10 May 2018

NGS 2018 Ends with Five Great Sessions

Day four of the conference came and I just could not get up in time for the 8 o'clock session.  I think the last month caught up with me and I needed an extra hour of sleep.  I felt so much better when I arrived at DeVos Place for the 9:30 session.

Private Archives: What They Are and How to Use Them with John Philip Colletta was filled with information on using manuscripts for your research.  Lots of unique collections were shared.

New York seemed to be on my mind during this conference and I attended Three Keys to New York: Censuses, NY Public Library, and NYG&B's Vast Collection  with Susan Miller.  I decided to join New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B) during the conference in order to tap into their resource materials and databases.  The information that was provided on the New York State Census and New York Public Library was great, but long and I was hoping I would learn more about their vast collection. I will be checking out their website guides and webinars soon.

The afternoon sessions started with Nothing in Life is Free... Unless You are Talking about NDNP... Chronicling America 1690-1963 with Kimberly Hagerty. NDNP is National Digital Newspaper Program, a joint program with the Library of Congress, Central Michigan University Clarke Library (in Michigan) and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  This amazing project hosts over 13.2 million newspaper pages, digitized and available for free.  Since CMU's Clarke library has been involved they created the Digital Michigan Newspaper Portal.  The states who participate in this program and their newspapers can be found on Chronicling America.

The conference started with the Erie Canal and I thought it was fitting to end it that way as well.  Afloat or Ashore: Tracing and Tracking Erie Canal Workers, 1817-1918 with Pamela Vittorio provided information on the records that are available for those who worked on the Erie Canal. 21 resources for more information were provided as well as the types of jobs available.

Overall, I had an excellent conference experience.  This was my first NGS conference and I was happy to have experienced it. Michigan was a great place to have a conference.  The attendance was about 2200 and over 600 of those who registered were from Michigan.  I knew many of the attendees.  The DeVos Place was vast and there were a couple of people I had hoped to connect with, but never saw.  The Western Michigan Genealogical Society, National Genealogical Society, all the volunteers, vendors, and attendees made it a successful conference.  Thank you to all.

09 May 2018

Burning the Candle at Both Ends is Catching Up with Me at NGS

The alarm went off and I was sound asleep.  I have been busy volunteering, attending sessions, being social, walking and walking and walking.  I was tired at the beginning of Day 3.

I made it to my room monitor assignment by 7:30 a.m. and the doors were open and the room half full, what the heck?  Oh, well, I guess there were some early risers.  Jill K. Morelli presented, Glory to God! Dutch Christian Reformed Church: Online, Parish and Archives Records. Ms. Morelli spent a lot of time on the history of the church and toward the end talked about the records available at Calvin College.

This session was followed by Migration Patterns of Germans within America by Sharon Cook MacInnes.  Three phases (1607-1805; 1815-1871; after 1871) were discussed and migration tips provided for each phase.  My German ancestry came during two phases, one came in the early phase and came into Pennsylvania.  Later, around 1874, my other German ancestor arrived.  Resources for each phase was provided.

One of the holes in my Michigan research knowledge is the records of the Northwest Territory and when I saw Early Land Records in Michigan and the Old Northwest Territory by Angela McGhie, I knew I would be sitting in the Grand Gallery AB room for this one.  This was one of my favorite presentations.  It was also a session that I met up with two Calhoun County friends. Ms. McGhie talked about land entry resources, timelines for each territory, statistics, types of records available, where to find these records, and more.  I was so excited when I left this session that I went immediately to the Bureau of Land Management vendor table and used their database and had a couple of certificates printed!

My husband was wonderful and brought me lunch. We sat overlooking the Grand River and enjoyed it.  I took advantage of Kirk being there and bought a few more books.  He was heading back to the hotel and could take my books and I wouldn't have to carry them all afternoon.  I bought

  1. Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses 1790-1920 by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide.
  2. Genealogy and the Law by Kay Haviland Freilich and William B. Freilich
  3. The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide by James M. Beidler
  4. Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors by Ian Maxwell

I had a special event to attend at 1:00 p.m.-a book signing for the revised and updated NGS Research in the States Series-Michigan book.  I volunteered to update the book with the proceeds benefiting the Michigan Genealogical Council.  NGS sponsored the book signing and I got to talk to a few Michigan researchers.  The book sold out at the conference but it is available through the NGS store, in .pdf or print form.  

