Western Michigan Genealogical Society

Are you related to the ANDREWS or the KELLY families? Enjoy.


Shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I, the Daughters of the American Revolution in Michigan established a Homes Ties and War Records Committee. The purpose of this group was to preserve materials documenting the contributions that men from this state made overseas in defense of liberty. The chairwoman of the Committee, Mrs. Mable Colgrove Stebbins, suggested that her own D.A.R. chapter honor the soldiers from Barry County by preparing a permanent record of their personal and military histories. These data were kept in files and supplemented until around 1921, when the collections assembled by all counties were bound and distributed. One set of records was sent to Lansing for safekeeping, and the other kept at the local level. The volumes in this collection are the comprehensive series that was deposited with the state.

The WWI Veterans Census records are recorded on printed forms and contain the following information: name of veteran; serial number; address; place and date of birth; nationality; color; occupation before and after the war; marriage date; wife’s name; birth place and date; names of children and their birth date; rank, company, and regiment; transfers and promotions; battles engaged in; discharge date and reason; and additional information.
More information and samples can be found at:  http://data.wmgs.org/WWOneVeteransCensus/.

Use the index to find your relative. If you live near the Grand Rapids Public Library or plan a visit, you can obtain a copy directly yourself. Or for a $5.00 fee, you can order from the online database and receive the a copy of both sides of a record.

Our personal calendars tend to fill up in June with graduation open houses, weddings and vacations. We also have an active Society calendar as summer gets kicked off. Here’s a quick list of WMGS events for your reference.

June 12 – Here’s a reminder that in June, because the annual Arts Festival held in downtown Grand Rapids this weekend, we change our June meeting to the second Saturday. So make sure you have Saturday, June 12th marked on your calendar as WMGS meeting day. The program will be “Immigration: The Journey to America”, as presented by Shirley Gage Hodges. The lecture will cover some ways that we can trace our ancestors and learn more about their cultures. We will touch on why they came to America, the trip, their entry into this country and settlement in America.

June 26 – A Local and Family History Research Fair is planned for Saturday, June 26th from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. Held in coordination with the Grand Rapids Public Library series of events titled GR Reads 2010, the WMGS event will focus on unique family and local history authors and resources. Full details are available HERE. See http://www.grpl.org/grreads/ for information on the library summer reading events.

The June WMGS Family History Writers Workshop meeting is scheduled for Tuesday the 15th. Be sure to check the WMGS calendar for scheduled events.

I hope you have a wonderful and genealogically productive Summer 2010!

The next MCIR Board meeting is scheduled for May 19, 2010, from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m at the Archives Reading Room, 2nd floor, Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing. This is the board that the Governor of Michigan appointed to provide recommendations for the future of the Library of Michigan and the collections now under the umbrella of the Department of Education. These meetings are open to the public. If you are interested in the outcome of the Executive Order affecting the Library of Michigan and its genealogy collections, I encourage you to attend.

Besides the presence of Frank Boles representing the Michigan Genealogical Council, 100% of the public in attendance at the last meeting on May 4th were from the Western Michigan Genealogical Society. But, there were only two of us making up that constituency. One of the reasons for the low attendance is because there were problems on the Michigan.gov website preventing the listing of the meeting until the day before.

Another possible reason is that interest has waned. From many discussions I’ve had with various people, I am confident that is not the case. continue reading…

Randy Riley receives 2010 Filby Award

Randy Riley receives 2010 Filby Award. Photo by Tom Koselka.

Congratulations to Randy Riley, Special Collections Manager at the Library of Michigan on his receiving the Filby Award for Genealogical Librarianship at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Salt Lake City last Friday.

Here is the list of previous winners of the Filby Award:

  • 2009: No nominees met the qualifications for the Filby Award in 2009.
  • 2008: David Dearborn of New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • 2007: Curt Bryan Witcher of Allen County Library, Ft. Wayne, Indiana
  • 2006: Eric Grundset of DAR Library, Washington DC
  • 2005: Ron D. Bryant of the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky State Parks Department
  • 2004: James Jeffrey of the Denver Public Library, Denver, Colorado
  • 2003: Carole C. Callard (1941–2005) of the Library of Michigan, Lansing, Michigan
  • 2002: Jim Hansen of the Wisconsin Historical Society Library, Madison, Wisconsin
  • 2001: Martha Henderson of the Mid-Continent Public Library, Independence, Missouri
  • 2000: Pamela Hall Cooper of Indian River County Public Library, Vero Beach, Florida
  • 1999: Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck of the Dallas Public Library, Dallas, Texas

So a quick look at that list quickly reveals that the Library of Michigan is the ONLY facility to have won the award twice – 2003 awarded to Carole Callard and 2010 awarded to Randy Riley. That speaks VOLUMES to the prestige with which the Library of Michigan’s Genealogical collection is held in the genealogy community.

Congratulations Randy
and the
Library of Michigan!!!!

I’m a slow learner sometimes. It just became clear to me that most of the 1928 and 1929 death records for the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan are available online – and have been for a fairly long time!

In March 2009, SeekingMichigan.org introduced the Death Records database of almost a million images of the actual records for years 1897 to 1920. The site is very popular with family history nuts like me and ever since Kris Rzepczynski from the Library of Michigan came and spoke about the project at one of our WMGS monthly meetings last spring, I’ve been a devoted Seeker at the website. continue reading…

Researchers like to have the details right. One such researcher asked this question recently.

“Does anyone know when the 1840 census for New York would have been counted?  I have checked WMGS forms for the Federal census and do not see a date anywhere.  I checked all of the pages available to me on Ancestry.  The Citation for ancestry does not give a date.  Is there anywhere else I can look?  I think I have the right family but need this information to be absolutely sure.”

Great question. Seems that each Federal census had unique goals and corresponding questions. While investigating the answer the following was found. continue reading…


The Ionia County Genealogical Society has graciously offered to host a special WMGS day at their research room in Lake Odessa. The room is at the Freight Station Museum, directly behind the Lake Odessa Area Historical Society Depot Museum at 1117 Emerson Street, Lake Odessa, MI.

When? Saturday April 24th from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. (ish). The day will include a tour of what is available in their sizable collection of Ionia County resources. A lunch will be provided (for a donation). Learn about the First Families of Ionia County Society. They also have wireless Internet if you want to bring your laptop. We do need to have people sign-up so the number of attendees can be properly planned for. Please email me at president@wmgs.org before April 15th if you’d like to attend. continue reading…

I will sometimes get questions from members and I do my best to answer them all. This week I received an email from Tom D.

“Have a question about the meaning of the phrase ‘was not between 16 and 45 when children were born in marriage.’  When bringing up “possible record problems” in my personal ancestral file this phrase pops up frequently.”

Interesting question. Many genealogy programs do this sort of thing.

Genealogy software programs often come with data integrity checks or “possible problems” alerts.  In this case, there are parameters pre-set to check if a birth fits the norms based on the age of the mother. Biologically, exceptions can occur, but the program is telling you that it’s possible there is an error in your data because of the mother being less than 16 or more than 45 years old. continue reading…

I received an email earlier this month from Clint Abbott in Caledonia. His ancestor, William Abbott lived in the Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada area. He raised his family there in the early 1800’s (1820-1840). Some of them stayed (one named Esther Abbott married Oliver deLaurier) and some moved on, mostly to Michigan (West Michigan – Muskegon and Moorland Township areas).

Aaron Abbott (son of William Abbott) remained with his family in West Michigan. His brother Dave Abbott moved his family to Crowley, Louisiana. continue reading…