Western Michigan Genealogical Society

As promised in the first bus trip post, here are some personal thoughts from some of the Bus Trip attendees.

“The Microfilm reader room is the ACPL’s best kept secret”

“I found the PHD dissertation about the Dred Scott fall from grace”- Claudia Day continue reading…

Adam OsterOur next monthly meeting:

Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm in the Ryerson Auditorium, Grand Rapids Public Library

Topic this month: Traffic Violations, Criminal Complaints and Marriages: Records of a Justice of the Peace

Justices of the Peace served as local magistrates empowered primarily to administer summary justice in minor cases, to commit for trial, and to administer oaths and perform marriages. Using the records of former Paris Township Justice of the Peace Earl H. Keyes, discover the role in which the justices played in local courts. See examples of records from the collection and learn how you can use them for researching your family’s history.

Adam Oster is a librarian at the Kentwood (Richard L. Root) Branch of Kent District Library. His responsibilities include providing reference services, readers advisory, outreach as well as computer class design and instruction. Adam holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Grand Valley State University with a minor in Political Science and Secondary Education Certification. He also has a Master of Library Science degree from Indiana University. Adam’s interests include genealogy and local history research.

Mini-Class Saturday, December 3rd (12 Noon – 1:00 p.m.)

Topic: How to Begin Doing Genealogy

New to Genealogy? Does it seem overwhelming? Learn the first steps to begin.

Instructor: Linda Guth
Location: GRPL Lower Level Computer Lab


Our fall bus trip has just ended and it was a great success. We left early Wednesday morning, November 16.  Sue Irving always treats us to a morning rest stop break, including donuts, coffee and juice. We arrived about 11:30 at the Allen County Public Library. This is a high energy time as we rush off to the second floor to find our tables, seats and electrical outlets. We spend the day happily finding books, reading, working on our computers, talking to each other and taking short breaks to clear our heads.

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Grand Rapids artist.

L. C. Earle, Grand Rapids artist.

I confess I have spent more time researching the life and work of a former resident of my house in Grand Rapids than I have of any other single person. I can’t seem to resist searching for Lawrence Carmichael Earle when new resources come to my attention (see www.lcearle.com). Recently, I was looking on the Grand Rapids Public Library digital collections and scoured the Grand Rapids Herald (1894-1916). Because every word in this collection is indexed, even small mentions of names are discoverable and I found new facts about this artist’s early involvement in the institution we know as the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). continue reading…

Civil War Studies

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A few years ago, I took an online course at Cornerstone University entitled “The Civil War.” I own quite a few books about the “War of the Rebellion” and I wasn’t looking for a rehash of the usual – military strategies, battle tactics, and hero generals on which many of those books focus. The reading selections in the syllabus of this course intrigued me because they focused on areas that are not traditionally covered in depth in the prominent history books. This course centered on the people involved and the societal issues before, during, and following the Civil War. continue reading…

I attended the National Archives’ Genealogy Fair today. Do you think the National Archives only has veteran pension files, immigration records and census records? You need to keep reading. Today’s presentation titled The Best National Archives Records Genealogists Aren’t Using showed many examples of other records that the Archives holds like relinquished, rejected or canceled land entry files; rural rehabilitation loan case files; and war risk insurance files for WWI vets. I’m going to make a list of my ancestors who lived on farms in the 1930’s to see if they applied for a rural rehabilitation loan!

National Archives Innovative Online Resources and Tools to Help with Your Genealogical Research showed how the NARA website is improving and highlighted even more useful record types I never knew about. I also learned about a program that allows people like us to download selected records and transcribe the contents. This information becomes part of the NARA catalog. Eventually, we will be able to type in peoples’ names and get search results that will take us directly to their digitized records. Are you disappointed that you weren’t able to attend? Not to worry! Go to https://www.archives.gov/calendar/genealogy-fair/2016/schedule-handouts. You will see a list of the talks given and find links that will take you to the videos of the talks and let you see the slides and handouts.

Go to this link and scroll down to Online Learning Resources to view videos and handouts from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Genealogy Fairs: https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/start-research

Happy Hunting!