The History and Settlement section of the book was tweaked for accuracy. Archives, Libraries and Societies had the biggest rewrite.  The changes within the Library of Michigan, Archives of Michigan and the addition of Seeking Michigan material was added.  A Michigan Oral History Association section was added.  The rest of the book centers on resources and records.  They were updated as needed and new information on a few sources added and all links were updated.  I enjoyed working on this book and hope Michigan researchers will find it useful.

The first afternoon session was Jewish Genealogy for Non-Jews: History, Migration, and DNA by Schelly Talalay Dardashti.  I pick one session that is out of my area of research and this was the one.  I learned so much during this session.  Ms. Dardashti is a fountain of information.  A history of expulsions was combined with a very brief Jewish history.  Archives, records and resources for Jewish Genealogy was presented along with social history and customs.  It was a very informative session.

Deeper Analysis: Techniques for Successful Problem Solving by Elissa Scalise Powell ended day three for me.  Ms. Powell showed examples using spreadsheets, timelines, maps and charts as ways to analyze the information you already have.  I found myself drawing tables that I want to use for some of my research problems.  My to do list is getting longer each day that I am here.

I didn't have any social events scheduled for tonight and I felt like getting away from the downtown area.  I walked back to the hotel and my husband and I went to one of my favorite places in Grand Rapids, the Downtown Market.  We had some great barbecue and a delicious molasses cookie. Next, we stopped on the way back to the hotel to visit with my in-laws who live just south of Grand Rapids.  I was home by 8 and in bed by 9.  I know I am just killing the night life!!!

08 May 2018

NGS 2018 Day 2 Ends in Dutch Meet and Greet

My morning started with David Lambert's Researching Your New England Ancestors Online and in Repositories.  Lambert caught my attention when he invited people to stop by the NEHGS booth and ask questions.  He said, "as long as you don't ask for me to tell you everything about Samuel Poor of Newburyport, Ma".  Wait, what?  That is my ancestor.  I stopped by the booth a couple of times, but never when Lambert was there.  I will have to wait until July to ask him, when he comes to speak at the Abrams Foundation Seminar being held.

Even though I have been to New England to conduct research, I still have a lot of research to do. The take away from this session is not to reinvent the wheel when doing research in this area.  Use the wonderful resources in print and online such as The Great Migration Series, The Winthrop Fleet, New Englanders in the 1600's, Torrey's Marriage Records, and others.  

Yvette Hoitink was one of my must see and hear sessions that I picked before the conference.  I chose For Fortune and Faith: Emigration from the Netherlands in the 1800's.  I learned so much about the Netherlands during this session.  It focused on the history of the Netherlands, familial relationships, and reasons people left the Netherlands during this time.  My husband's family is one of the families that were part of this emigration.

The third session of day two was the time that I selected to walk through the exhibit hall.  I started in aisle one and continued until it was time for me to be at the Michigan Genealogical Council table.  I didn't get through the whole hall as I stopped and talked to a lot of vendors.  The highlights of my visit were:

  • Seeing my book, "Research in the States: Michigan" at the NGS booth.  I bought the Massachusetts and Rhode Island one.
  • Grabbing the Calhoun County guide from the Library of Michigan booth.  The Library of Michigan has guides for every county in Michigan.
  • Talking to my friends from Clayton Library, Houston, and checking on the library that I enjoyed researching in when I was visiting my son.
  • Finding out about Dutch Roots Tours and getting a wooden shoe key chain.  My family of six are looking forward to a future trip to the Netherlands and I would like to visit a few family areas and Jan Deelstra was a wealth of information.
  • Buying three magazines, Tracing Your Ancestors DNA and Genealogy, Tracing Your WWI Military Ancestors, and Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors from Moorshead Magazines.
  • Seeing a demo of Research Ties, an online research log that helps users organize (I heart organization!) their research. I want to explore this further and may sign up for it.
The afternoon started with D. Joshua Taylor's Fifteen Tools for Tracing Your New York Ancestors Online.  Many of my early Michigan ancestors migrated here from New York and I am always looking for ways to find them in records.  Taylor provided fifteen resources every New York researcher should know about.  Everything from Family Search to manuscripts to New York State Library and Archives, newspapers and more was presented.  I have a list of so much to check on, that I could spend the next year just on New York families.

