Friday, January 27, 2012

Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society

On their website the KVGS states: “we serve historians and genealogists who are interested in the Kalamazoo River Valley Region of Michigan.” To explore what the KVGS has to offer start at their home page where news items and upcoming events (from local society meetings to the occasional research trip) are posted. Note that not all events are listed here so be sure to navigate to the “calendar of events” page for a complete and current listing. You can also subscribe to the KVGS mailing list from the home page.

The real meat of this website can be found by clicking on “Historical Records.” Here you can view a list of searchable records. Most are not commonly used records. The bad news is that this decreases the chance that you will find your ancestors in them. On the flip side, you may not have thought to look through these records so you may find something you never would have found otherwise. The search function is not very sophisticated. You can search the entire database by name or you can page through the entire alphabetical list for all categories. As the latter would take a while, it is easier to do a surname search. Most of the results are transcriptions of the actual records (though some allow you to click to view the scanned image). For those records not viewable here you can now track down the originals.

Even if you don't believe you will find some of your people in the database it is worth checking all of your surnames. I was shocked when I found that my gg-grandmother died in the county poor farm. She had been living with her husband in her daughter's household a few years previously so it is not as though she had no family. I know that she died of rectal cancer so I wonder if her condition deteriorated so much that the family was unable to take care of her, but that is mere speculation.

Scroll down the Historical Records page to find other helpful information, such as epidemic time frames, Kalamazoo government heads, a Kalamazoo County Pioneer Society photo (1905), the miscellaneous ledger (1856-1907), German POWs buried at Fort Custer and maps of four local cemeteries as well as downloadable PDF files listing burials in those cemeteries. This is a great resource and I know that as I have found additional relatives, I have referred to these cemetery lists more than once.

The miscellaneous ledger is also worth a look. As the name states, it is a laundry list of receipts, articles of association, land contracts and the occasional probate record. While the website has only the list itself, digital photos can be obtained by contacting the society. While I haven't found any of my people in this database there are quite a few entries so if you have a number of families living in Kalamazoo in the 1856-1907 time frame you may get lucky. If nothing else, it is interesting to see the different items included.

Many of the KVGS holdings are stored at the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections [currently housed in East Hall at WMU, see my blog post for more information], but you can download the list to peruse at your leisure and actually conduct a surname search of these resources from the “Historical Records” page.

The KVGS has a lot of offer so if you are not familiar with them, I suggest you take a look.

1 comment:

  1. I am a local history buff and this site has proven to be a valuable source of information.