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Western Michigan
Genealogical Society
c/o Grand Rapids
Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI
Email - wmgs@wmgs.org


Meeting Calendar | Genealogy Classes | Writer's Workshops


We meet at 1:30 p.m. in the Ryerson Auditorium of the Grand Rapids Public Library on the first Saturday of the month, September through June. Should the first Saturday fall on a holiday weekend, another day will be scheduled. The June meeting is often times changed to the 2nd Saturday. Unless a special program, each meeting has a one-hour lecture on a genealogy related subject by a knowledgeable speaker. Books and charts are sold at our meetings and a "Hospitality Hour" follows. All meetings are free and open to the public. 

REMINDER: Parking is free at the library on Saturdays. Just make sure you validate your parking exit ticket in the machine in the first floor lobby.

Please review our weather cancellation policy so you'll be aware how we'll inform you when it is necessary to cancel a meeting.



Saturday, 4 April 2015 (1:30-3:00 p.m.)

Dutch Women Immigrants in Grand Rapids (at the turn of the previous century)

Presenter: Janet Sjaarda Sheeres

In the last two decades of the nineteenth century well over 84,000 Dutch immigrants arrived in the United States. Most of these Dutch immigrants headed for West Michigan. By 1900 one-third of the Dutch-born in the United States of America lived in Grand Rapids, where they totaled 40% of the population. In 1890, nearly 300,000 residents of Dutch ancestry lived in the five-county region—Allegan, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon, and Ottawa—making it the largest Dutch settlement area in the United States. Among these were thousands of married women as well as hundreds of single women—unmarried or widowed.

Who were these women? What was their social status in the Netherlands before immigrating? What were their occupations? Their legal rights? What motivated them to immigrate? This program takes a closer look at the distaff side of Dutch immigration. If you have a Dutch grandmother or great-grandmother in your family tree you will be interested in learning more about these women.

Janet Sjaarda Sheeres is an independent scholar and freelance author. Her books include Son of Secession, Douwe J. VanderWerp, The Not-so Promised Land: the Dutch in Amelia County, VA 1868-1880, and Minutes of the Christian Reformed Church Assemblies 1857-1880. The last one she edited and annotated. She has served as president of the Zeeland, Michigan, Historical Society, of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies and as chair of the Christian Reformed Church Historical Committee. She is the associate editor of Origins, the historical magazine of Calvin College’s Heritage Hall Archives. Besides publishing dozens of articles in national and international historical and genealogical journals, Sheeres has taught courses on Dutch Genealogy for CALL (Calvin Academy for Life-long Learning) and has given many presentations on the subject. She is currently writing about the wives of the first ten Christian Reformed Ministers – immigrant women all.

mini class - Prepping for the Allen County Public Library

12 NOON - 1:00 p.m. SATURDAY, 4 APRIL

Thinking about going to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN on April 22nd & 23rd? They have one of the largest research collections available, incorporating records from around the world. Our presenter will show you how to prepare for research at their library.

Instructor: Sue Irvine, Class will be held in the Adult Computer Lab, Lower Level.
Location: 111 Library Street Northeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, USA


Saturday, 2 May 2015 (1:30-3:00 p.m.)

Finding Grandma’s European Ancestors

Presenter: Steve Szabados

Finding European ancestors may seem to be a challenging task but this program covers a method that tries to simplify this daunting search. The program covers tips to find where your ancestors left, where to find the European records and gives tips on translating most records. The author has been successful in research ancestors in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany. The program also gives suggestions to help those researching countries.

Steve Szabados has given numerous presentations to groups in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. He has written ten genealogy books and is also a contributing editor for the Polish American Journal. As a genealogy volunteer at the Arlington Heights Library, he helps individuals with their research and he wants to share his passion for Family History.




mini class - Find A Grave

12 NOON - 1:00 p.m. SATURDAY, 2 May

Findagrave.com is an emerging reference that contains over 121 million cemetery, grave and burial records. Learn more about this resource and how to use it to aid in genealogical research.

Class will be held in the Adult Computer Lab, Lower Level, at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Instructor: Kathy Cook.


Saturday, 13 June 2015 (1:30-3:00 p.m.)

Civil War Memories in Bronze, White Bronze, and Stone

Presenter: Bruce B. Butgereit

The belief that the deeds and sacrifice of the soldiers serving in the Civil War deserved to be preserved for future generations began in Grand Rapids in 1864, before the war was over. This program will take you on a tour of the many Civil War and Grand Army of the Republic memorials created in the Grand Rapids area from 1885 to 2014.