4:00 p.m. rolled around and I couldn't believe how fast the day had gone.  I ended the day with Dr. Thomas W. Jones and Using Michigan Records to Reconstruct a New England Family.  One thing I have found over the years is that one knows what to expect from a Dr. Jones session-a well researched case study.  The best part of this was that he used a Michigan family that came from Vermont and he traced the family back to Vermont. Dr. Jones mentioned, "no one source is as bad as to overlook it and no source is as good as to follow it blindly"  It is always a good feeling to see the work of a well respected genealogist and know you are on the right track with your research. It was a great way to end the session day. 

The day actually ended with a Dutch Meet and Greet that was organized by Yvette Hoitink and Elaine Zimmerman.  Those with Dutch ancestry met in the lobby of the Amway Grand Plaza and chatted about where in the Netherlands our ancestors lived.  I was the impostor of the group because it is actually my husbands family who is from the Netherlands.  However, I did find out that Luyendyk, the original spelling of our name, is pronounced Line dyke.  We ended the meet and greet with dinner at a local restaurant, Z's.

07 May 2018

NGS 2018 Conference "Paths to Your Past" A Blast!

Who wouldn't have fun during four days of great genealogy learning?  I know I did. I am home from the NGS 2018 Family History Conference that was held in Grand Rapids, MI last week.  Grand Rapids was a great venue for the conference.  

The DeVos Place overlooked the Grand River and allowed conference goers to understand how Grand Rapids received its name.

I attended seventeen of nineteen sessions. I spent one session visiting the exhibit hall and talking to vendors, and one session I was so exhausted that I skipped it.  Other activities included volunteering at registration and as a room monitor. I covered the Michigan Genealogical Council vendor table three times and even had a book signing at the National Genealogical Society's booth.  I represented Calhoun County Genealogical Society at Society Night, went to a Dutch Meet and Greet and dinner, and even fit a trip in to visit my in-laws.  It was tiring, but also very motivating.  I can't remember the last time I was this excited about genealogy.  I thought I would have time to blog each night about my sessions, but that didn't happen.

Wednesday started with a great opening session with John Philip Colletta on Coming Along the Towpath, The Erie Canal and the Peopling of the Great Lakes States.  Colletta is one speaker that if you have never heard him, you must.  He infuses humor and props along with a wealth of knowledge.  Colletta talked about working on, along and for the Erie Canal and using the canal for migration, transporting cargo, and traveling for business or leisure.

The Exhibit Hall opened after the opening session and throngs filled the hall.  I had one book that I wanted to get at the New England Historic Genealogical Society's booth and it was sold out before I got there.  I walked through the hall to get an idea of what was available and made plans to come back during one session time when the crowds were less.  

Follow the Rivers 1790-1825: Trails that opened the Northwest Territory with Carrie Eldridge was my next session.  Eldridge's knowledge of geography was evident as she shared the rivers and modes of transportation from the East into the Northwest Territory.

Finding Treasures in the Hoosier Courthouse with Michael D. Lacopo was my first afternoon session.  Dr. Lacopo is an excellent speaker and knew I wanted to go to at least one of his sessions.  This one will help me with my Hoosier ancestors.  He covered history, court structure, record keepers, and more.  Excellent resources were included as well.

It was hard for me to pick one topic for the last session of the day.  I decided to pick the one from the BCG Skillbuilding Track, Analyze This! Scrutinizing Evidence for Problem Solving with Vic Dunn. It was to "learn the methodology astute genealogists use to break-down brick walls", and I do have a few brick-walls!  I didn't take one note which is odd for me.  It ended up being a good review for me of methods I already use.  I just need to use them.

The night ended with Society Night.  Members of local genealogical and historical societies were set up at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Center Concourse and my local society had a table, which I helped man.  Many people came by our table and it was fun to talk to and share information about my county, Calhoun.  I took a few minutes and walked around the concourse to see who else was there.  Many of the societies I was familiar with, but one caught my attention because I had never heard of their organization.  It was the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council.  The council is "dedicated to educating the community and celebrating the legacies of local women, preserving knowledge of their past, and inspiring visions for the future." During WWI over 4 million women were registered.  23,000 were registered in Grand Rapids.

This is just a recap of the first day and I have three more days of fun to tell you about.