Lisa Christensen

Bodies in Transit

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One experience I had in New York City while on a New England Historical and Genealogical Society sponsored week last May was fascinating and productive but kind of macabre. Consulting with one of the Society professional genealogists, I was expressing my frustration with my inability to document my great great-grandmother’s death. I had tracked her, Catherine Elizabeth (Molyneux) King and her spouse, Joseph B. King, through the census and through city directories as residents of Brooklyn from 1863 through 1892 (other locations earlier). In the 1900 census, Joseph is still there, listed as widowed. Years ago I had written, and paid for, death certificates for various Catherine Kings in New York City within my eight year time frame without any matches.   Later I found Joseph in the Green-Wood Cemetery (Brooklyn) index as having died in 1905 but Catherine was not listed. As “Find-A-Grave” developed, I searched and found Joseph’s gravestone. There, in the picture of his stone, in all its glory, was Catherine’s name and date of death. continue reading…

As a followup to my last post about the mistaken newspaper publication of one relative’s death in California, I want to address the larger problem of misinformation all too commonly found in online family trees. I’ve grown to expect errors in online family trees. Although I am careful to published only verified information on my own family, I have experienced helpful folks point out errors in my own trees. I welcome them because the last thing I want to do is lead others astray. I sometimes go through the effort to contact the owners of other trees that contain errors. But I do not seem to have the time to do that very often. So perhaps they all will read this example and take it for what it is worth and apply the underpinning principle – “do your homework.”

The subject of my previous post is Henry Eliakim HOLBROOK, son of James Trask HOLBROOK and Electa Bothwell MORSE. Henry was born 29 Apr 1842, at Oakham, Worcester Co, Mass. He never married and died 12 Jun 1911 at the Sawtelle Veterans Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles, California. continue reading…

The Flat River Community Library in Greenville, Michigan in Montcalm County has their digitized collections available online. Kelly Worden, Local History and Reference Assistant at the library explains they include text-searchable newspapers of the Greenville/Montcalm County area from 1857-1923 and various vital record indexes from Montcalm County.

Convenient links to these resources are now available through the Common Corners website… www.commoncorners.com/montcalm/

Checking out the Newspapers link, I found a “death” notice in a spring 1896 issue of the Greenville Independent. It was apparently for my 2nd-great granduncle, Henry HOLBROOK who was from Carson City.

It reads:
“Henry Holbrook, formerly of Carson City, at the Soldiers’ Home in Los Angeles, Cal.”

Sawtelle Veterans Home

I reviewed my records… was this the right person? A few years ago I found Henry’s death recorded as 12 Jun 1911 in West Los Angeles at the Sawtelle Veterans Administration Hospital facility. I had to check again. I confirmed that this 1896 death notice was in error. No doubt it should have been reporting the good news of his recent discharge from the Soldiers’ Home on March 23, 1896.

Here are the facts:

Henry Holbrook was admitted to the Veterans Hospital 14 Sep 1894 and discharged 23 March 1896. He was readmitted 11 July 1898 and discharged 3 Aug 1909. Less than a year later he was again admitted 10 Jun 1911 and died two days later of Pulmonary Tuberculosis.

My other thought about this… the date of the newspaper was April 1st, 1896. Was this an April fool’s joke? Not funny. Imagine you were one of Henry’s relatives still living in the Carson City area just reading about his death in the newspaper!

As genealogists, we have all had that ‘a-ha!’ moment and regularly ask the genie spirits to provide another one. A couple of weeks ago I was able to share someone else’s, based on my past experience.

I’m one of the Tuesday volunteer help group at the downtown Grand Rapids Public Library and it is particularly fun to see eyes light up and smiles appear. I think it was the day after celebrating the 4th of July that a new woman came in. She had some family information going ‘way back’ and was particularly interested on finding out about her Revolutionary War veteran. The family had previously been researched by someone else who qualified for the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) but the woman had no details other than the name of the veteran. She was also a historian by profession.

I can’t stop myself, so I first gave her the brief lecture about checking other people’s research. Then we looked on Fold-3, a pay-for site available at the library that I’m not particularly good at. The man popped right up but there was not a lot of records, just a couple of pay slips. However, as we looked at them and identified his unit, I encouraged her to look for histories of the regiment for further details of his experience. Then I took her back to the first pay record. I pointed out how interesting it was that he was paid in pounds, shillings and pence. The very next slip showed him being paid in dollars and cents. I turned to her and said “That’s when America came to be a new country. That’s when your ancestor became a patriot American.” Quietly she examined the screens as I bit my tongue. Her eyes slowly widened and she turned to me, “WOW!”

WOW indeed.

S. Rabick