Monday, January 31, 2011

Online Hint : Access to Gobles Newspapers

Most of Southwest Michigan's newspapers, with the exception of select issues of the Benton Harbor and Kalamazoo newspapers, are not yet available online.  These two dailies are available by subscription through and

Another lesser-known exception are select years of the Gobles News weekly newspaper, published in Gobles, Michigan.  Through a digitization grant, in 2005 the Van Buren District Library (VBDL) digitized the complete years of 1925-1929, 1931-1932.  The images may be browsed at The Making of Modern Michigan (MMM) website.  The online pages are not text searchable, but the Local History department is working at making them searchable in-house.  Each online image was scanned at a high resolution allowing zoom, and they may be printed or saved to a computer or portable device. 

The Gobles News began publication in 1889 and was in almost continuous publication until 1979, under varying names.  VBDL has a complete microfilm collection for 1905-1979, and the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society owns the surviving hard copies.   Both groups are seeking "missing" unfilmed issues of Gobles newspapers.  Anyone with knowledge of these may contact the Local History department.
is a collaborative project involving 52 Michigan libraries. It includes local history materials from communities around the state, over 4,500 different subjects of photographs, family papers, oral histories, genealogical materials, and more.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Upcoming Event : Michiana Genealogy Fair 2011

The South Bend Area Genealogical Society (SBAGS) is hosting their annual Michiana Genealogy Fair, Saturday, March 19, 2011, at the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library, Mishawaka, Indiana.

The event features noted national speaker and author Loretto Szucs, Executive Editor of, who will present two lectures:  1.  Research Your Ancestry at Castle Garden and Ellis Island; 2.  What's New and How to Best Use

In addition, there will be large vendor areas where dozens of genealogical & historical societies, book & services vendors, and publishers will display their wares for viewing and sale.  The event kicks off at 9 a.m. and will continue until 4 p.m.  Admission is $6, but you can print out the event flier which includes a $1.00 coupon towards admission.

Having attended several of Michiana Genealogy Fairs over the years, I can safely say that it is always a day well spent.  Where else can you hear two top-notch lectures and be able to wander at your leisure through displays which will offer goods & services at special event prices for only $5 or $6 admission?  I hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New on the Shelf : Mayflower Families, John Howland Part 2

The latest volume of Mayflower Families Through Five Generations has recently been released, being the second volume outlining known descendants of pilgrim, John Howland.  To date this set of 23 volumes (32 books) continues to be the genealogical standard documenting the first five generations of descendants of the passengers of the Mayflower that arrived in Plymouth in 1620.

Although 102 individuals set sail on the Mayflower to the Americas, nearly half of them died the first winter and only 29 left descendants.  Mayflower Families is an ongoing effort to document all of the descendants of each of these 26 men and three women to five generations.  Each volume is meticulously researched using surviving records and provides the reader with thorough source citations and conclusions drawn using the Genealogical Proof Standard.

What can these books do for you?  If you are able to document your ancestry back to say the early to mid 1700's in New England, you have an opportunity to add five or more documented generations to your family tree.  Many will discover that they can claim descent from more than one pilgrim, or from some of the collateral lines that married into these families.

The General Society of Mayflower Descendants sponsors a membership program for those who can document descent from a pilgrim. Many family historians have heard traditions that they have Mayflower ancestry.  The Mayflower Families books can help you document that ancestry.  The Van Buren District Library houses the complete set that may be viewed in the Local History Collection.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Research Tip: Copyright and the Public Domain for Genealogists

Have you wondered why certain books are available to view in their entirety online through such sites as Google Books and others are not?  Have you wanted to photocopy an entire book or manuscript at a library and been told that you can't because of copyright laws?  Have you made online postings that include information from someone else's publication?

Most of us know that anything published before 1923 is in the public domain.  In addition, anything published in the U.S. from 1923-1977 without an official copyright notice is now in the public domain.  Likewise, anything published from 1923-1963 with copyright notice is in the public domain if copyright was not renewed.  To learn how to find out whether an item's copyright has been renewed, visit the FAQ on The Online Books Page.

Did you know that unpublished works (such as funeral home records) actually have longer protection than copyrighted material, not coming into the public domain for 120 years?  What does this mean to the researcher?  Publishing copies or abstracts of these items, online or off, is prohibited without the express permission of the record holder.

The good news about things published by the U.S. Government is that they immediately go into the public domain, so watch for the publisher name of GPO (Government Printing Office).

Cornell University's Copyright Term and the Public Domain page does a nice job of breaking down copyright law, discussing published, unpublished, and government materials.  Make a point of familiarizing yourself with the laws to protect yourself and those whose work from whom you draw.  And, you may discover that more things are in the public domain than you thought.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New on the Shelf : The Family Tree Sourcebook

The Family Tree Sourcebook : your essential directory of American County and Town Records, was released in 2010 by the editors of Family Tree Magazine.  This 746 page paperback book has a section for each state, providing a historical overview, a listing of archives, libraries & societies, and a bibliography of general state resources with some online links.

Following is a brief discussion of the state's major record groups such as:  census records, immigration, land, maps, military, probate and vital records.  County details follow with an alphabetical listing of each county in the state with incorporation date, parent county, and general information about records.  Websites are included for many entries and each state has a map showing county boundaries.

This book is somewhat of a cross between Ancestry's Redbook, The Genealogist's Address Book, and The Handybook For Genealogists, providing similar, more up-to-date content.  This title circulates to any VBDL patron or you may request a copy through your local library.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Welcome and Mission Statement

Welcome to the Southwest Michigan Genealogy & Local History blog!   This site is sponsored by the Van Buren District Library, the home of a large regional genealogy and local history collection featuring materials for the Michigan counties of Van Buren, Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, and St. Joseph.

Here you will read about local upcoming events, research tips, and collection highlights.   New on the Shelf will feature the latest additions to the collection in the form of books and microfilm.  Posts will also include answers to Frequently Asked Questions, case studies using resources from the collection, and announcements.

In addition to the regional focus, the Local History Collection is strong in the areas of Michigan history, general genealogy helps & references, and some New England material.

For a brief description of the collection with links to special collections and the library catalog, visit the Local History page. To submit your questions or comments, please contact us.