06 April 2018

History of the Pantlind Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Source: This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 without a copyright notice. Found at wikipedia commons images.

One of the hotels for the upcoming National Genealogical Society "Paths to Your Past" family history conference is the Amway Grand Plaza hotel.  It has a rich Grand Rapids history.  You may hear people referring to it as the Pantlind hotel, which it was known as for years.

The Amway Grand Plaza (Pantlind) hotel is the best of both worlds. Modern conveniences are combined with old world charm.  The hotel is comprised of two sections: the original hotel section known first as Sweet's Hotel (1900), then the Pantlind (1913) and now Amway Grand Plaza.  The original section of the Pantlind and the newer Glass towers, which were added in 1983, make up the Amway Grand Plaza.

You enter the lobby and immediately see the architectural charm. The Pantlind was created by the same designers as the New York City Grand Central Station and Biltmore Hotel.  It was named "one of the ten finest hotels in America" in 1925.

The Amway Corporation purchased it in 1981.  Amway restored the Pantlind to its original opulence and added the luxurious Glass Tower.  If you are lucky to get a room with a view, you will overlook the Grand River.

Many architectural details should not be missed.  Three Czechoslovakian chandeliers grace the lobby, made of Austrian crystals and weighing 4000 pounds each.  The domed gold leaf ceiling is a sight to see.  Arched windows, brass molding, wired electric gaslight torches complete the ambiance of the place.

If you want to know more about the historical details of the hotel, check the tour brochure available at the hotel's website. The Amway Grand Plaza is part of the Historic Hotels of America, a program of National Trust for Architecture History Preservation.

04 April 2018

Fun Things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids was listed as number 20 of 52 places to go worldwide by the New York Times.  See the article here.  It is a great place to have a conference and a great place to visit. There are wonderful museums, gardens, shopping venues, restaurants, neighborhoods and more. If you have the time to come early or stay late you will have lots to see and do in Grand Rapids.  Here are my favorite things to do in Grand Rapids.

  1. Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.  This is one of my favorite places to go when I am in Grand Rapids.  The Marketplace is a great place to grab lunch, a snack, or a simple dinner.  A variety of food options are available including sushi, thai, tacos, barbecue, ice cream, coffee and three bakeries!  It is located about a mile from the DeVos Place.  Hours are Sunday-Thursday 10-7; Friday 10-8; and Saturday 9-8.
  2. Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, 1000 East Beltline NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525.  If you have a few hours to explore this beautiful area, I highly recommend it, but wear your walking shoes!  It is early for flowers to be blooming in Michigan, but you may see tulips and daffodils in bloom.  The sculpture garden is home to the famous 24 foot "American Horse" inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and many other sculptures. There is an indoor viewing area with a caterpillar room and tropical plants and more.  Other things to see include a farmhouse, kids garden, plants, and much more.  It is about 5 1/2 miles from the DeVos Place, but public transportation is available. Hours are Sunday 11-5; Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9-5; Tuesday 9-9.
  3. Beer City USA.  There are over 80 craft breweries in the area for you to explore, many of them with great food.  I am not a beer drinker so I can't attest to the quality of the beer, but if this is of interest to you, you won't be disappointed.
  4. Grand Rapids Children's Museum, 11 Sheldon Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.  This is a wonderful museum for children and adults.  There are many hands on exhibit to explore including bubbles, music, farm and a fort.  The museum is .8 mile from the DeVos Place.  Hours are Sunday 12-5; Monday Closed; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 9:30-5 and Thursday 9:30-8.
  5. Grand Rapids Public Museum, 272 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. This museum is a wonderful place to visit.  A carousel, wurlitzer organ, exhibits, habitats, and my favorite, The Streets of Old Grand Rapids are a few of the highlights of this museum.  It is a quick walk, .3 mile, from DeVos Place.  Hours are Monday-Friday 9-5; Saturday 10-5; and Sunday 10-5.
  6. Fish Ladder Although the salmon won't be running this time of year, this is a relaxing spot in the city.  
  7. Heritage Hill Neighborhood One of the oldest neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, this well kept area is rich in beautiful homes with architectural features.  There is a self guided walking tour available here.
  8. Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, 300 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.  NGS will be having an event here Thursday night of the conference, but if you want to explore the museum on your own it is rich in history.  It is within walking distance of the DeVos Place.  Hours are Monday-Saturday 9-5 and Sunday 12-5.
These are just of a few of the attraction available for your visit to Grand Rapids.  To see attractions near the DeVos Place check here.  Experience Grand Rapids is the tourism website to check out.

