Ancestor Bio – Ottilie Salefske Spry

Dion-Spry Project

52 Ancestors – Week 2018-32
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Some names are both easy and difficult to follow. In the case of the Salefske line the surname is spelled, Salefske, Salefski, Salefsky, Salesky…. You get the idea, it was spelled by the individual who heard the name and guessed at the spelling. Ottilie’s siblings also appear to have taken on different spellings in many of their dealings.  Sorting out what should be the surname and what should not is an exercise in futility. I’ll just go with Salefske for the surname and know that individual records may have virtually any surname spelling. Ottilie’s first name is also a mix of records, sometimes, it has one “t” sometimes two “l’s;” sometimes it is Tillie, Lillie, Tily, Matilda and even Adelia. All-in-all, I’ve given up trying to determine her first name as well. I’m spelling it as “Ottilie,” mostly because that spelling is more common than any of the others.

Dion-Spry 2018 – Ancestor #15

List of Grandparents

  • Grandmother:  Viola Lorraine Spry (1908-2002)
  • 1st Great-grandmother:  Ottilie Rhine-Selefske
  • 2nd Great-grandfather:  Charles/Carl Salefske
  • 3rd Great-grandfather:  Frederick Salefske

Ottilie Salefske (1883-1975)

Ottilie Salefske was born in December 1883 in West Prussia, a province of the Kingdom of Prussia. After 1945, West Prussia became a part of Poland. Her father was Charles/Carl Salefske. It is unclear who her mother was. She and five of her siblings immigrated to the United States in 1888.[i]

She became a naturalized citizen when her father became a citizen in 1892.

In 1900, the 16-year-old was living at 246 Lovett, Detroit Michigan with her father (Charles); step-mother, Hattie; brothers Otto and Albert; a step-sister Anna; a step-brother Walter; and another brother, Hugo, who I believe to be a half-brother.

Name Relationship Born
Leo Fredrick Salefske Brother 30 Dec 1876 – Germany
Otto Julins Salefske Brother Jul 1880 – Germany
Augusta F. Salefske Sister 1881 – Germany
Albert C. Salefske Brother Mar 1886 – Germany
Anna Janke (Salefske)[ii] Step-sister Jan 1887 – Michigan
Walter Janke (Salefske) Step-brother Mar 1888 – Michigan
Hugo Salefske Half-Brother Nov 1897 – Michigan


Sometime between 1901 and 1902, Ottilie married Thomas Frederick Spry.[iii]

Together they had four children

  • Ethel H Spry – Born 1902, Died 1985.
  • Unnamed boy – Born and died in 1904.
  • Viola Lorraine Spry – Born 1908.
  • Isabel Jean Spry – Born 1918.

The couple probably lived in Ypsilanti for a short time after marriage. Ethel and the unnamed boy were born there. The other two children were born in Detroit.


The 1910 Census finds the family at 671 Buchanan Street, Detroit.

By 1918, when Thomas registered for the draft, they were living at 1415 25th Street, Detroit.

The 1920 Census finds the family still at 1415 25th Street.[iv]

5727 Missouri Ave, Detroit, MI – Photo by Google Maps

The 1930 Census finds Thomas and Ottilie renting at 5727 Missouri Avenue Living with then was their 11 year-old daughter, Isabel. Their daughter Viola was living with them while the whereabout of her husband, Albert Dion, is unknown.

The 1940 Census finds Thomas and Ottilie still at 5727 Missouri Ave, Detroit. Their daughter Violet, and Violet’s husband, Albert Dion, are living with them, as is their Granddaughter, Janet.

Death & Burial

Ottilie (Salefske) Spry died in October 1975. She was preceded in death by her father, Charles/Carl; step-mother, Hattie; Brothers Leo, Otto, and Hugo; sister Augusta; her husband, Thomas, and her unnamed child who died in 1904.

She was survived by her three daughters, Ethel, Viola, and Isabel.

Her burial location is unknown.


  • 1900 Census – Michigan, Wayne, Detroit – Charles Lelensky –
  • 1910 Census, Thomas Spry – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan – ED 211, Sheet 9B. Year: 1910; Census Place: Detroit Ward 14, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T624_686; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0211; FHL microfilm: 1374699
  • 1920 Census (A), Thomas Spry – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan. Year: 1920; Census Place: Detroit Ward 12, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_811; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 363.
  • 1930 Census (NARA), 1930 Census – Michigan, Wayne, Detroit – ED 82-300, Sheet 12-A – Thomas Spry.
  • 1940 Census, 1940 Census – Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, ED 84-527, Sheet 8B – Thomas Spry. 1940; Census Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: m-t0627-01856; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 84-527
  • Michigan Births, 1867-1902, Ethel Spry – 3 Sep 1902. “Michigan Births, 1867-1902,” database with images, FamilySearch, Thos. F. Spry in entry for Ethel Spry, 03 Sep 1902; citing item 1 p 419 rn 1673, Ypsilanti, Washtenaw, Michigan, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2,363,098.
  • Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952, Albert Dian & Viola Spry – 17 May 1927.
  • S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, Isabel Jean Spry – 7 Aug 1918. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
  • Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.
  • S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Ottilie Spry – 1883-1975 – (No Image). U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014.
  • Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.
  • S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Thomas Frederick Spry. “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch, Thomas Frederick Spry, 1917-1918; citing Detroit City, Michigan, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,675,372.

————–  Disclaimer  ————–


[i] The 1900 Census indicates she arrived in 1888 and had been in the US for 11 years.

The 1910 Census indicates she arrived in 1886.

The 1930 Census indicates she arrived in 1887.

[ii] The 1900 Census indicates the surname for Anna, Walter, & Hugo was Sauli. It is very difficult to read. Hugo’s obituary establishes Walter’s surname as Janke. I assume that Anna’s surname was the same. Leo’s obituary identifies Walter’s surname as Salefske. So I suspect Walter went by both surnames during his life.

[iii] The 1910 Census indicates the couple had been married for eight years.

[iv] The 1920 Census indicates they were renting at 1417 25th. 1415 and 1417 are the same building. I believe the Draft Registration is more likely correct.

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