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Do you know how you are related to your ancestors?

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Michigan City Directories

City Directories      

City directories, including Michigan’s can help family history researchers find success in tracking down these “lost relatives.” Since many of them are published annually, city directories can give historical perspective on a family’s residence within a particular community. They can also identify when and where they moved into a city, list a spouse’s name, a resident’s occupation and/or place of work, and even narrow the possible date ranges of an ancestor’s death. City directories can also serve as an effective substitute for the 1890 U.S. Census. In addition, they have perhaps their greatest value with more contemporary ancestors, especially those who lived after the 1930 census. However, city directories generally contain entries only for those ancestors who lived in the urban areas of the United States, as directories usually do not exist for rural areas and some smaller communities.

One of the popular companies that publish city directories in Michigan are the R. L. Polk & Company. Dating back to the 1870’s, the Polk directories are a standard alphabetical listing of the city’s residents, and also include a section both by street address and a business directory.

Michigan City Directories

The Library of Michigan maintains a large collection of Michigan city directories, dating back to the early to the mid-1800’s. Many of the Michigan directories, especially Detroit, are also available on microfilm, as part of the United States City Directories collection.

Although some of these cities may have earlier published directories, here is an overview of the Library’s holdings in hard copy for several of notable Michigan cities:  Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Bay City, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Escanaba, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Manistee, Marquette, Monroe, Muskegon, Niles, Pontiac, Port Huron, Saginaw, Sault St. Marie.

Business Directories/Gazetteers

Similar to city directories, business gazetteers are valuable resources for those researchers with ancestors who were business owners and can also be used to research the business or company itself. This includes identifying the approximate years of operation, the location, what products or services were manufactured, and the names of the CEO and other executive officers.

With an emphasis on Michigan, the Library does have a number of other states, too; many state business gazetteers are also available at Heritage Quest Online.


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Cetnar Family from Jaslo, Poland

Emigration from Jaslo, Poland

The Cetnar family came over from Jaslo, Poland by traveling on the ship Capella which departed Hamburg, Germany on April 1, 1881 and arrived in London, England.  The family more than likely traveled by rail from Jaslo, Poland to Hamburg, Germany.  Jaslo is in the Southeastern part of Poland.   From the Hamburg passenger list, the family is listed as: Peter (Piotr) with his occupation as farmer, Maria, Adam, Justine, Ladislaus (Wladyslaw/Walter), Carolina, Kataryna and Vinenz.  Their accommodations were not listed on the passenger list which meant they more than likely stayed in the steerage.  They departed from London, England on the ship Victoria and arrived in New York, New York on April 25, 1881.  The family probably traveled by rail from New York to Detroit, Michigan.   This had to be a lot of rough traveling for a family during this time frame especially seeing the youngest was only six months old.

Ellis Island

The amenities at Castle Gardens included two wash rooms, one for men and one for women.  Furthermore,there was hot water, soap and towels, all free to the immigrant.  The garden was heated in the winter and in the warm weather there was a cooling fountain.  There were no beds at Castle Gardens and immigrants.  They were encouraged to go on their way the same day they had arrived.  There is a myth that names were changed at Ellis Island.  This did not happen.  The manifests were made at the port of embarkation or during the voyage so the name on the manifest was determined in whatever port the immigrant left from, not when they arrived in the USA.

Cetnar Research

Because the 1890 census was destroyed, the first census records they were listed in was in the 1900.  The Cetnar name may have been misspelled but it was never changed or shorten. Peter Cetnar was born June 25, 1840 in Pilzno, Poland and died on June 16, 1904 in Detroit, Michigan.  His parents are listed Michael Cetnar and Katharina Stojanowski Cetnar.  Peter was Nationalized on April 29, 1892.  Mary Cetnar-nee Jarosz was born on August 15, 1847 and died on August 9, 1938 according to her death certificate.  Her parents are listed as Thomas Jarosz and Magdeline Madajewski.  Peter, Mary and many other Cetnar family members are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.