03 April 2018

Talk Like a Michigander

No matter what part of the world you are from there are words that only locals know.  The same is true for Michigan.  If you are visiting Michigan for the upcoming NGS Conference, in Grand Rapids Michigan these terms will help you speak like a Michigander, the word for those living in Michigan.

The Mitten: Lower Michigan is shaped like a mitten.  If you ask someone where they are from and they point to a place on their hand, that is why!  We use our hand as a map.

U-P: If you hear the word U.P. (You Pea) it means the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The Thumb:  A part of Michigan that looks like a thumb in the mitten.  I grew up in the thumb.

Yooper: Someone who lives in the U.P.

Trolls: What Yoopers call those who live under the bridge, or in the lower peninsula.

The Bridge: Refers to the Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac: Pronounced Mack-i- naw!

Fudgies: Tourists are called this by Northern Michigan residents.

Party Store: It is a place that sells all things alcoholic.

Michigan Left: It is a U-turn when left turns are not permitted.

Pop/Soda: We drink pop and bake with soda.

Great Michigan Food Items:

Faygo: A brand of pop popular in Michigan.

Superman Ice Cream: A fruity creation of red, yellow, and blue swirls, well know throughout Michigan and the Midwest.

Better Made Chips: A Michigan made potato chip.

Traverse City Cherry Coffee: Traverse City is known for its cherry growing and this flavored coffee is one of the best.  Also, Traverse City Cherry is made into ice cream

Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream: Deliciousness you must try. It is vanilla ice cream with chunks of fudge.

Coney Dogs: A hot dog in a bun with a special sauce and other condiments.  If it is a Koegel hot dog, all the better.

Other Tips:
  1. If you don't like the weather, just wait, it will change.  Michigan has been known to be warm one day and snow the next.  Hopefully, we won't have to worry about snow in May.
  2. We have a tendency to chop letters off words.  Example: Grand Rapids=GranRapids
  3. We add 's' to words.  Example: Meijer (a local grocery store)= Meijers
  4. We have two seasons: Winter and Construction!
I hope you have a great time in Grand Rapids and get to see a little of our wonderful state.  

01 April 2018

Archives of the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan

Archives of the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids is the place to contact for Catholic records in the eleven county area in west Michigan.

Map of Diocese of Michigan

The Archives of the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids, MI, 300 Division Ave, S, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616 459-4509. The diocese was established in 1883.  Currently, it consists of 81 parishes in the Michigan counties of Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa.  

I contacted Fr. Dennis W. Morrow, Archivist of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, and he was very helpful and answered my many questions.  The number one thing I would like to iterate is that the Archives doesn't have staff to accommodate on site research.  Fr. Morrow stated, "We are happy to answer any reasonable requests from researchers. These are best received by U.S. Mail, or by phone at (616) 459-4509, or at this e-mail address, ssppbulletin@gmail.com." Notice the use of the word "reasonable". The archives is willing to do look ups, but doesn't have the staff to do your research for you." A well written query that includes names, dates and places will make your request more successful.  A query that states I would like all the information on the Smith family won't.

Fr. Morrow wrote about the condition of the records.  He writes, "The sacramental records that are in the possession of the Archives are some of the oldest records from some of our oldest parishes.  We do not allow researchers to peruse these records due to our lack of staffing, but also because the records themselves are very fragile. Many of them are difficult to read and interpret, written in Latin and in nearly illegible script.  So it is generally far more fruitful for us to receive the requests and then search the records for results."

If you have Catholic records research to do while you are in Grand Rapids, you can view pre-1900 sacramental records on microfiche at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Sacramental records include baptisms, confirmation, first Communions, marriages, and deaths.  Fr. Morrow states, "The drawback is that the fiche can be difficult to use, and can only show what is in the original register, which is often hard to read.  We are happy to assist researchers in making sense of what they find."

Other records that the Archives holds include all the student records of St, Joseph's Seminary in Grand Rapids from its opening in 1909 to its closure in 1981.  Extensive historical materials on all the parishes and institutions of the Diocese are available, too.

