Michigan Research: Detroit Existed in 1784

The_City_of_Detroit_(from_Canada_Shore) wikicommons

Featured image: The City of Detroit (from Canada Shore), 1872, by A. C. Warren. Wikimedia Commons.

I have been trying to do more research in the Midwestern United States, to build up hours of experience so I can take the ICAPGen accreditation test. One of the Midwestern states I have had very little experience with is Michigan. So I recently ran a search of my RootsMagic database to find out if I had any ancestors in Michigan. (By the way, to do this, go to Reports > Lists > Who Was There List, and type in the name of the place in question. It will generate a list of ancestors who were there.)

Of my direct line ancestors and their siblings, fourteen of them spent at least some time in Michigan, according to my current research. About half of these were living in Detroit. This is not surprising, as Detroit is one of the metropolitan centers of the Midwest. But I was surprised to see that there was one ancestor’s sibling, a Sally Guile, who was supposedly born in Detroit in 1784! Surely this was an error. But, after some research, I realized that Detroit really did exist in 1784 (which I probably learned in one of my history classes, but forgot).

Detroit was founded by the French in 1701, as a trading post. It was a city of about 800 people by the time of the American Revolution, and the American armies attempted to capture it, but could not. The British ceded Detroit to the United States in 1784, but in actuality, Britain continued to control the city until 1796.

Although I have not yet found any evidence to confirm that Sally Guile was actually born in Detroit, I did find a page in the Guile descendants book that states that her family lived in Detroit for a time:

John Guile b 1739 in Burleigh Gile Book

John Guile Family in Charles Burleigh’s 1887 book, The genealogy and history of the Guild, Guile and Gile family. Sally Guile is number 235, child of John Guile by Freelove Elliot. I am a descendant through number 226, Levi.

This is interesting. I wonder how much British-American tension there was in Detroit at the time? A city owned by the United States but controlled by Great Britain? Were the Guiles’ next-door neighbors Tories? Were the Guiles Tories themselves? Very intriguing.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any primary sources online to confirm the Guiles were actually ever in Detroit. There were censuses taken back then, but none of them are online, and apparently only exist in an archive in Michigan. They aren’t indexed either, which means I would have to do some time consuming page-by-page searching, too.

However, I did find some probate records for Michigan on FamilySearch. Sally Guile’s husband, Dr. Harrison, was from Detroit. Although the rest of the Guiles supposedly went back to New York, maybe Sally and her husband stayed in Detroit. Maybe Dr. Harrison died there and a probate record will give us more information about their family. Too bad Harrison is such a common last name. There are a lot of Harrisons in the probate index. Looks like I can get a lot of experience in Michigan records for my own family tree after all.

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