William C. Helme- Providence, RI

William C. Helme (1805-1865) was a master machinist in Providence, Rhode Island.  He was part owner of Helme & Dorrance, Manufactures of Jeweler’s and Machinists Tools.   He married Celinda Elizabeth Gould in 1857, in Providence, Rhode Island.  They had 8 children, one of which was George Edwin Helme.   George had a son named Arthur Helme (picture on the left) whom is my Great Grandfather. Arthur moved to Michigan for a job.  William and his family resided at 26 Halsey Street, Providence, Rhode Island for many years.  This house was built in 1814 (somewhere unknown) and was moved to 26 Halsey Street in 1840.  In 1854 this house according to the tax ledger it was valued at $1,800.00.  The family sold the house in 1876 to a John Heathcote.  If walls could only talk!  The house is now classified as a Historical house due to the Preservation Society which saved hundreds of homes along the East side of Providence.  Now this area is beautifully preserved with plaques indicating original owners and builders.   The home is now 2,824 square feet with 6 bedrooms, 4 full baths, a partial bath, fireplace and a full basement.  It is amazing that this house still exists!  This house was for sale in 2004 for a mere $924,00.00.

26 Halsey Street

I was very lucky to receive the pictures of the William C. and Nathaniel Helme’s houses by a Steven Aguiar whom was living in this house at the time in 2004.  He knew that the Helme family had lived in the house due to the Preservation Society.   Steven found me through genealogy a web site in order to find out more about the people who lived in his historical house.  It is great to be able to see the house where my ancestors lived.  I visited Providence, Rhode Island in 2011 and saw the outside of these houses in person.  I would love to see the inside of them.  William C. Helme had a brother named Nathaniel G. Helme who lived at 22 Halsey Street which was valued at 1.5 million in 2004.



Billington Descendants of the Mayflower

John Billington family

I am related to this Billington Family that came over on the Mayflower.  This family has some interesting stories.  Have you ever wondered if you are a descendant of the Mayflower?

John Billington was born in England, about 1580 and was executed, more than likely by hanging, at Plymouth in September 1630.  His wife’s name was Ellinor who was also born in England about 1580.   The Billington’s came over on the Mayflower to become independent of the Separatist church group from Leiden. The ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions.   On November 11, 1620 John Billington signed the Mayflower Compact on board the ship anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor, Massachusetts.  A few days later on December 5, 1620 am unnamed Billington son, in his father’s absence, fired a gun near an open half-keg of gunpowder in the crowded cabin of the Mayflower, endangering ship and passengers.

In May 1621, John Billington, the son got lost in the woods and wandered for some 5 days living on berries and whatever else he could find.   He ended up on an Indian plantation about twenty miles south of his residence.  He was found by the Indians of Cape Cod and Chief Massasoit sent word to Plymouth that John was safe.  Ten men went after the boy on June 11, 1621 and brought the boy home.  This encounter and others led to a long and beneficial friendship between the colony and the Indians of the Cape.

John Billington was executed for killing a John Newcomen whom he saw as his enemy, and his eldest son, John died before him.  His second son, Francis married and had several children.   Ironically, the first European man executed in Plymouth colony was an ancestor of President James Abram Garfield who was assassinated.  In 1636, wife Elinor (Eleanor) was sentenced to sit in the stocks and be whipped for slandering John Doan

The Billington Sea which is a 269-acre warm water pond located in Plymouth, Massachusetts was named after Francis Billington.  The pond is fed by groundwater and cranberry bog outlets.

Mayflower Compact 1620 was signed by many people including John Billington.

