Got Ancestors?! 2012 Message from President Don Bryant

August 15th, 2012

Message from President Don Bryant

2012 marks our fifth consecutive GotAncestors?! annual seminar! This year’s program approaches genealogy from diverse perspectives that highlight ways you might not have thought of to uncover your family’s hidden information. Curt B. Witcher will demonstrate and explain approaches you can take to answer your research question marks – those people in your history who seem to appear out of nowhere only to disappear.

Several years ago, I studied the 1630s Great Migration to New England. Then at one of our previous seminars, I was reminded of another Great Migration – that of the African-American populations from the southern states to the north. Different ethnic groups, but exactly the same concepts are involved when studying migration patterns. Cluster research focuses on ethnic and family origins in order to research family history as a group and is one of the five topics at this year’s seminar.

Mr. Witcher offers his expertise on other subjects. Military records, which exist for practically every generation, provide a key perspective to understanding your ancestors in historical context. Federal population schedules, key components of any family history project, are not the only census records valuable to genealogists. One should not ignore other types of censuses that shed light on areas like agricultural, social, slavery, manufacturing, and mortality. Learn how and where to find new internet resources. Finally, because there are more answers “off-line” than online, learn methodologies and effective ways to use libraries – specifically ACPL. Who better to pose your questions to than the top librarian of one of the best genealogy libraries in the country?

I hope you will join us for the 2012 Got Ancestors?!  seminar. Come with your questions and leave with answers about how to fulfill your genealogy endeavors.

Got Ancestors?! 2012 Seminar Topics

August 13th, 2012

Friday Evening 12 October 2012

Pain In The Access: Getting More From The Internet For Your Genealogy

Library, archive, government, and GenWeb internet sites have much to offer genealogists if one knows how and where to look–and it is not as complicated or painful as it might first seem. This presentation demonstrates various websites and creative strategies for getting information that is more meaningful from the web, and guides genealogists to using the Internet for more than just hunting for names.

Followed by Dessert & Coffee and Mix & Mingle.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Fingerprinting Our Families: Using Ancestral Origins as a Genealogical Research Key

This lecture explores how the idea of “America, the Great Melting Pot” may really be a flawed concept and that identifying the particular ethnic group of one’s ancestor or potential ancestor can pay significant research dividends. Concepts in this lecture include building a historical context for one’s ancestor, studying population clusters, recognizing patterns of all sorts (naming, migration, settlement, etc.), understanding the “push and pull” of migration (i.e. the motivations behind families or individuals migrating), and locating repositories for various ethnic groups.

Boot Camp & Roll Call: An Overview of Military Records and New Sites and Sources For Military Research

This extended session takes an in-depth look at military records, from the earliest times of our country’s history to the present day. Discussed are the five major types of military records; where one can find such documents; the typical data found in sample records; and contents of what one might call other “minor” military records. Then our presenter explores the growing number of consequential websites for military & family history researchers – from bibliographic databases to sites that provide copies of first-hand accounts and images of actual records.

All That Other Stuff!: Other Census Records Beyond The Population Schedules

Learn about the many census schedules that researchers often overlook when using federal population census records. Agricultural, manufacturing, mortality, slave, social and statistical censuses are among the types of census schedules explored in this talk. Using all these schedules in combination with the population schedules provide significant additional information about ones’ ancestors and his/her community.

Effective Use of the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

By providing a detailed description of the holdings of the Historical Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library, this lecture folds research methodology into an exploration of the resources of the nation’s second largest genealogical research facility. The presentation considers not only the materials available for research on-site but also how researchers can access data about the collection remotely.

Planning is Under Way

June 27th, 2012

The Got Ancestors?! committee is hard at work planning this year’s Got Ancestors?! 2012 Seminar.

Our speaker this year is Curt B. Witcher, MLS, FUGA, IGSF. Curt is the Manager for The Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a former president of both FGS & NGS, and the founding president of the Indiana Genealogical Society. He is coeditor of the Periodical Source Index.

One of the hardest parts of getting this set up is choosing just 5 topics – 1 for Friday evening and 4 for Saturday – from Curt’s 7 page list of available topics. We’re expecting to have topics on Military Research, Census Research, and the Allen County Public Library. Details on this will be posted here in the next week or 2.

We’re using the popular Prince Conference Center at Calvin College again.

Remember the dates – Friday and Saturday 12 and 13 October 2012.



Dates for Got Ancestors?! 2012

January 26th, 2012

We’re excited to announce that the dates for Got Ancestors?! 2012 have been chosen.

We have moved our annual Seminar into Family History Month, and will be holding the Got Ancestors?! 2012 Seminar at Prince Conference Center on Friday 12 October – Saturday 13 October 2012.

Saturday – Genealogy in Black & White and Blue & Gray

November 5th, 2011

Saturday’s portion of Got Ancestors?! 2011 was “Genealogy in Black & White and Blue & Gray” and consisted of 4 fascinating sessions from a GREAT presenter.

Tony’s topics were:

  1. The Nature of Genealogy
  2. The Six Phases of African American Genealogy
  3. Did Your Ancestor Serve in the Civil War
  4. Creating Order Out of Chaos

A couple of highlights of the day – attendee Jeanne Jones celebrated her 91st birthday with us, the youngest attendee was a 2 month old, and Tony Burroughs got to catch up with a grade school friend of his from Chicago – Al Odom now lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Jeanne Jones celebrated her 91st birthday with us today - with long time friend Tony Burroughs.

Jeanne Jones celebrated her 91st birthday with us today - with long time friend Tony Burroughs.

Read The Full Entry »

Friday Night – Voices of Freedom

November 4th, 2011

Friday night’s part of Got Ancestors?! Genealogy in Black & White and Blue & Gray was “Voices of Freedom: African American Soldiers in the Civil War”.

It was a great presentation, with Tony Burroughs providing many recollections of African Americans who fought in the Civil War and had their recollections recorded – whether in Pension Applications, or letters to newspapers, even in books.

Tony Burroughs in full song

Tony Burroughs in full song

The evening started off with punch and nuts and mints and mingling, then the presentation got underway at 7pm. We finished up with Coffee/Tea/Punch and Mini-Desserts.

Read The Full Entry »

November 4th, 2011

Today’s the Day…

I’ve updated the Door Prizes page with the final list of prizes available

THANK YOU to all those who have provided prizes

Inside the Last Week

October 29th, 2011

Well there’s less than a week to go until this year’s event with Tony Burroughs.

The forecast is looking OK

Forecast from Saturday 29 Oct to Saturday 5 November

Forecast from Saturday 29 Oct to Saturday 5 November

so your travel should be weather-troube free.

If you haven’t registered yet, it’s not too late to get your tickets to what will be a GREAT weekend.

Door Prizes 2011

October 20th, 2011

A listing of the door prizes available to date is shown here

Some of these alone are worth more than the cost of attending the Got Ancestors?! Seminar.

And remember – you can’t win if you’re not there!!!

It’s not too late to register yet – go to to register online.

PSA on Grand Rapids Community TV (GRTV)

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

Switch to our mobile site