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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, Oct 5 (1:30 p.m.)

Resources For Genealogical Research In Foreign Countries

Presenter: Katherine R. Willson 

Katherine R. WillsonOnce you’ve discovered your immigrant ancestor’s home country, how will you go about finding documents generated while s/he was still there, and how will you research his/her parents?  We’ll discuss available resources for beginning your research in foreign countries, including how to locate foreign language genealogy terms and online maps providing contextual information on shifting country borders.

Katherine R. Willson of Ann Arbor, MI is a highly acclaimed and professionally trained national public speaker.   Her passion for genealogy combined with practical and creative strategies keeps her audience fully engaged and actively participating in these energetic, entertaining presentations.

Mini-Class: Using Social Media for Genealogy

Social media is a tool that can help the researcher further enhance or find living relatives. This may help you break down your brick walls.

12 Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Lower Level Adult Computer Lab, GRPL
Instructor: Linda Guth

Saturday, November 9 (1:30 p.m.)

Understanding the Ethnic Ancestry in Your DNA Test

Presenter: Richard Hill

Richard HillMany DNA tests now include a breakdown of your overall ethnic ancestry. Yet many people don’t get the results they expect. And different companies may show different results for the same person. People also wonder why siblings see different results on the same test. Or why Native American ancestry does not always show up when expected. This session will address these issues and more. Like which tests to consider and which ones to avoid.

We will review and compare actual ethnicity reports from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FTDNA’s Family Finder, MyHeritage, Living DNA, GEDmatch, National Geographic’s Geno 2.0, and Insitome. Many examples will be for people of mostly European ancestry, including some siblings. Reports for an African-African and a person of Mexican ancestry will explore more diverse ancestry. 

Richard Hill was the first known case of an adoptee using genetic genealogy DNA tests to identify his birth family. He is the author of two books. Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA is an award-winning personal memoir that follows his decades long search for his birth parents.

Hill's Kindle Short Book, Guide to DNA Testing, gives readers just enough information to choose the right DNA tests for their purposes.
He also authors the web site, DNA-Testing-Adviser.com and gives presentations on genetic genealogy.

Mini-Class: Trello for Genealogy

Learn what Trello is ... And isn't ... And how you can utilize it to help you with your genealogy research.

12 Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Lower Level Adult Computer Lab, GRPL
Instructor: Michele Hoogewind

Saturday, December 7 (1:30 p.m.)

1000 Photographs; A Visual Journey of Family Roots

Presenter: George A. Bayard III

George A Bayard IIIIn the mid-1980s my grandmother became ill and I moved into her house. She never threw away anything, so I discovered all kinds of artifacts, clothes, furniture squirreled away in her home. Most of all, boxes and boxes of family photographs, a rarity for a poor, African American family. As an art collector myself, I was amazed at this find and eager to start connecting images to the names in my tree. Unfortunately, she passed away before I could have her identify the many pictures and my dad and uncle were no help at all. Out of the 1000s of photographs, only about 100 are identified so my journey began to give this diverse group of images some context to my own genealogy and family folklore. 

I examine the breakthroughs and roadblocks to tag some wonderful images. A few are famous, others are unknown everyday folks. I will share the pictures and tell what I’ve found out about them and how my search is a continuing journey.

George A. Bayard III started Bayard Art Consulting in 1989. That business evolved into Bayard Gallery of Fine African American Art & Books which also fed our desire to collect Black history.  

George has owned West Michigan’s oldest gallery devoted to artists of color for 30 years. An Art Education major from the University of Delaware, George became regional manager of Philadelphia’s largest picture frame chain before moving to Michigan.

Currently, George is the founder and Executive Director of GRAAMA, the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives. This 5-year journey has culminated with Grand Rapids only museum devoted to Black history, culture, education, and community. 

George is a 2019 Baxter and ArtPrize award winner, professional picture framer, conservator, appraiser, artist, lecturer, collector, historian, film maker, and writer.

Mini-Class: To be announced

12 Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Lower Level Adult Computer Lab, GRPL
Instructor: Linda Guth

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

 Wednesday, Sept 18

Researching Vital Records

This class will explore research strategies of vital records such as birth, marriage, and death and how to find them.

VanderVeen Room, 4th Floor

6:30-8:30 PM

Instructor:  Linda Guth

Wednesday, Oct 23

Blank Genealogy Forms

Blank charts and forms are useful for organizing your research, and blank census forms make it easier to see the format and column headings for a census. We'll discuss many forms in this session.

VanderVeen Room, 4th Floor
6:30PM - 8:30 PM

Instructor: Linda Guth

Wednesday, Nov. 6

Prepping for Allen County Library:

Time at a major genealogy library means the potential to find information on your ancestors that is not available at your local library or online.  So, how are you preparing for this trip?  What will you do once you arrive?  We have some suggestions to help you.

VanderVeen Room, 4th Floor
6:30PM - 8:30 PM.

Instructor: Sue Irvine


Allen County Public Library

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

Fall 2019 trip is Tuesday and Wednesday, November  12 - 13. 


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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