Fr. Morrow also shared, "Researchers are often happy to find that we have begun to transcribe, translate, and index some of our oldest sacramental records for the benefit of all.  We also have scanned the records from a number of our parishes.  This not infrequently makes it possible to look up a family name and provide an immediate "Yes" or "No" as to whether a family name might be found among some of the oldest parish records."

The Archives is near St. Andrew's Cathedral and Catholic Central School.  The piazza area around the cathedral is a beautiful, peaceful setting. If you get a chance to visit while in Grand Rapids, it is a place to see and within walking distance of the National Genealogical Society's conference center, DeVos Place.

Church records can be some of the richest resources a genealogist can find and the Archives at the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids can be a repository you want to use for your Catholic church records in West Michigan.  

28 March 2018

Research Facilities in Grand Rapids Michigan

I am preparing for the upcoming National Genealogical Council's "Paths to Your Past" conference which will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan on 2-5 May, 2018.  One of the things I do before I go to a conference is to check into research facilities in the area of the conference, especially if I have ancestors in the area.

My husband, Kirk, was born and raised in Grand Rapids and we have researched there for years.  I have visited numerous cemeteries, the library, city clerk's office, St. Andrew's Cathedral, neighborhoods and more.

If you have family history research to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan or Kent county, Michigan here are a few places you need to know about.

1.  Grand Rapids Public Library, History and Special Collections, Level 4 of the Main Library, 111 Library Street, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Their hours are:

    • Sunday, 1-5 pm Labor Day to Memorial Day
    • Monday-Thursday, 9 am to 9 pm
    • Friday and Saturday-9 am to 6 pm
The library is about a ten to fifteen minute walk, .7 mile, from the DeVos Convention Center and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and .5 mile from the Courtyard Marriot hotel.  Parking is available at the library.  The first hour is free and each hour after that is $1.10.  Weekend parking is free.

The History and Special Collections department offers the researcher a lot.  
  • Books and Periodicals. There are more than 30,000 local and state history books, the complete run of Grand Rapids city directories, county histories, atlases, business histories, government documents, and more.  There are over 5,000 volumes of periodicals for Grand Rapids and Michigan history. Genealogy periodicals, some national in scope, are available for use.
  • Maps. 1,800 or more maps of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Old Northwest Territory are available in addition to plat maps showing early settlers and property holders.
  • Newspapers. Available on microfilm are the daily and weekly Grand Rapids newspapers from 1841 to the present.  A full run of The Grand Rapids Press (1893-Present) and The Grand Rapids Herald (1891-1959) is available.
  • Family Histories. The department collects and maintains a large number of family histories.
  • Genealogy Books. Over 5,000 books pertaining to genealogy from general research to standard references are available.
  • Research Materials. The collection includes obituary files and vital records indexes.
  • Archival Materials. The Archive collections number over 500 and include photographs, oral histories, sound recordings, sheet music, manuscripts, postcard, scrapbooks, and ephemera.  The popular real estate listing cards are images and listing information on many properties in Grand Rapids from 1955 to 1995.
  • Furniture Design Collection. Grand Rapids and Furniture Design has a rich history.  This collection contains over 4,000 items.  Books, periodicals, catalogs are all located in the History and Special Collections department on the fourth floor.
  • Online Collections.  GRPL website has access to indexes for clipping files, subject files, newspapaer articles, magazine articles, photographs, and maps.  Their digital collections include over 7,000 archival images (1850-1990's); Robinson Studio Collection, almost a million negatives and photo's from 1930's-1960's; The Grand Rapids Herald from 1894-1916, is fully digitized and searchable; and Women's Defense Cards, 1918, contains over 23,000 cards that were filled out by women offering to help in the war effort.
Plan your trip using the library's website, www.grpl.org/history and set aside some time to browse the wonderful collections of the library.

2. Grand Rapids City Archives and Records Center, 223 Washington St., SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616 456-4127 or 616 456-3114. email: mellis@grcity.us or awright@grcity.us  Open to the public by appointment only. Hours are Monday – Friday from 8 am until 5 pm.

It is a .7 mile from the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and 1 mile from the DeVos Place Convention Center and Amway Plaza Hotel.

Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan and it has its own city archives.  The archives is the holder of all city governmental records, many that would be of interest to genealogists with Grand Rapids family history.

