The more I search in Kalamazoo for my ancestors, the more information I find. A large part of my success is because of the fantastic genealogical community in Kalamazoo. Although I no longer live in the area (I'm in Tennessee now) I can still accomplish quite a bit from my sofa. This is in no small part due to the ongoing efforts of the staff of the Kalamazoo Public Library and the members of the Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society. I wish to personally thank them for taking the time to make so many records available on the internet!
For those of you new to hunting for ancestors in the Kalamazoo area I hope I can provide you with a few helpful websites and tips. As for the Kalamazoo area genealogy veterans, perhaps you'll enjoy the tidbits I have found about Kalamazoo history.
Why bushwhacking, you might ask? Well, when you do a search on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org do you ever have the feeling that you need a machete to hack through all of the results that clearly aren't what you are looking for? Sometimes you get lost and have to back track. At other times you run into a dead end and are forced to try another approach. As a result, I have come up with a number of tricks that I have used to find some of “my people.”
My genealogical obsession began about ten years ago when my mom and I decided to start investigating our family history. We headed down to the Kalamazoo county clerk's office with a blank legal pad and a couple of pencils. We had no list of names or death dates, just my mother's memory as our guide. The volunteer behind the counter must have snickered, as it must have been obvious we had no clue what we were doing. It turned out our trip was not a completely wasted effort. We did find a few records that pertained to our family, but there were a lot of names we weren't sure of. Once I purchased family tree software and began typing in all of my information things really started to take shape.
It is difficult to believe that we have made so much progress in a mere decade. Over the years I have delved into Civil War pension application files, newspapers and court records, among other things and found a gold mine of information. I only hope that I can help others with a few of the tips and tricks that I have used to get where I am. Along the way, I have learned a lot about history, both in Kalamazoo in particular and more broadly as I delved into the lives of “my people.” I have found some pretty colorful characters as well. I'll share some of their stories as well because some are just too good to keep to myself.