Friday, May 6, 2016


We all know that city directories can be wonderful resources for information about our ancestors.  I continue to discover more and more surprising and wonderful things in these directories.

Most of my experience with directories involves Detroit, Michigan.  Just last year I wrote about finding an exact death date listed in the alphabetical name and address portion of a Detroit directory.  You can read that post here.  I was very happy to find that reference to the death date for my 2nd great grandfather, William Lindsay.  One more piece of evidence is always welcome.

At the time, I didn’t explore the rest of that particular 1899 Detroit directory.

Fast forward to this week.  I’m doing a little research on some great grand uncles, who are listed in a probate record, as living in Detroit, Michigan in 1884.  These family members were born over in Devonshire, England and I knew some of the immigrated to the U.S.

Sure enough in a search on, there is a reference to the 1884 Detroit city directory.

William Burgess

William Burgess
Residence Year:
Street address:
33 Leverett
Residence Place:
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Publication Title:
Detroit, Michigan, City Directory, 1884

Here’s the image for this entry.

1884_BURGESS_William & John & others_Detroit directory

The next thing I wanted to look for in the directory was the listing of specific addresses, which will usually tell you the person who owned or rented at that location.

Instead of finding that I found, in “Miscellaneous Information” 

LIST OF DEATHS IN DETROIT from May 15th 1884 to May 6th 1885 – Compiled from City Mortuary Reports

Deaths in Detroit - first page


I didn’t know this list existed.  Do the directories from other years contain this list?  I know information can vary from year to year.

I quickly created a search list in Legacy using the exact criteria.

Death search 1884-85

And, got the following results:

Death 1884-85

I know that Elizabeth’s married name was Burgess. 
I located here on page 86.
  • Burgess, Elizabeth……………May 16, 1884
I didn’t  locate William G. Thorpe.  He was just a baby who died at one month and two days of age.  Perhaps they didn’t list children?  Or, he wasn’t taken to a mortuary, since this list results from mortuary records?

I plan to continue my search in the Detroit directories for more death dates.  Who knows what I’ll find?

Have you found records like this in directories from your research areas?  If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2016   Diane Gould Hall


  1. Thanks for this post, Diane. I've never seen a list of deaths in a city directory before (maybe because I wasn't looking for one) but I have seen it noted that a a person listed as the widow or widower of his/her spouse. The sad thing about city directories is that they list only adults so any children who have died may not be listed in the deaths sections (at least I assume that might be the case). The next time I'm searching a city directory I'll look for a list of deaths.

    And I wanted to say I love your large images. I can read them in my monitor without having to click to enlarge them. They're great!

    1. Nancy - Thank you. I too prefer being able to see the images on a blog post without having to enlarge them, although that's always an option. I will be checking every city directory now for those death listings. I have about 25 years of Detroit directories to go back and check.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Diane, I've never seen a specific list of deaths in any directories. However, in my area (Orange Co. NY) the directory listings sometimes included "removed to" and "died --date"

    1. Barbara - I'd seen those too. Always a welcome piece of information. I wish the directories had indexes or table of contents, but I find most of the older ones don't. Thus, we have to page through to find the hidden gems.
      Thanks for your comment.

  3. I am glad you made reference to you prior post because I must have missed it and was glad to go back and read it. I can sure see why you like city directories because they have provided some great information for you. I have used them for a few ancestors, but for the most part, mine were too rural. Too bad!

    1. There has to be some advantages to those city folk in my family huh? Michigan was a tough state for research until recent years. Those directories provided a lot of missing information.
      Thanks for stopping by Michelle.

  4. I loved this post re directories. They were something I have never really looked at much before, and wow, they are so fantastic. Got some great info for people who 'removed to' 'wid of' 'died on' Thanks for this huge tip Diane. From Robyn in NSW, Australia

    1. Robyn. It's always amazing the new things we continue to learn as we research. I don't think I'll ever stop learning new ways to find family info. So glad this post was helpful to you. Good luck with your research.
      Thanks for stopping by.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.