Genealogical Resources Include:

  1. Board of Trustees, Common Council, and City Commission records (1838-2010)
  2. Polk Directories (1865-2007) but missing 1866,01867,01869-1874,1877, 1880, 1889, 1890, 1893, 1894, 1906, 1908, 1915, 1947, 1952, 1989, 1999, 2004-2006.
  3. Court Records-a variety of records, some from early Grand Rapids.
    1. Mayor's Court (1850-1857)
    2. Police Court Felonies (1874-1979, some gaps in those years.)
    3. Justice Courts (1886-1889)
    4. Police Court State Records
  4. Cemetery Records-the city's six cemeteries records (Greenwood, Fulton, Oak Hill, Oak Grove, Woodlawn and Fairplains are available at the Archives. The information may be found online now.  For more information on the cemeteries check  https://www.grandrapidsmi.gov/Government/Departments/Cemeteries  One of my favorite cemeteries in Grand Rapids is Oak Hill.  The history and architecture is lovely. A couple of articles were printed and are interesting to read. http://www.therapidian.org/oak-hill-cemetery and http://www.therapidian.org/oak-hill-cemetery-ii  Although the city is relatively safe, please use caution when visiting city cemeteries and don't go alone.
  5. Police Records-includes the police department fingerprint cards from 1913-1974.
  6. Personnel Records-are available with a FOIA(Freedom of Information Act) request. They are not open to the public.
  7. Tax and Assessment Rolls-Grand Rapids Tax Records (1860-1971) are available.  Various cities, townships and villages in Kent county records (1876-1944) can be found here as well.
  8. Assessor's Cards-a 1936 Works Progress Administration (WPA) project created cards for homes in the city, complete with a picture.
  9. Grand Rapids Public School Archives-class pictures, yearbooks, attendance records and more are housed at the Archives.
This is just a few of the records one will find at the City Archives, please check their website for others.  Remember, research is by appointment only.

3.  Kent County Clerk's Office, Administration Building, 300 Monroe Ave., NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. 616 632-7640.  Open to the public, Monday-Friday 8 am-4:45 pm.

County research is central to finding your Michigan ancestors.  Each of the 83 Michigan counties have a county clerk.  The county clerk's office is where you will find vital records-birth, marriage, and death.

If you are attending the 2018 NGS " Paths to Your Past" conference at the DeVos Place and have Kent county research to do, you won't have far to go to the county clerk's office.  It is across the street from the DeVos Place!

A few things you will need to know about researching at the clerk's office.  They do allow genealogists to research in their office.
  1. There is a two hour research limit if others are waiting to research.
  2. Two researchers at a time are allowed research privileges.
  3. No young children allowed.
  4. Only pencils are allowed for writing.
  5. Certified copies cost $10 for the first copy and $3 for second copies.
  6. Birth records, less than 100 years old, are closed to the public.  An heir may see a birth record with a copy of a death certificate for those less than 100 years old.  Birth Indexes are closed and limited help is available.
If you find yourself with an hour or two and need to look up Kent county births, marriages and deaths, you won't have far to travel to do it at the conference.

4. Western Michigan Genealogical Society, one cannot forget the host society for the NGS conference, the Western Michigan Genealogical Society (WMGS).  The WMGS website has repeatedly earned the Family Tree Magazine Best State Websites award.  The gem of the website is their online databases.  http://data.wmgs.org/  Currently, the website has over three million records online.  The newspaper database has over one million records.  All database are of interest to those researching in Kent county.  A complete list is available on their website.  Look for school census records, church records for churches in existence before 1876, Grand Rapids Home for Veterans Index, WWI Veterans Census, Black Monument Company records, death indexes, marriage indexes, Latzek Funeral Home records, and more.  Check the website out for your ancestors names.

01 March 2018

I'm 8!!!!!!!!

I started my journey with blogging eight years ago today with a very short post on how I chose my blog title, "Journey to the Past".  I thought I would reflect and share my thoughts on my eighth blogiversary.

People-First and foremost, the people I have met through my blog have been the best part of blogging. I have connected with a great group of genealogy bloggers and cousins.  They have shared and help me grow as a blogger and genealogist.  Also, the 'strangers' who have reached out to me through my posts on German POW's, Michigan Genealogy and Last Day Local Battle Creeks.  The genealogy community is awesome.  Thank you!