  • John Billington
  • Moses Fletcher
  • John Goodman
  • Mr. Samuel Fuller
  • Mr. Christopher Martin
  • Mr. William Mullins
  • Mr. William White
  • Mr. Richard Warren
  • John Howland
  • Mr. Steven Hopkins
  • Digery Priest
  • Mr. John Carver
  • Mr. William Bradford
  • Mr. Edward Winslow
  • Mr. William Brewster
  • Isaac Allerton
  • Myles Standish
  • John Alden
  • John Turner
  • Francis Eaton
  • James Chilton
  • John Craxton
  • Thomas Williams
  • Gilbert Winslow
  • Edmund Margesson
  • Peter Brown
  • Richard Britteridge
  • George Soule
  • Edward Tilly
  • John Tilly
  • Francis Cooke
  • Thomas Rogers
  • Thomas Tinker
  • John Ridgdale
  • Edward Fuller
  • Richard Clark
  • Richard Gardiner
  • Mr. John Allerton
  • Thomas English
  • Edward Doten
  • Edward Liester


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The Bennett Family Tree

England to Livonia, Michigan

This is the genealogy of the Bennett family tree. According to the Immigrant Ship Transcribers Guild, my Bennett family came over on the Ship Vibilia, from London, England to New York.  The ship arrived in New York, New York, on September 17, 1836.  From the passenger list, it lists Thomas Bennett, 37 years old, male, Farmer, and Daniel Bennett, 21 years old, male, farmer.  According to the Index of Landowners in 1876, Thomas owned 98 acres on Section 33 in Livonia Township.   The family grew over the next several decades.  Because of the family growing the acres of land was divided up to between the descendants. From the 1880 census, it stated that Thomas was a widowed retired farmer who was born in England and both of his parents were born in England. To the left is the Bennett Coat of Arms.  Below is an outline report of my 3rd Great-grandfather’s family.  Since I have not found out where they were born in England, it would love to connect with anyone who is researching this family. Bennett family tree, Family Tree Research

Outline Descendant Report for Thomas Bennett

1 Thomas Bennett (1801 – 1880) b: 11 Apr 1801 in England, d: 11 Jul 1880 in Livonia, Wayne, Michigan

  • Ann Watts (1811 – 1877) b: 30 May 1811 in England, m: 15 Oct 1827 in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, England, d: 30 May 1877 in Livonia, Wayne, Michigan Bennett family tree, Family Tree Research

….2 Thomas William Bennett (1829 – 1884) b: 02 Nov 1829 in Chelsea, London, England, d: 31 Mar 1884 in Lapeer, Lapeer, Michigan, USA; Mount Hope Cemetery Bennett family tree, Family Tree Research

  • Mary Ann Bishop (1833 – 1913) b: 07 Aug 1833 in England, m: Abt. 1856 in Michigan, USA, d: 01 Feb 1913 in Flint, Genesee, Michigan; buried in Lapeer, MI on Feb 4, 1913 Bennett family tree, Family Tree Research

….2 Edmund Bennett (1836 – 1905) b: 04 Aug 1836 in Livonia, Wayne, Michigan, d: 13 May 1905 in Middleville Village of Thornapple Twp., Barry, Michigan, USA; Mount Hope Cemetery Bennett family tree, Family Tree Research

  • Cordelia VanAkin (1842 – 1910) b: 06 Feb 1842 in Northville, Oakland, Michigan, USA, m: 24 Feb 1859 in Nankin, Wayne, Michigan, d: 09 Sep 1910 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan

….2 Francis Bennett (1839 – 1908) b: 18 Mar 1839 in Livonia, Wayne, Michigan, d: 18 Mar 1908 in Fowlerville, Livingston, Michigan; Greenwood Cemetery

  • Adelia Venetia (1845 – 1917) b: Oct 1845 in Livingston County, Michigan, m: Bef. 1871, d: 23 Jan 1917 in Fowlerville, Livingston, Michigan, USA; Greenwood Cemetery

….2 Helen Nellie Bennett (1845 – 1917) b: 20 Dec 1845 in Livonia, Wayne, Michigan, d: 09 Nov 1917 in Salem Twp., Wayne, Michigan

  • Seymour W. Orr (1839 – 1920) b: 23 Nov 1839 in Michigan, USA, m: 1872 in Michigan, USA, d: 28 Feb 1920 in Plymouth, Wayne, Michigan; Newburg Cemetery, Livonia, Wayne, Michigan

….2 John G. Bennett (1848 – 1915) b: Jun 1848 in Livonia, Wayne, Michigan, d: 17 Dec 1915 in Plymouth, Wayne, Michigan

  • Louisa A. Chapman (1845 – 1938) b: Oct 1845 in Livonia Twp., Wayne, Michigan, m: Aft. 1870 in Northville, Oakland, Michigan, USA, d: 1938 in Livonia Twp., Wayne, Michigan




The biography below was written by Dottie Bennett in 1989.

