By Don Taylor
My half-brother’s (Tom) maternal line has been difficult to trace, mostly due to unusual names. His great-grandmother’s name is probably Ottilie Salefske. But in various records, I’ve seen her named Ottlie, Tillie, Lillie, Tily, and even Matilda. Likewise, her surname is spelled a half a dozen ways also, It seems like I need to search using lots of question marks, “S?l??sk?”. As such, neither he nor I were successful in finding Ottilie in the 1900 Census. So, I gave it a try leaving the surname off completely. I searched for her father, “Charles” and his wife “Hattie” with a child “Albert.” Albert is believed to be Ottilie’s next younger brother. They are all names that are common enough to typically be spelled correctly in the Census record and to be interpreted by indexers correctly. It didn’t matter if I searched using Ancestry.Com or Family Search, the correct family was found immediately with a completely different, but understandable, spelling – “Lelensky.” So, if you can’t find someone in a census that you should, be sure to try searching without the surname and enter just the relationships of several first names.
1900 Census – Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, Ward 14
Enumeration District 156, Sheet 18
Lines 6 through 14 – 246 Lovett
Lelensky [Salefske] Charles – Head – May 1855 | 45 – Married 10 years – Born Germany, PR Immigration 1888 in the US for 11 years – Machinist – Owns House.
– Hattie – Wife – June 1857 | 42 Married 10 years, 3 children born, 3 living – Born Germany, PR – Immigration 1879, in US 20 years.
– Otto – Son – July 1880 – Age 19 – Born Germany, Pr – Immigration 1888, in US 11 years. – Brass Finisher
– Odilia – Daughter – Dec 1883 – Age 16 – Born Germany, Pr – Immigration 1888, in US 11 years.
– Albert – Son – Mar 1886 – Age 14 – Born Germany, Pr – Helper Machinist – Immigration 1888, in US 11 years.
Sauli [Sante?], Anna – S. Daughter Jan 1887 Age 13 – Michigan At School
– Walter – S. Son Mar 1888 – Age 11 – Michigan At School
– Hugo – S. Son – Nov 1891 – Age 2 – Michigan
Salensky, Louise – Mother – Jan 1818 – Age 82, Wd 4 children, 4 living – Germany, Pr. Immigration 1893, 6 yrs in the US
All parents were born in “Germany, Pr.”
The great thing about this census record is that it clearly shows that Hattie was in the United States before Otto, Ottilie, and Albert came to the United States.
Also, it shows that Anna, Walter, and Hugo are all stepchildren to Charles.
One obvious mistake is that Hugo, who was born Nov 1891 is identified as only 2-years-old instead of 8 years old. It does make some dates a little confusing; if Charles and Hattie had been married for 10 years, how did Hugo, age 8, become identified as a step-son? Even if Hattie were pregnant with Hugo when she and Charles married, it would seem incorrect. I need to search further to find Charles and Hattie’s marriage record.
Sometimes when you at a census closely, you realize something in there is just not possible. Such is the case of Charles Selensky (aka Selefsky, Selefske, & Seleske) as he appears in the 1900 Census. His step-children just aren’t right.
Selensky, Charles Head May 1855 45 Married for 10 years.
___, Hattie Wife June 1857 42 Married for 10 years 3 Children, 3 Living
___, Otto Son Jul 1880 19
___, Adelia Dau. Dec 1883 16
___, Albert Son Mar 1886 14
Sauli, Anna Step-Dau Jan 1887 13
___, Walter Step-Son Mar 1888 11
___, Hugo Step-Son Nov 1897 2
Salensky Louise Mother June 1818 82 Wid 4 Children, 4 Living.
At first glance, it appears that Hattie had three children with a previous husband, and unknown Sauli (or Sante) There are three children with another surname and she had had three children, all of whom were living. Then I noticed that Hugo was only two years old but Charles and Hattie had been married for 10 years. Even though Hugo is identified as a Sauli, and is identified as a step-son, I’m confident that Hugo must be the child of Charles and Hattie and that the enumerator made a mistake.
So, I’m tentatively putting Hugo’s parents as Charles and Hattie and the other three children, Otto, Adelia (Ottilia), and Albert as the children of Charles and Unknown.
If you can think of another scenario that makes sense of this Census Record, I’d love to hear it.
52 Ancestors – Week 2018-32
By Don Taylor
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.
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]
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.
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. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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). Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.
[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.
The oldest of my half-brothers (I now have four known half-brothers) asked if I might take a look at his maternal line (we share a common father). Of course I said, “Sure,” and started on my merry way researching. I began with his great-grandfather, Thomas Frederick Spry. I learned that Thomas didn’t live to 100, or even 99 as many records indicate. He lived to be 98, dying two days before his 99th birthday.
Research Family 2017 – Ancestor #14
List of Grandparents
Grandmother: Viola Lorraine Spry
1st Great-grandfather: Thomas Frederick Spry
2nd Great-grandfather: Johny M Spry
Thomas Frederick Spry (1875-1974)
Thomas Frederick Spry was born in Michigan (probably Detroit) on 19 May 1875. He was the fifth of nine known children of Johny M. and Catharine Spry. Ulysses S Grant was president and shortly after Thomas’ birth President Grant announced he would not run for a third term.