Places-I started blogging in 2010 and at that time most of my genealogy travel revolved around my family reunion in Brethren, Manistee, Michigan.  Blogging has gotten me to travel to places all around the United States.  I was able to combine genealogy research and blogging quite well.  My trips to libraries, archives, cemeteries, historical societies, court houses, churches, schools, conferences, and back country roads have been shared on my blog.  Blogging helped me explore my hometown of Battle Creek and share all the wonderful history of the area.  I traveled to New England and never blogged about it because my aging parents were my priority when I got home.  I have lots of stories to share with my readers.

Things-It may seem a little selfish to think about things when blogging, but blogging has brought some gems into my life.  Who can forget my posts on Hattie's Bible and the excitement I felt upon being trusted to preserve this heirloom?  I have received pictures, records, and heirlooms through this journey.  I was gifted a book on the area my Fredrick/h family came from in Germany by a German cousin, Michael.  Again, people are awesome!

How many of you look at your blog statistics?  I do every once and awhile, but that isn't what keeps me blogging.  Obviously, if you look at my 2017 posts-8. Yikes, that isn't even one a month.  I hope to do better this year. I am half way there with this post!

Speaking of stats, my graph looks like my weight chart, many ups and downs.  My top views vary from personal genealogy to local places to general research posts.  Here are my all time top five posts by views.

  1. Historic Adventist Village, Battle Creek, Michigan
  2. Ancestor Biography-Otto August Fredrick- if you are researching him, contact me, pretty please.  This is my maternal grandfather.
  3. Social Media for Genealogy
  4. Lt. Col. Merle Glover Tombstone-this one surprised me.  Who is looking?  Please contact me, my dad is still alive and would love to know more about his uncle.  Are you family?  Did you serve with Merle?  I would love to hear his story.
  5. Michigan's Role in War of 1812
I am proud of the blogger I have became, I enjoy sharing my home state of Michigan, my home town of Battle Creek, and my family with you.  I hope in 2024 I will be writing my 16th blogiversary post.  Stay with me and leave comments, I love to hear from you.

20 February 2018

Preparing for a Visit to the Library of Michigan

National Genealogical Society is offering a research trip to the Library and Archives of Michigan, Tuesday 1 May 2018.  If this is your first visit, you may want to do a little pre-planning. I hope the information below will help. You may have planned to extend your conference trip with a visit to Lansing.  It is less than 70 miles driving distance.  No matter how you plan to visit the information will come in handy. 

The Library of Michigan is located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St. Lansing, Michigan in the Michigan Library and Historical Center Building.  The Archives of Michigan and Historical Museum are here, too.

I created a repository checklist.  Feel free to copy it for your own use.  Otherwise, the important information is below.

Admission is free to the library.  They are open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays 10:00 am-4 pm, except state holidays. The hours are subject to change. Please check the hours before going.

Parking is available next to the museum with entrance to the circle drive on Kalamazoo Street.  The cost is $1 an hour; maximum of $8. If driving, a credit card is required for entry, and payment is made upon exiting.  Visa, Master Card and Discover are accepted; no American Express.  Weekend parking is free.

Food is available on the 1st floor or you may bring your own and eat in the snack shop eating area.  No food or drink is allowed in the library.  Local restaurants are 4-5 blocks east of the library on the other side of the state Capitol.

ANSWER is the library card catalog.  Using this before you visit the library will give you more time for research.  Be sure to check the location of the material you are interested in. If an item you are looking for is located at the Archives of Michigan, don't fret, it is in the same building.  I will be writing about the Archives next.  

One of the great collections is the library's newspaper collection.  They have newspapers from before Michigan became a state in 1837.  The microfilm newspaper collection has papers from all 83 Michigan counties.  You can research what newspapers are available online.  You can search by county or if you don't know the county you can search by the first letter of the cities name.  During a recent visit, I was excited to see they had the September 1950 Mining Journal from Marquette, Michigan.  The library in Marquette didn't have the paper from that year.  I enjoyed the one stop researching.  Researching my ancestors from the Upper Peninsula to Southeast Michigan was done in one day and one place.

Other materials of interest at the library include city and county histories, vital records, cemetery transcripts, plat maps, church histories, and more. The staff at the Library of Michigan is awesome.  They are available to help you with newspaper scanning, finding materials, using their Answer catalog and more.

Your starting place for a visit to the Library of Michigan is at their website.  Everything you need to know is on the website.