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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. Looking at a genealogical book on the internet?  See if it’s for sale at the WMGS sales table.  Our books are sold for same price as the Internet….but at our sales table and as a member of WMGS that same book has a 10% discount and you don’t pay for shipping.  Talk to Lisa and Wanda about items you don’t see. 

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, February 8 (1:30 p.m.)

Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors

Presenter: Jessica Trotter

Presenter Jessica TrotterAmerica is a nation of immigrants but it's not always easy to track our ancestors back to a boat, let alone their town of origin. This presentation offers tips and resources for your search with ideas for: what types of records might include origins, strategies for working with whole families, and important factors to keep in mind depending on the time period you are researching.

Jessica Trotter holds a Master of Science in Information, Archives and Records Management Specialization from the University of Michigan—but works in public libraries by day. Her genealogy research areas include Midwest, African American, British Isles, Canadian, and Early American research. She also maintains a genealogy research related blog called Genie Road Trip at http://genieroadtrip.wordpress.com. 

Mini-Class: Black Family History Series

12 Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Vander Veen Center (4th floor), GRPL

Instructor: Joyce Daniels

Saturday, March 7 (1:30 p.m.)


Presenter: Chris Czopek  “Lansing’s  History Detective”

Chris CzopekA genuine History Detective will be driving to Grand Rapids. His destination will be the March 7 meeting of the Western Michigan Genealogy Society. His name is Chris Czopek. His place will be among Grand Rapids area genealogists. His purpose will be to reveal a recently discovered new source of information on Native American families in Michigan – Civil War pension files! 

In time of war, Native American men have always volunteered to fight for their land. The Civil War was no different. When a soldier fell on the field of a battle, his widow could apply for a pension. Same thing for a son who was the sole source of support for his mother. And the surviving soldiers still alive in the 1890s could receive a pension. But there was always one catch – documents! The government insisted on marriage records from the widows, birth records from the mothers, and for the old soldiers receiving a pension, the government asked they list the wife and children and give their birthdates. All those rare documents sent in for a pension still exist, buried in an archives in Washington D.C.  For the Native American community, those Pension Files are a gold-mine of information!  

 On March 7, an expert on these Pension Files will make a rare public appearance. He will bring with him a list of over 100 available pension files. And he will talk about what kind of documents they contain. Expect to hear some interesting stories about the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomie families of Michigan!

Chris grew up in Michigan during the Civil War Centennial. As a boy, he would watch a Civil War movie on TV – then go to the library and find out how much of the story was true. This was the beginning of his career as a “history detective”.
After college he worked for a newspaper, joined the army and served six years in Military Intelligence, volunteered for an archaeological dig in Israel, worked as a tour guide at the State Capitol Building in Lansing, a photographer for the State Senate, and in the offices of the Michigan State Police. He lives in Lansing with his wife, Bonnie.
In recent years Chris has become well known to Michigan historians for his expert research of Civil War soldiers. Called “Lansing’s History Detective” by the Lansing State Journal, he has published several books on Civil War history and has been a consultant for The History Channel.  His most recent project, a documentary titled ROAD TO ANDERSONVILLE, is the first film to tell the story of Company K.

Chris is best known as the author of  Who Was Who In Company K, the first book to give solid facts about the Native American men who served in the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters. He has copies of his book to sign and sell after every program! 

Mini-Class: One Note

12 Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Finding the right tool to help organize your research is a struggle. Join Michele as she shows you some of the features of Microsoft OneNote. It may be just what you are looking for to clear the clutter and find your desk once again.

Location: Lower Level Adult Computer Lab, GRPL

Instructor: Michele Hoogewind

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


Two-Hour classes

Coming soon.


Allen County Public Library

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

Here's the Spring Trip plan... Monday and Tuesday, April 27 & 28.


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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