information on how common scarlet fever had been in the city of Detroit in 1887. That particular directory did not list causes of death for 1887 but I was able to look up the undertaker FAIRBROTHER. Turns out he had an office on Grand River Avenue not too far from my great grandparents' home.

When I got the microfilm for Saint Albertus parish I started looking for Catherine's record in 1883. First I looked in the index but I did not find her name. Then I flipped ahead to the actual records for 1883 and looked at them one by one. I didn't find her. So then I looked for her name in the index for 1884, but I didn't find it there either. I went to the actual records for 1884 and looked at each one individually. This time I was successful! It turns out the surname was listed as LIPKA, and her first name was listed as Anna. It seems like such an obvious mistake I wonder how I'd missed it before. But there you have it. The surname was misspelled and a different first name was listed. But at least I found her!

So I was doing the happy dance on Saturday afternoon. It always feels good to hit pay dirt no matter how long you've been doing genealogical research!

After I finished my research at the library I went across the street to the Detroit Historical Museum. I'll tell you about that tomorrow. Stay tuned for more discoveries!