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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. 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.



Our next monthly membership meeting is...

Saturday, February 3rd (1:30 p.m.) - Membership Meeting -

Uncovering Your African American Genealogist Treasure Trove Hiding in the Attic

Presenter: Janis Minor FortéJanis Minor Forte

African Americans often think they don't have any genealogical or family history information to begin their research. This lecture is designed to dispel that myth by presenting an array of strategies, methods and techniques to research forward. At the completion of this lecture the participant will have developed an appreciation of his/her historical past and the vast array of ancestral, artifacts, heirlooms, family memorabilia and other treasures.

Janis Minor Forté is a genealogist, writer and lecturer who has received awards and citations for her research achievements. The granddaughter of a slave, Forté has been researching the history of her family since the late 1970s. Using a compilation of traditional and non-traditional sources, she has successfully traced her maternal ancestors to 1754; and her paternal ancestors to 1810 and has documented one line of her family to the African Island of Madagascar.  (See Black Family History Series - Details below.


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

Topic: Black Fashion History

Slide show during lunch (Noon – 1:00PM) – not a formal class.

This video features some of our most beloved and popular trends, showing how black fashion evolved since the 1920s with iconic styles inspired by jazz, Motown and hip-hop.  It also provides a look back through black history using the lens of fashion.

Location: VanderVeen Room – Grand Rapids Public Library

GRPL presents for Black History Month:
   Black Family History Series

  **Co-sponsored by WMGS**

 An interest and knowledge of your family's ancestors is a common question for most American families. What parent or grandparent hasn't had a child ask about the family history, where they came from, what was their job, how did they meet their spouse? While these are universal questions it can be challenging to find the answers. This is especially true for Afri-can Americans interested in their family history. Join us during Black History Month for a series of workshops that will feature local and regional speakers and offer an opportunity to connect with others around your family history.

Registration is not required, however lunch will be provided if you RSVP to rsvp@grpl.org.
 All workshops will be held in the VanderVeen Center except for the 1:30 program on February 3 (auditorium).


 Saturday, February 3
10:00 a.m.- 12:15 p.m.: Why Genealogy? An Intro to Researching Your African American Ancestry - Janis Forté

1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.: Uncovering your African American Genealogical Treasure Trove Hiding in the Attic - Janis Forté

(This is the WMGS Monthly meeting and mini-class)

Saturday, February 10 

10:00 a.m.- 12:15 p.m.: Even gangsters had to register: WWI draft cards and selected service - Janis Forté

World War I Draft Registration cards reveal more than just basic identifying information of eligible men. Following registra-tion, men completed a form with hundreds of questions. Janis Minor Forte will examine the development of identifying infor-mation on these cards and the path the cards lead to other Selective Service System records, including men identified as delinquent and/or deserters, along with classification ilsts and community based local board systems.
1:30 p.m.—3:30 p.m.: Freedmen's Bureau - Janis Forté

Janis Minor Forte will talk about the Bureau of Refugee, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands records, which provide an array of information on the individual, personal, family and social life style of post-Civil War societies. The local governmental, eco-nomic and social network of the community is revealed in these records, as well as family groups and kinships of those lost or sold in slavery. African American researchers learning to use these records will discover a treasure trove of genealogical, economic and social information.

Saturday, February 17
10:00 a.m.—12:15 p.m.: Schedules, wills and probate -  Linda Guth

This class will explore schedules of the U.S. census, specifically the agricultural and slaves schedules. The class will also look at wills and probate records to talk about the role they play in black families.

1:30 p.m.—3:30 p.m.: The census: how to use it and track family members - Linda Guth

This class will look at how to use U.S. Federal census records to find information on African American ancestors.
Saturday, February 24
10:00 a.m.- 12:15 p.m.: The ABCs of DNA - Jessica Trotter

What can DNA testing tell you? What test should you take? What does it all mean? DNA testing can be a powerful tool to wield in your genealogy toolkit. Librarian and genealogist Jessica Trotter will offer a beginners' overview on tests, testing companies and how you can use your results.

1:30 p.m.- 3:30 p.m.: African Americans in GR, Pre Civil War and Post Slavery - Cynthia Bailey and Ruth VanStee

Cynthia Bailey and Ruth VanStee will introduce Grand Rapids African Americans and highlight individual stories. You’ll learn about civil rights leaders in Grand Rapids long before Dr. King began his work, the early community leaders, church organiz-ers, businessmen and women leaders of social welfare efforts. The talk will also highlight various sources available at the Grand Rapids Public Library which you can use to tell your ancestors’ stories.

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


Tuesday, January 16, 6:30 - 8:30 PM


How Swede It Is!

Do you have a Swedish ancestor in your family woodpile? Come and learn about Sweden, why your ancestor left, and how to find them again in the Swedish church records. Discover not only birth, marriage, and death records, but also estate inventories, military service, and land maps to tell the story of your ancestor’s life in Sweden.

Instructor:  Jill Reider
Location: VanderVeen Room – Grand Rapids Public Library

Thursday, March 29, 6:30 - 8:30 PM

The Path to Our Danish Ancestors

This class provides a foundation for Danish genealogy research. Learn the historical background of Denmark and the techniques appropriate to research families in Danish records & repositories. 

Location: VanderVeen Room – Grand Rapids Public Library
Instructor:  Mary Knudstrup

Upcoming, dates and times to be announced...


Irish Genealogy

Learn about the best strategies and sources to uncover your ancestors from Ireland.  This course is highly recommended for those who are relatively new to Irish family history and wish to get to grips with research techniques, archives and genealogical sources.

Location: VanderVeen Room – Grand Rapids Public Library


Allen County Public Library

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

The Fall trip is over. We'll let you know when the next is scheduled.


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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