Western Michigan Genealogical Society

What do you do when you can’t find an obituary for someone important in your family line? One of my 2nd-great grandmothers lived in small communities all across northern Michigan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The family worked in the woods, moving from town to town following the lumber companies. I haven’t discovered an obituary for her – yet. I’ll still look. In the meantime, I thought I’d write one for her with the information I do know. What follows is all true with the exception of her funeral details.



Sarah (Harrison) Meredith

Sarah (Harrison) Meredith

Mrs. Sarah Maria (Harrison) Meredith of Thompsonville, granddaughter of Michigan Pioneer Elias Harrison, died at Charlevoix Hospital on Tuesday, May 9, 1921, after a short illness. The cause of her death was determined to be Chronic Myocarditis. She was 54 years old.

She married Charles Wesley Meredith on September 14, 1880, in Elkland Township, Tuscola County, Michigan. The family worked in the woods during Michigan’s early lumber industry, moving with the company camps from the Thumb area to Houghton Lake, then to Thompsonville in Benzie County in 1894. For work, the family continued to move around northern Michigan living in lumber towns in Antrim, Charlevoix, and Roscommon counties.

Mrs. Meredith was born May 29, 1866, in Kinderhook, Branch County, the second daughter of Wells and Frances Jane (Ball) Harrison. Wells Harrison served in the Civil War with the 1st Michigan Light Artillery, Company D, organized in Branch County in 1861. Mr. Harrison was wounded in Tennessee and was discharged in August 1865. Twelve years after the war ended, he succumbed to his injuries at the age of 42 in 1877. continue reading…

2010 Awards

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The 2010 WMGS Awards were presented at the Saturday 4 December 2010 membership meeting.

Seven Awards were announced and/or presented:

AGO Organisation Award: Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Department of the Grand Rapids Public Library

AGO Individual Award: Dawn Kelly

Communication Award: Lisa Christensen

President’s Award: Janet Jensen

Volunteer of the Year Award: Patrick Rademaker (he will be presented with his award at the January meeting)

Shirley M DeBoer Education Award: Wanda Schottler

Ken Gackler Award: Marlene Fabbro

Every few months the Grand Rapids Public Library has a “genealogy lock in” on a Friday evening. They are very popular and well attended. Western Michigan Genealogical Society helps out with volunteers to assist the researchers, many of whom are just getting started in their genealogy. Below are a few pictures from the most recent Lock In.

I thought I’d catch up with what Megan Smolenyak Smolyenak is doing in these weeks prior to coming to west Michigan to speak at our Annual Seminar in November.

She’s one of five world-class speakers that have been lined up for the 6th Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise starting tomorrow, September 18th. This week-long conference hosted by  Wholly Genes, Inc. (publishers of the computer program that I use – The Master Genealogist) has earned the reputation as the largest family history conference on the seas and is nearly always sold out. Someday I want to go!

Megan is presenting some lectures during the cruise that sound interesting: “Neglected History” and “Cold Cases: Genealogists, Coroners and the FBI”. For more information, you can read about the conference at the Wholly Genes website – www.whollygenes.com.

Good luck to Megan and we hope you rest well on your Caribbean cruise and don’t work too hard. We are looking forward to your visit in Michigan in November! www.gotancestors.com

Spotted in Smyrna on Saturday: 

And in downtown Kalamazoo!

Go to www.GotAncestors.com and see what the news is all about…

This article was posted recently on the City of Grand Rapids website – www.grcity.us

Find Burial Records Online

“If you are searching for loved ones who are buried at any of the City’s six cemeteries (Fairplains, Fulton, Greenwood, Oakgrove, Oakhill, or Woodlawn) you can now find information online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. Simply go to the website* http://cemetery.grcity.us to search by name. Information such as the date of birth, age, burial location, gender, place of death, date of death, spouse’s name, mother’s name, and father’s name (if available) can all be found with the click of a button. This new web page is a great resource for families of loved ones and genealogists.”

*UPDATE (April 2018): The city of Grand Rapids has a new website and the address to the Cemetery page has changed. It is here now!


Good news for those with Grand Rapids connections!