Thomas’ siblings included:
Benjamin F. Spry
Robert J Spry
Thomas Frederick Spry
19 May 1875
Harry (or Henry) Spry
The 1880 Census shows the entire family living at 538 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, Mich. Johny, Catharine, and all seven children were living together. Today 538 Michigan Ave is a parking ramp.
By 1895, the 20-year-old Thomas worked as a press feeder and boarded at 134 Locust, the same place as his older brother Benjamin. He was listed as being a printer in the Detroit 1898 City Directory living at 81 Plum Street. If you were heading east on the Fisher Freeway and took the off-ramp to the John C. Lodge Freeway, 81 Plum Street is about where the split to go north or south on the John C. Lodge Freeway is today. (Across the Lodge freeway from the MGM Grand.).
Thomas had been an usher for his oldest sister, Alice’s wedding and the family ties seem to have been close. The 1900 Census finds Thomas, and his brother Benjamin, living with their sister Alice, her husband and her five kids at 1027 Hudson Ave. Today, most of this part of Hudson Ave is replaced by the E. Edsel Ford Freeway.
Thomas married Ottilie Saleske in 1901. Ottilie was also known as Tillie, Lillie, Tilly, and even Matilda in various records. Likewise, Ottilie’s surname is spelled Saleski and Salesky in different documents.
The Four Children of Thomas and Ottilie Spry
Date of Death
Ethel H Spry
03 Sep 1902
07 Apr 1985
Baby Boy Spry
26 May 1904
26 May 1904
Viola Lorraine Spry
06 Dec 1908
28 Jun 2002
07 Aug 1918
04 Dec 1992
It isn’t clear exactly when, but by 1902, when their first daughter, Ethel, was born, the couple was living 30 miles away in Ypsilanti. Thomas was still working as a printer, an occupation he would have his entire adult life.
In 1904 tragedy struck. Ottilie had a baby boy on 26 May 1904; the child only lived 5 hours. It appears that shortly the baby’s death the family moved back to Detroit.
The 1910 Census finds Thomas and Otillie living at 671 Buchanan St. Thomas. With them are their two children Ethel and Viola. Also living with them is Otillie’s brother, Otto.
The 1916 Detroit City Directory indicates that Thomas had his print shop, Spry Printing Company located at 50 Woodward. Today, that location is known to have a marvelous statue known as “The Spirit of Detroit.” The statue was the largest bronze statue cast since the Renaissance when it was installed in 1958. I’ll never be able to see facsimiles of the statue on Detroit city vehicles and offices without thinking of Thomas Spry’s print shop. When Thomas registered for the World War I draft, he was 5’5-1/2” tall, medium build, blue eyes and he had light hair.
In 1920, Thomas was renting a home at 1417 25th, Detroit and he was working as a printer. Living with him was his wife and his three daughters, Ethel, Viola, and Isabel.
Before 1930, Thomas and family had moved again, this time to 5727 Missouri Ave, Detroit. The Missouri Street house was a two-story home with nearly 4,000 square feet of living space. Living with him are his wife and two of his daughters. Viola and Isabel. Viola had married three years before; I don’t know why Viola and Albert Dion were living apart. By 1938, Thomas had moved his printing shop to the 3rd floor of 216 Monroe. (Today this is a vacant lot at the corner of Monroe and Randolph Street—across from the Cadillac Center People Mover Station.)
Daughter Viola was joined by her husband and they had a daughter. In 1940, the three of them were living with Thomas and Ottilie in the house on Missouri Ave.
Thomas Frederick Spry died on 21 May 1974. He was survived by his wife and his three daughters. His burial location is unknown.
1880 Census, Family Search, 1880 – Johny M Spry – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan – ED 295, Page 42. Year: 1880; Census Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: 613; Page: 45B; Enumeration District: 295.
1900 Census (FS), Family Search, 1900 – Thomas Salmoni – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan. “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M917-3KH : accessed 6 May 2018), Thomas Salmoni, Detroit city Ward 12, Wayne, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 141, sheet 13A, family 294, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,752.
1910 Census, Other, 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), Ancestry.Com, 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), Ancestry.Com, 1930 Census – Thomas Spry Head – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, Precinct 16.
1940 Census, Ancestry.Com, Thomas Spry, Head. 1940; Census Place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: m-t0627-01856; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 84-527.
City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1895, Page 1279 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1898, Page 1382 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1900, Page 1470 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1906, Page 1980 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
City Directory (A), Com, Detroit, Michigan – 1916, Page 3671 – Spry. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Michigan Births, 1867-1902, Family Search, Ethel Spry – 3 Sep 1902. “Michigan Births, 1867-1902,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NQFN-9XY : 10 March 2018), Thos. F. Spry in an 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.
S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Ancestry.Com, Thomas Spry (1874-1974). “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JYKD-8PF : 20 May 2014), Thomas Spry, May 1974; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ancestry.Com, Thomas Frederick Spry. “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6XQ-X74 : 13 March 2018), 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.