“For most of my life I have been working with young people and women, assisting their growth and adjustment.  It has been challenging, exciting, interesting and rewarding.

At age ten I ran a neighborhood nursery; at age twelve I was a junior counselor at the Episcopal Camp and later a co-sponsor of Girls’ Friendly Society of Teenagers and a Sunday School Teacher.  As my three girls grew I became active in the local PTA as an officer and Newsletter editor, in the community on the Farmington Public School Advisory Board, in Girl Scouts as a leader and summer camp director, and at the First Presbyterian Church as a circle leader and Sunday School Teacher.”

“I entered college at age thirty-six, earning a 3.87 GPA (in English Literature/Education at Eastern Michigan University) in three and one-half years while raising three daughters, with the help of a super husband (Jack).  I was honored by receiving local and national scholarships and by induction into three honor societies; Stoic, Kappa Delta Pi and Mortar Board.  I earned a M.A. at the University of Michigan in Guidance and Counseling and have post-masters credits at Michigan State University in psychology and management.  I taught English at Clarenceville High School, and then became a counselor and Director of Guidance.   I sponsored the debate team, forensic teams, American Field Service, Youth for Understanding, the National Honor Society, trips to Stratford, Ontario, Shakespeare Festival and to three universities’ theatres.  I organized and ran the annual Honors Convocation, assisted by my wonderful secretary and members of the National Honor Society.  My home was the center for my students and my family loved talking to them.  Students brought their problems, personal and academic; later they brought their children.  I miss them greatly.”

“My professional improvements included membership and active participation in Michigan Teachers of English; Oakland County, Michigan, and American Personnel and Guidance Association; American Association of University Women, serving as vice-president in Michigan and Education Committee and Scholarship Chairman in Green Valley; National and Michigan Association of Women Deans, Counselors and Administrators as conference chairman at the state level and chairman of Rooms and Signs for the national convention in Detroit; member of Nationally Certified Counselors and Certified Human Potential Trainer.  I was inducted into The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International in 1970, Beta Eta Chapter, Farmington, Michigan, through which I participated in many state-offered workshops in professional growth, management and leadership (which I, in turn, presented to my and other chapters and utilized with my students) and wherein I served as committee chairman and president during which I originated the formation of a new chapter, Beta Chi ( and later also Gamma Alpha); was president of the Oakland  Coordinating Council; for Iota State I was chairman for Books for China Project, for Coordination Councils and for the Executive Board Minutes Review Committee, and Corresponding Secretary; was chairman for Rooms and Property at the International convention in Detroit in 1981; and was a presenter at the Northeast Regional Convention in Toronto.  I received a great honor of woman of Distinction from both Beta Eta Chapter and Alpha Iota State. The members of Delta Kappa Gamma are so talented and such good leaders that I am humble at receiving this award.”

My comments:

Dottie and her husband Jack retired to Green Valley, Arizona in 1985 where she continued her professional involvement and in 1991, she was awarded Distinction by AAUW, Green Valley, Arizona Chapter.  Her life was happy and full until she fell under the influence of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

October 24, 1999 – Dottie left behind her loving husband, Jack; here three daughters, Katheryne Simonds (and husband Jim), Norma Soos (and husband Don) and Jackie Cetnar (and husband George); three grandchildren, Valerie Kemper (and husband Kres) and Brad Behm; and two grandchildren, Vince and Austin Davis.