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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, January 7th (1:30 p.m.)

Topic: Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors

Presenter: Jim Jackson

Information on soldiers' military experience and later life is available from federal, state and local records. Some of these records have been reproduced or available online. Many useful internet research sites are presented.

Jim Jackson has been interested in Genealogy and Local History since the mid-70s, having served as President of the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research, Inc, and President of the Oakland County Genealogical Society. He has been the index editor of the DSGR Magazine since 1994 and the current President of the Calhoun County Genealogical Society and Commander of Camp 22 (Marshall, MI) Sons of Union Veterans. Jim has taught genealogical classes and presented talks to various local and national Societies.


Mini-Class Saturday, January 7th (12 Noon – 1:00 p.m.)

Topic: Using Others' Online Family Trees

We will be looking at a few of the online family trees available to genealogists including Rootsweb, Family Search, and WMGS. These tools provide researchers with greater opportunities to locate information critical to furthering the development of their family tree. Also learn what to watch out for.

Instructor: Linda Guth
Location: GRPL Lower Level Computer Lab


Saturday, February 4th (1:30 p.m.)

Topic: In the Wake of Disaster: The Lake Erie Black Friday Storm of 1916

Presenter: Matthew L. Daley

On Friday, October 20, 1916 two freighters sailed onto Lake Erie and into one of the worst storms in Great Lakes history. Only one man, the captain of the James B. Colgate survived to tell the story of his vessel’s loss. The crew of the Merida had no one, only lists of documents and policies to determine what happened to them once they came ashore. This presentation examines both the shipwrecks and then the efforts to locate and identify sailors and their families in the years before unions. Further, Great Lakes sailors can be difficult to trace and recommendations on how to conduct research into their lives and relationships is featured as well.

Matthew L. Daley is an Associate Professor of History, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan.

Ph.D., History, Bowling Green State University, 2004.
M.A., History, Wayne State University, 2000.
B.A. History, University of Detroit Mercy, 1997.

Mattew spends his time researching and teaching about Michigan, Great Lakes, local, and urban history. Articles he has written are published in journals such as the International Journal of Maritime History, Technology and Culture, Minnesota History, and Michigan Historical Review. He serves on the board of the journal Michigan Historical Review and the Association for Great Lakes Maritime History.


Mini-Class Saturday, February 4th (12 Noon – 1:00 p.m.)

Topic: Finding Living Relatives

Other than asking your immediate relatives, how else can you find living relatives? Many living relatives, most of whom you have never met, all form part of your extended family. They may have that elusive photo or document that you're looking for. We will discuss various ways to find your living relatives.

Instructor: Linda Guth
Location: GRPL Lower Level Computer Lab



Saturday, March 4th (1:30 p.m.)

Topic: Find the Midwife! Discovering midwives in online records and other sources

Presenter: Janet Sjaarda Sheeres

Over forty-five heretofore forgotten Dutch immigrant midwives who served in the Dutch colonies across the United States have been uncovered. In this session Janet will share some practical research tips on how to find immigrant women who served as midwives in their various ethnic colonies. The session will include a case study. It will also show how woman were often sidelined in the early historical and Census Records.

Janet Sjaarda Sheeres is an independent scholar, genealogist, and freelance author who researches and writes on the subject of family, church, and Dutch emigration/immigration history. She has served as president of the Zeeland, Michigan, Historical Society, AADAS (Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies), and has served as Chairperson of the Christian Reformed Church Historical Committee. Since she began writing about thirty years ago she has published over 70 articles in various national and international historical and genealogical journals. Her biography titled Son of Secession: Douwe J. Vander Werp, was published by Eerdmans in 2006, her book, The Not-So Promised Paradise: The Dutch Colony in Amelia, Virginia 1868-1880 was published by Eerdmans in 2013, and The 1857 to 1880 Synodical Minutes of the Christian Reformed Church, which she edited and annotated was published in 2014. She is an Associate Editor of Origins, the journal of the Calvin College Heritage Hall Archives, and has taught genealogy classes for CALL (Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning).


Mini-Class Saturday, March 4th (12 Noon – 1:00 p.m.)

Topic: TBD


Instructor: Linda Guth
Location: GRPL Lower Level Computer Lab



By Thorwald at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Formed in 2015, the Western Michigan Genealogical Society's DNA Interest Group (DIG) meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month in the Grand Rapids Public Library's VanderVeen Center on the 4th floor. Meetings are held 7 p.m.

Questions, comments or program suggestions are welcome! Please contact Roger Moffat - DataMaster@wmgs.org

WMGS Classes

Tuesday, December 6, 2016, 6:30 - 8:30 PM  

Women’s Fashion Throughout The Years

Take a trip down fashion’s memory lane and learn how women’s fashion has changed throughout time.

Location: VanderVeen Room, 4th Floor
Instructor: Linda Guth


Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 6:30 - 8:30 PM  

Census and Heritage Quest

Census records offer a wealth of information to the genealogical researcher. Learn how to access, use and understand US Census records, using Heritage Quest. Bring your own laptop computer.

Location: VanderVeen Room, 4th Floor
Instructor: Bill Grinstead



Allen County Public Library

Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s
Bus Trip to Fort Wayne’s
Allen County Public Library

The Spring 2017 Bus trip is now scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, April 19 & 20, 2017.
 Full information and Registration will be announced soon.


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.

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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