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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.




Saturday, March 4th (1:30 p.m.)

Topic: Find the Midwife! Discovering midwives in online records and other sources

Presenter: Janet Sjaarda Sheeres

Over forty-five heretofore forgotten Dutch immigrant midwives who served in the Dutch colonies across the United States have been uncovered. In this session Janet will share some practical research tips on how to find immigrant women who served as midwives in their various ethnic colonies. The session will include a case study. It will also show how woman were often sidelined in the early historical and Census Records.

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. She has served as president of the Zeeland, Michigan, Historical Society, AADAS (Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies), and has served as Chairperson of the Christian Reformed Church Historical Committee. Since she began writing about thirty years ago she has published over 70 articles in various national and international historical and genealogical journals. Her biography titled Son of Secession: Douwe J. Vander Werp, was published by Eerdmans in 2006, her book, The Not-So Promised Paradise: The Dutch Colony in Amelia, Virginia 1868-1880 was published by Eerdmans in 2013, and The 1857 to 1880 Synodical Minutes of the Christian Reformed Church, which she edited and annotated was published in 2014. She is an Associate Editor of Origins, the journal of the Calvin College Heritage Hall Archives, and has taught genealogy classes for CALL (Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning).


Mini-Class Saturday, March 4th (12 Noon – 1:00 p.m.)

Topic: Rookie Genealogist Mistakes

We will go over a list of rookie mistakes, their consequences, and how experience teaches you to do it better: a self-improvement checklist.

Location: Grand Rapids Public Library, Adult Computer Training Center, lower level. Instructor: Linda Guth


Saturday, April 1st (1:30 p.m.)

Topic: Pinpoint dating of your photos between 1842 - 1920

Presenter: Randy Gladstone

You'll learn how to date and care for your family photographs. The presentation includes information to help date the production of studio photographers who were active in Michigan from 1842 - 1920.

For 37 years, Randy Gladstone of Hastings, Michigan, has operated Gladstone Photo / Art of Light studio. He a founding member of Ingham County Genealogical Society and Stockbridge Michigan Historical Society, and is past president of the Barry County Historical Society. Additionally, Randy has served as commissioner for Ingham County, Mason Historic District, and Curator / Director of the Mason Historical Museum. Since 1990 Randy has been an Early Michigan Photographer historian. He assisted David V. Tinder with the unique resource "Early MI Photographer Directory Project" published in 2013.



Mini-Class Saturday, April 1st (12 Noon – 1:00 p.m.)

Topic: Researching Genealogy through Tax Records

Taxes go so far back that we read about them in the Bible. It would seem there could be nothing good coming from taxes--but not so! Tax records are the best kept secret when it comes to solving a multitude of genealogical problems.

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


Saturday, May 6th (1:30 p.m.)

Topic: Lincoln Memorialized:
Early Monuments to the 16th President

Presenter: Bruce B. Butgereit

While most everyone can recognize the Lincoln Memorials in Springfield, IL and Washington D.C., these were not the first memorials built to honor the martyred president. This PowerPoint presentation will provide a timeline of the early efforts to memorialize President Abraham Lincoln. You will see there wasn’t a shortage of ideas and designs and you may be surprised to learn about some you’ve never heard of.

Bruce B. Butgereit is local and regional historian. Bruce is recognized for his research ability in a wide variety of subjects that include the Civil War, post-Civil War patriotic and fraternal organizations, Kent County war memorials, Abraham Lincoln, and the Lincoln Highway. This research has been shared over the past 40 years through living history presentations, written articles (magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and historical journals), and other programming. Bruce is the recipient of many awards and recognition for his work.


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

Topic: What is a GEDCOM Anyway?

 GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunication. This class reviews the nature of GEDCOM files, their purpose, structure, and how you can utilize the power of data transfer to expand your family history research.

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


Saturday, June 10th (1:30 p.m.)

Topic: They Didn’t All Come Through Ellis Island! Finding & Analyzing Passenger Lists

Presenter: Katherine R. Willson

If as many ancestors came through Ellis Island as families are led to believe, the island would have sunk! Learn about the multiple points of departure from Europe, ports of entry into the U.S., how to find passenger records online, and how to analyze these lists as a means of filling in your ancestors’ life stories.

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 Saturday, June 10th (12 Noon – 1:00 p.m.)

Topic: Women’s Fashion Throughout The Years

Take a trip down fashion’s memory lane and learn how women’s fashion has changed throughout time.

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



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

WMGS Classes

Classes being scheduled. Upcoming topics include Using Family Treemaker, Researching French Canadian families, Google Search skills, and in June - a visit to the Herrick Library in Holland, Mich.



Allen County Public Library

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

The Spring 2017 Bus trip is now scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, April 19 & 20, 2017.
 Information and Registration form now Available!


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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