An interesting ancestor was Timothy Townsend. He died 11 March 1832 at the advanced age of 94 in Canaan, Columbia County, New York. Not only was he one of the first settlers of Canaan, he was among the original founders of the town of Champion, Jefferson County New York as well (settled 1798). He returned to Canaan by 1810, but all three of his sons, Jonathan, Josiah, and Timothy Jr. remained and raised families in Jefferson County.

Timothy was married four times. His last marriage in 1827 made the news in at least three states, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. I’m so glad it was a newsworthy occasion!

This account appeared in the February 28, 1827, issue of the Auburn (NY) Free Press…
“Mr. Townsend was one of the first settlers in Canaan, having lived there about 70 years. He buried three wives and now has become the husband of the fourth in his second childhood. After the guests had assembled, nearly 3 hours were spent in settling the conditions of their union, when a compromise was made and they were joined in ‘Hymen’s bonds’. No goose so grey, but soon or late, may find a silly gander for a mate.” continue reading…

Genealogy in West Michigan is in the news a lot more than you might think. You just might have to find articles accidentally, though. Just recently I’ve spotted the following articles.

Archaeology Meets Genealogy at Niles (Michigan) Dig is about Isaiah Zoschke’s trip to Niles for the Fort St. Joseph archaeology camp. It turned out to be a connection to his family history. His ancestor was Hezekiah Niles, whom the city of Niles was named after.  Read it here at the Niles Star newspaper website.

Here’s another about Gladys Simpson, a 100 year old Cereal City (Battle Creek) native. She shares her cereal secret for her longevity. This is from a Montana news website called the Daily Inter Lake. Click here for the article.

Last (for today), but not least Muskegon’s Hackley Library got my attention about a month ago. The Muskegon Chronicle ran this story in July.

Find an interesting genealogical news article involving West Michigan and send it on to me at president(at)wmgs.org and we’ll post it here.

I haven’t been a subscriber to Ancestry.com for about two years. At the time, I had noticed a lot more free information on the Internet surfacing and I had depended primarily on Ancestry.com as my source for a long time.

After a few weeks, I was amazed how infrequently I felt I needed Ancestry.com in the particular research I was undertaking. I became better at using some of my other favorite sites… WMGS.org, New England Ancestors (member access), Google, Seeking Michigan, Heritage Quest, FamilySearch,  Find-a-Grave, and the GenWeb. In doing this, I also realized quite quickly that Ancestry.com didn’t have everything – which is an easy assumption to make since their collection is so large. Admittedly, there were a few times that I did need to check some things out on Ancestry.com while at the Grand Rapids Public Library.

This isn’t a criticism of Ancestry.com by any means. I know at some point I will resubscribe when my research path dictates the need. Maybe that time is sooner than later…

Today I realized that I may have been missing some things. For instance, I didn’t realize the scope of the Ancestry.com Michigan Collection. I can’t recall exactly how many exclusive Michigan sources and databases they had two years ago, but I was seriously impressed with the number they have right now. Four hundred-five and presumably still growing.

Click here for the listing of Michigan Genealogy and Family history Resources at Ancestry.  This link is for the printer friendly list – at least six printed pages anyway. I don’t have room in the blog to write them all out!

We received notice that the MCIR Board’s final recommendation adopted June 25th has been acknowledged by Governor Granholm’s office. That June 25th document appears to have been posted yesterday or over the weekend.  

A press release dated July 19th was posted on the Governor’s website. Some have commented this is good news. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, I need to point out what this means – or what it doesn’t mean – and why we must remain diligent!

The troubling reality is the Governor’s news release doesn’t indicate at all what the Governor’s office might do (if anything) about the recommendation. We’ll have to continue to wait and see. The other problem is not what the report says, but what it doesn’t address.

We are cognizant of the activities already underway to move the Library of Michigan’s core collections from the second floor of the Michigan Library and Historical Center building upstairs to the fourth & fifth floors of the west wing. Apparently the time table is August through Labor Day weekend as the following notice about clearing the space on the upper floors is currently on the Library of Michigan’s website (bold text is mine): continue reading…