Western Michigan Genealogical Society

Browsing Posts published by Don

Traditions often enrich and strengthen family bonds and create fond memories. Whether they are stories, activities, or beliefs handed down from generation to generation, it’s important to preserve your family traditions for future generations. WMGS encourages you to write about one of your family’s traditions. They may occur daily, weekly, monthly or yearly, and revolve around military, holidays, or her special occasions. Some may be humorous or unusual.

Traditions may or may not be genealogical facts, but often provide important research clues. You may choose to describe how a Family Tradition assisted in your research, how you determined when and how the tradition began, or whether the tradition is based on true information or was created to teach or convince.

We would love to hear your story. Write it up and enter the 2018 writing contest!

continue reading…

The biggest breakthrough of my genealogy life happened at a national conference in Fort Wayne many, many years ago.  I had enjoyed the conference  thoroughly, but found that  it was necessary for me to leave a little early on the last day.  Reluctantly I wandered through the vendors hall one last time and came upon a man telling someone he had a book that gave the origin in Germany for particular family names.  I waited in line and then asked him if my maiden name Weidenfeller might be in the book and there it was!! In a moment after years and years of fruitless searching I was handed the name of the tiny village in Germany where my grandfather was born. I recall driving home in a cloud of joy. So while the speakers at a conference are important, sometimes it is just a serendipitous moment that makes it so worthwhile, but we won’t know if we don’t put yourselves in the place to have it happen. – Marlene F.

Christmas 1954


Recipe Box of LettersFor Christmas this year (2016), my sister sent me an old recipe box stuffed with letters to my father in the 1940’s and 1950’s. One of the first ones I pulled out, on December 25, described my grandmother’s Christmas in 1954. She lived in Niagara Falls Ontario, the community where she, and later my father, grew up. Most of the people she mentions are her siblings and their offspring. The depiction of her holiday celebration is fascinating and intimate.

There are several people mentioned by first name. I’ve included an addendum that explains who they all are at the end of this article.  – Sue R. continue reading…

Early Memories…


There are times that I just happen across things in my house that have been there for years… originating from a grandparent, distant cousin, or was acquired, stored and forgotten. Sound familiar? This is one of those stories.

My grandfather Kenneth Bennett passed away twenty years ago. Since I was the “family historian” items often just ended up at my house. I have a six-foot “highboy” dresser with drawers full of ephemera and photo albums. I don’t remember opening this particular manila envelope before. In it are several old newspapers, pages folded. They’re faded and brittle. The earliest is from 1918 with a headline proclaiming FIGHTING STOPS; PEACE REIGNS; FOE SIGNS DRASTIC TRUCE TERMS marking the end of the fighting in the Great War.  There were another dozen or so newspapers up through the 1960s. My grandfather, born in 1904, was apparently saving news clips of important events during his life from the time he was about 14 years old.

I recognized that some were articles mentioning him… mostly having to do with his term as president of the Michigan Rural Letter Carriers association in the 1950s. Some included photos of him at association gatherings. That made sense.  In the 1960s… there was the John F. Kennedy’s assassination headline; and the space program and moon landings were well represented.

One headline in the Grand Rapids Press from 4 April 1956 caught my attention because it was very personal to me in my childhood! TORNADO KILLS 18, HURTS 200 IN SMASH AT KENT, OTTAWA. continue reading…

NGS 2018 Family History Conference
Paths to Your Past
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Happy New Year

Even though it is a brand new 2017, we here at the Western Michigan Genealogical Society look ahead with anticipation to the NGS 2018 Family History conference coming to Grand Rapids! NGS has opened the the call for proposals.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS–11:59 p.m. EDT on 1 April 2017

From the NGS website

continue reading…

Coming full circle

1 comment

Sue and daughtersI was cleaning out stuff in the attic. I had a thousand black and white negatives with contact prints from fifty years ago. I kept the ones I wanted, about twenty, and the rest I threw away into a box. Since it was the season, I wrapped the box up in Christmas paper and gave it to my three daughters. As they opened it and understood what it was, I said “Look what I saved you from doing. Now when I’m dead and gone you won’t have to sort through old pictures, just throw these away.”

Much to my surprise, they were delighted to go through and pour over the contents. The stories about my daughters’ early years in Africa with my husband and I came to life and they shared them with their children. The grandchildren then selected the pictures they felt were most meaningful. Later my grandchildren salvaged a window frame from our hundred year old farmhouse. They went through the pictures, chose the ones they liked, and put them in the frame.

Coming full circle, they showed me their appreciation of our family story. I was moved and delighted that the pictures meant something to them.
– Sue Swanlund

Reflections on the Gi-Gikinomaage-min 3:00 – 3:45 PM

Reflections on the Gi-Gikinomaage-min (We are all Teachers) Project

Belinda Bardwell

Sponsored by the Western Michigan Genealogical Society & Kutsche Office of Local History

Launched in November 2014, the Gi-gikinomaage-min (We are all Teachers) project aims to document the urban Native American experience in Grand Rapids. The local Native American community grew dramatically in the last half of the 20th century as a result of a little-known federal program still impacting American Indian lives today. The Urban Relocation Program created one of the largest mass movements of Indians in American history. This talk invites you to learn more about the Gi-gikinomaage-min project, based in the Kutsche Office of Local History at Grand Valley State University.

This presentation is part of the 2017 History Detectives program on Saturday, January 28, at the Ryerson Auditorium, Grand Rapids Public Library. continue reading…

The Mid-Century Park School Development Program: Riverside2:00 – 2:45 PM

A Modern Vision Realized: The Mid-Century Park School Development Program

Pam VanderPloeg

Sponsored by the Grand Rapids City Archives

In 1951, a successful Grand Rapids Public Schools millage vote launched a twenty-year building program to solve the crisis of aging, overcrowded schools and the post-World War II baby boom. A collaboration between the schools, prominent West Michigan architects and the Grand Rapids Park Department, led by landscape architect Fred See, created beautiful modern schools set in expansive parks in old and new neighborhoods, and brought national recognition. The story of how that project unfolded, and of the fate of those schools today, will be told through original and contemporary photos and images.

This presentation is part of the 2017 History Detectives program on Saturday, January 28, at the Ryerson Auditorium, Grand Rapids Public Library. continue reading…

stivers-e-from-archives-a-to-z-exhibit1:00 – 1:45 PM

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Rediscovering Emma Cole’s 19th-Century Grand Rapids Flora

Julie Stivers, Garrett E. Crow, and David P. Warners

Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Public Museum

In 1901, Emma Cole published Grand Rapids Flora, a catalog of plants growing without cultivation in the vicinity of Kent County. Enormous changes have taken place since those days, yet her book remains the most complete account of plants specific to our area. Who was this high school teacher, world traveler and Kent Scientific Institute botanist? Where were her favorite spots for wildflowers? Do they still exist? Julie Stivers will speak about the life of Emma Cole. Professors Warners and Crow will describe their work with Calvin College students to rediscover Emma’s haunts and assess their natural quality today. There are interesting surprises as we observe the changes over more than 100 years.

This presentation is part of the 2017 History Detectives program on Saturday, January 28, at the Ryerson Auditorium, Grand Rapids Public Library. continue reading…