Archive for September, 2011

PSA on Grand Rapids Community TV (GRTV)

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Below is the text of a Public Service Announcement that Community TV Channel 25 on Comcast in Grand Rapids will be showing twice a day (8:30am and 10:00pm) for the next 5 weeks.

I’m Roger Moffat with the Western Michigan Genealogical Society, and organiser of our annual Got Ancestors seminar.

WMGS has been based in Grand Rapids since 1954, and we have maintained a close relationship with the Grand Rapids Public Library during this time.

For the last 4 years we have held our annual Got Ancestors seminar at the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College, featuring nationally recognised speakers from the genealogy community across the United States.

This year our speaker is Tony Burroughs of Chicago. Tony is one of the nation’s leading researchers, speakers and authors on African American genealogy as well as topics of general genealogical interest.

For many years my wife’s family knew that her great great grandfather had lost a leg in the Civil War. But that was about all they knew – not even his first name was known.

But slowly through research we have learned that Frederick Heinrich Tonsing was an immigrant who enlisted for the Union side in the Civil War in Cleveland less than 5 years after arriving from Germany. He was shot in the leg at the Battle of Gettysburg and had that leg amputated right there, probably without anaesthetic.

Since then we’ve walked the Gettysburg battlefield, possibly within a few yards of where he was shot that day in 1863. We’ve been to the National Archives in Washington DC and seen his 100 page pension file – which showed he spent much of the remaining 40 years of his life arguing with the Government about his condition and treatment.

How exciting to have been able to visit the places he served in the Civil War, and to hold and read the letters he wrote to the Government more than 120 years ago!

2011 is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and the topics we’ve chosen to have Tony present at this year’s seminar are particularly relevant to this.

The Seminar is in 2 parts. On Friday evening Tony will present “Voices of Freedom: African American Soldiers in the Civil War”. Many African American men fought during the Civil War, and we’ll hear what some of them discussed in the years after.

On Saturday, Tony will present 4 sessions, 2 of general genealogical interest, along with “The Six Phases of African American Genealogy” and “Did YOUR Ancestor Serve in the Civil War?”

These latter 2 topics, while specific in subject will contain many points that will be of interest and useful to all genealogists and family historians – no matter what direction their research leads them.

Tony once said “I love traveling to places where my ancestors were and walking in their shoes”, and through our researches and travels my wife and I have both had a chance to do this too.

This year we are offering Youth Scholarships to allow up to 20 people aged 15-25 to be able to attend both Friday and Saturday of Got Ancestors at no cost.

Please see our website at for more details on our upcoming seminar – Got Ancestors?! Genealogy in Black & White and Blue & Gray.

Yes – I forgot to mention the date, despite reading this a dozen or more times – remember it’s 4th and 5th November 2011