Nearly every resident knows of the Kent County Civil War Monument at the corner of Fulton and Division. When asked how many other such memorials exist in the Grand Rapids area, some have guess three or four. Do you know? You will after this program!

Bruce B. Butgereit serves as the Civil War Memorials Officer for both the local Gen. John A. Logan Camp No. 1 and the Department of Michigan, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. During his two terms as National Civil War Memorials Officer for the Sons of Union Veterans, Bruce created a handbook of instruction to provide guidance for all memorial officers in fulfilling their obligations. He is recognized in Michigan and elsewhere for his knowledge regarding the Civil War and his efforts to preserve and restore these public memories of the men and women of 1861-1865 and the Grand Army of the Republic.


mini class - to be announced

12 NOON - 1:00 p.m. SATURDAY, 13 June


Class will be held in the Adult Computer Lab, Lower Level, at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Instructor: tbd


WMGS Classes

Tuesday, 31 March

Reunion Genealogy Software: for Macintosh computers

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM - Tuesday, 31 March

Reunion for Macintosh received the highest rating for genealogy apps in MacWorld, MacAddict, and Mac Home Journal magazines. Reunion also received a MacWorld Editor's Choice Award.

Come and learn more about this amazing family tree software. Bring your Macintosh computer with you.

Class will be held in the Youth Computer Training Center on the Second Level, at the Grand Rapids Public Library.
Instructor: Roger Moffat


Wednesday, 8 April

Bringing Your Family Story to Life: Tips and Ideas

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM - Wednesday, 8 April

You’ve spent many hours (or years) doing research, poring over documents, visiting libraries, and interviewing people. Now you want to write up your family history to be more than charts, or lists of names and dates. How can you bring your family narrative to life, in a format that people will want to read? This talk will give you tips and ideas for writing a narrative that draws the readers in while helping them keep track of who’s who.

Class will be held in the Adult Computer Training Center on the Lower Level, at the Grand Rapids Public Library.
Instructor: Roger Konyndyk


Monday, 11 May

Dutch Heritage Databases

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM - Monday, 11 May

WieWasWie and Zeeuws Archief are online databases for locating vital records in the Netherlands. Zeeuws Archief is the official database for the Province of Zeeland and contains over 5.3 million records. WieWasWie is an official Dutch database with records from all provinces. Dutch vital records exist from at least 1811, but there are some records dating back to the 1700s. This class will teach you how to access these databases, locate abstracts of vital records and make copies. Basic computer skills are required.

Location: Adult Computer Lab – Lower Level in the Grand Rapids Public Library
Instructor: Don Bryant




Allen County Public Library

Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s
Bus Trip to Fort Wayne’s
Allen County Public Library
We are planning our 2015 Spring trip for Wednesday & Thursday, April 22 and 23.

Download the Registration Form Here


The Dominican Center on the corner of East Fulton and Lakeside Drive is the location for WMGS Writers Group workshops. We normally meet 1:30 to 4:45 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month.

We help and support each other's desire to write about our families with a kind eye and lots of humor. Everyone is welcome.

Topics for the year 2015

January: Describe a typical family meal during your childhood. Who, what, when and where?

February: If you could take one last trip - where would you go, what would you do, and who would you go with?

March: Are you an optimist or a pessimist? What makes you this way?

April: What are the most important books that you have read? How did they change your life?

It is requested to call Sister Michael Ellen Carling at 616-514-3340 if you wish to attend. Please park in the Dominican Center parking lot which is off Lakeside Drive. Use the lower entrance on the east side of the large portico and go down the steps or the cement ramp to enter the building. The receptionist will direct you to the room.

Everyone is welcome to bring their latest writing project rather than the suggested topic for the meeting. Having a topic helps some of us jog our memories and prods us into making sure we actually write between meetings.

The group provides constructive feedback and everyone benefits.

For more details, look here...


Refreshments:   Many WMGS members are great cooks!  They share homemade cookies and other goodies with us during our social time!  Social time for gene-people is as must!  Who else wants to listen to how you found G-G-G Grandpa except another WMGS member?   If you can bring cookies, contact Joann Fast, our Hospitality Chairperson.

WMGS Book Sales:  WMGS stocks quite a large number of new  books and materials for your inspection.  We feel that most people want to browse through genealogy books before they purchase. Valuable genealogy materials are  difficult to find in the normal bookstores.  Got ideas?  Want to help?  Let us know!   Watch for our Christmas Special in December!


  *Includes Kent County and the counties immediately surrounding; namely Ottawa, Muskegon, Newaygo, Montcalm, Ionia, Barry and Allegan Counties. There is some extension beyond these counties into other areas of the Western Lower Peninsula.

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