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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, January 6th (1:30 p.m.) - Membership Meeting -

 Topic: The Wives (and Lives) of the Early Dutch Pastors

Presenter: Janet Sheeres

Janet Sheers

The Christian Reformed Church in North America was founded in 1857, and is headquartered in Grand Rapids.  The lives of its pastors have been well documented and written about.  However, the stories of the wives of these pastors have been sadly ignored in the history writings of the church. In her recently published book For Better For Worse, Janet Sheeres has brought some of these women out of obscurity and describes their challenges and living conditions. Many of these stories played out in Grand Rapids and West Michigan.

Janet Sjaarda Sheeres is an independent scholar, genealogist, and freelance author who researches and writes on the subject of family, church, and Dutch emigration/immigration history.  Since she began writing about thirty years ago she has published three books, over 70 articles in various national and international historical and genealogical journals. Janet was born in the Netherlands, speaks fluent Dutch.

 Mini-Class Saturday, January 6th (12 Noon – 1:00 p.m.)

Topic: Document Detective

Documents can be helpful in giving us clues about our ancestor.  Let’s search these resources to discover what information they give us.

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

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.


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

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, December 5th,  6:30 - 8:30 PM


Discovering an ancestor's name on a passenger list not only provides a vital link to the old country, but also brings to mind the uncertain journey and many sacrifices our ancestors must have made as they left their home, possessions, friends, and family for a new life in a new land.

Instructor: Linda Guth
Location: 4th Floor VanderVeen Room

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

Upcoming, dates and times to be announced...


Upcoming classes during Black History month African-American Genealogy. Details will be announced.

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


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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