In 1872, Father Christian Denissen arrived in the Detroit area.  After his appointment to St. Charles Detroit in 1889 he began to research the records of the Church farm to determine whether the proceeds were diocese or parish property.  This retrospective look at the history of the families involved with this property evolved into the monumental task of recording the genealogy of all French families that settled within the Detroit River region from 1700-1900.

Records derive from the early French Catholic churches: Ste. Anne, from 1704; Assumption Parish, Sandwich (in Windsor, Canada), from its creation in 1752; St. Antoine, Monroe, from 1792; Mt. Clemens church from 1846; and the Grosse Pointe church from 1847.

Father Denissen died in 1911 but not before willing his vast collection of 20,000 genealogical pages to his good friend Clarence Burton, eventually becoming part of the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library.  Mr. Burton worked to organize the 20,000 pages into family groups, adding information, and making corrections until his own death in 1931.

Since that time, the collection has remained a part of the Burton Historical Collection.

Fast forward to 1974 when Alice C. Dalligan, chief of the Burton Historical Collection and Dr. Harold Powell, Wayne State University Professor, collaborated to bring this essential work to the public.  In 1976, the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research, Inc. created a 2-volume set entitled “French Families of the Detroit River Region 1801-1911”. 

That first edition sold out within a few months.  Those who purchased these first volumes were requested to submit additions and corrections and this new information was then utilized to create a revised version published in 1987.

It is no secret that the French have a deep distinguished history in the Detroit region on both sides of the river having worked relentlessly to make Detroit what it became in the early 20th Century.  Those family historians researching their genealogical roots in Detroit often stumble upon a French connection wondering how to take their French roots to the next level.  The Denissen Genealogies are their answer.

1269 pages with extensive index this collection is a godsend.  The author of this article has used this collection extensively possessing the 1987 2-volume revision that now retails on Ebay for around $750 or more. 

During recent work for a client with French Detroit connections it dawned upon me that most Americans do not have access to this collection.  Most of the libraries that hold a copy are in the North and very few at that.  And then these collections are not in circulation. 

I have decided to offer my services to you at the reduced cost of $25 (per surname) for my time in searching the volumes on your behalf.  I can photograph the pages (included) or typeset.  If copies are needed the cost will be an additional $.30 per page to cover postage and ink.

Below is a sample page for the RIVARD dit LAVIGNE family. 

Simply submit your request using the form below and I’ll return your message within 24 hours.  Thank you.

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